Ramji Sonkar 1954-2009

My first view of Ramji was from a boat on the Ganges River in the Old City of Varanasi in North India 1988. At that time he was just another unknown  person drying off after bathing in the Ganges.

In 1991

Ramji 1995

Ramji 1997

Ramji 1997

Ramji 1997

Ramji 1997

Ramji 1997

Ramji 1997

Ramji 1997

Ramji 1997

Ramji 1997

Ramji 2006

Ramji & his Mother 2008

Ramji visiting his  home Village 2008

Ramji .. The last Portrait 2008, Varanasi, India

I returned back to India to do a 3month project on the Boatmen of Varanasi.I saw Ramji almost every morning at one of the Tea shops near the river.

He was interested in why I was staying in Varanasi and what was I photographing.

I was interested in how he saw the world and how he was living his life, so a friendship of sorts was formed.

Nearing  the end of my time in India Ramji asked me if I would take his portrait and this began the start of the Photographic series on Ramji.

I caught up with Ramji again in 1992 and again in 1995

At this time he was living hard on the streets, not  well and was smoking too much Hashish.

I caught up with  Ramji again in 1997,He was  still living on the streets but had cleaned himself up, no longer taking drugs, etc.

Six months beforehand two cows were fighting in the streets and one of them hit Ramji. He was taken to Hospital and suffered a broken leg, which  ended up not being  set properly, Ramji was in a lot of pain and now needed a stick for support.

I continued going back to Varanasi in 2002, 2006 and 2008, I was never sure that he was still alive, there was no internet, telephone or postal box for a street person.. Amazingly Ramji was there as always living somewhere close to the river. His health was generally good other tha n the leg which gave him regular pain.

On all those visits to Varanasi  we would always make a point of taking a journey to the village that his mother lived in. Ramji never stayed there, he was just another mouth to feed in a very poor family that never had any extra.

In 2010 I returned again to Varanasi , this time there was no Ramji.

After  three days of searching  in all his regular areas, I finally tracked down his Brother who told me Ramji had died approx. 6 months before of pneumonia.

Ramji  was 55years old when he passed away, he was a good man and greatly missed.

Ramji 1987

Ramji 1991