A spiritual journey through photography

‘Stories of Nepal’ photographer Jay Poudyal’s medium is Facebook, but he’s not after ‘likes’ and ‘shares’; there’s something else.

If you meet him, Jay Poudyal will begin the conversation by telling you his own story. Then, chances are that without realizing, you will start telling him your own story. He does not ask many questions, but you feel like continuing your story.

“I try to speak as less as possible, because any question I ask may change the course of the story, I don’t want my questions to interfere with the flow of the story,” says Poudyal, who runs the Facebook page “Stories of Nepal”, which till now has over 189 thousand likes.

Poudyal goes around the country in search of ‘stories’ about people’s lives and their relations with members of their family, he had just returned from the Terai when we met him. But saying that he talks to random people and takes their photos and posts them on Facebook, would be an understatement.

jay poudyal “I try to speak as less as possible, because any question I ask may change the course of the story, I don’t want my questions to interfere with the flow of the story.”

“It is a spiritual process in more than one way, and the rewards of doing this is more than the likes my posts receive on Facebook,” says Poudyal, who is in his 30s.

The process, in his own words, is one of attachment as well as detachment. Like a chameleon that ‘absorbs’ the colour of its surrounding, Poudyal says he develops and attachment with the people he photographs.

If the person is happy, he becomes happy, and if the person is depressed, so he becomes.

“There are times when I have not been able to get out of bed in the morning, thinking of a person I met with a sad story to tell,” says Poudyal. There are also times when he relates with the people he meets. “Human nature is such that we identify with other people’s story, there are times when I see myself in other people’s shoes.”

“It is so easy to feel the attachment, and difficult to let it go.”

Then comes the hard part – the ‘detaching’. He listens to the recording from the conversation to select few lines from the conversation to go with the photo, and then post it on Facebook, where he instantaneously gets thousands of likes. But that is not the reward he wants.

Hundreds of comments crop up on his posts, but that is also not the reward he seeks. “If only ten people feel for the person, and realise that there is more to a person than meets the eye, that would be the most satisfying thing for me,” he says.

The reward, which he seems to be really after, is the opportunity to talk to people ‘soul to soul’. “When I am talking to someone, we would have let go of all the stereotypes; that is when the conversation starts.”

“I met a girl, who had adopted a ‘punk’ lifestyle. She had tattoos all over her body, and had many piercings. It would be so easy to label her as a ‘bigrieko keti’.” But when Poudyal talked to the girl, her story was so moving, that it took him a few days to come to terms with it.

“The other reward I get is that I get to keep my feet on the ground, take photos and travel.”

By the time his story was over, this author realised we were already half way through his own story.

Photos credit: Jay Poudyal

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