Blessed with a keen eye for street photography and visual storytelling, Bangladesh-based Ashraful Arefin visited India in search of new frames and stories. He returned home with a renewed love for people and diversity. Text by Bayar Jain; photographs by Ashraful Arefin
T+L India–When did you visit India?
Ashraful Arefin–I visited India for the first time in 2017 and again later in 2018. The first time around, I explored Kolkata and Varanasi. For the second time, I was in New Delhi, Kolkata, Jodhpur, and Jaisalmer.
T+L India–What were your first impressions of the country?
Ashraful Arefin–I think the two words that came to mind are colourful and diverse. I loved how vibrant the streets were and the ambience of each place. It was also amazing to see so many different people from different parts of the world, especially in Varanasi. The cultural diversity is so unique!
T+L India–Some memorable moments from the trip?
Ashraful Arefin–There are so many beautiful memories. I remember meeting some very friendly people in Jodhpur and getting invited to their homes. [I also met] a local musician in Jaisalmer and was fortunate to sit with him and have a chat. One of my photographer friends also came to see me, and he took me to explore the streets of Old Delhi, which was truly a great experience.
T+L India–An Indian dish you loved?
Ashraful Arefin–I loved the street foods of Delhi. I enjoyed eating bread-omelette and aloo chaat (boiled, spiced potato snack) at Chawri Bazar in Delhi.
T+L India–Places that you’d like to visit the next time you’re here.
Ashraful Arefin–I would love to visit Kashmir and other cities of Rajasthan like Jaipur or Udaipur. Also, Lucknow is on top of my list, too.
T+L India–According to you, what’s so special about India?
Ashraful Arefin–For me, it’s definitely the people. I am enamoured by India’s diversity. Getting a chance to meet people from so many different cultures took my breath away.
T+L India–Define India in a sentence.
Ashraful Arefin–Colourful, diverse, full of life, and the land of amazing chai!
T+L India–The most striking resemblances and differences between Bangladesh and India, according to you?
Ashraful Arefin–I think people are almost the same; they are both super friendly, hardworking, and family-oriented. And the major difference, I felt, was the language. In Bangladesh, we speak either Bengali or English. In India, I got to hear different languages apart from English, Hindi and Bengali.
T+L India–As a street photographer, how challenging was it to navigate through Indian streets?
Ashraful Arefin–I live in Dhaka and we have similar streets with crowds, narrow lanes and alleyways. So, it wasn’t that hard for me to navigate through the streets of India. Google Maps came in handy. But yes, sometimes it was a bit confusing, especially when I was in Jodhpur. At times Google Maps didn’t work. So I had to ask the people on the streets for direction, and everyone was very helpful there. So in the end, it wasn’t that much of a problem.
T+L India–Streets of Delhi, Kolkata, Varanasi, Jodhpur, or Jaisalmer—your preferred muse and why?
Ashraful Arefin–This is really hard to tell as each city has its own vibe. But, I think I really felt emotional and had a connection with Varanasi. There’s something so surreal about this city. The people, the atmosphere, the narrow streets…everything was incredible.