Turning 50

Sara Leikin Sara Leikin

1000 Words

A photograph is worth (at least) a thousand words. Here are my thousand words to describe photographs, techniques, and the moments that make the image.

Turning 50
Turning 50

In July 2023, I turned 50. It honestly hadn’t been looming on my radar screen- there was too much else going on in my life. I had moved back to my home state of Ohio after being away for almost 30 years in 2022, changed jobs, changed relationships… too much change to be thinking about, or worried about that big birthday.

But when the opportunity to take a once in a lifetime trip to India appeared, I realized that the investment I was making for the month-long journey was really a birthday present, a love letter, to myself. And while part of it became work-related, most of the trip was spent surrounding myself with the boundless women I was traveling with and the overwhelming contrasts of India.

I have always wanted to experience India, even when I forgot about it. Some time ago, I had tried to arrange a photography trip to Pushkar while I was working in Egypt, but it had fallen through and then life and other opportunities filled in and India was left in the far recesses of my brain along with other forgotten adventures and ideas. I could never have imagined that moving back to Ohio and reconnecting with a childhood friend would bring the opportunity, proving once again that you just never know where and when the great thrills of life will find you.

India is a kaleidoscope. It’s certainly not a monolith that can be neatly described. Mumbai and Delhi are not alike. The deserts of Rajasthan and the lush landscapes of Kerala are worlds away from each other. Even though I learned the history of the country while visiting Hampi, it was at the Jain temple in Ranakapur and in the landscape of Jawai that I felt the push and pull of centuries. I was as awed by the Amer Fort as I was by the completely solar powered airport in Cochin. I loved seafood in Mumbai and Kerala as much I loved the spicy curries and chaats of Jaipur and Delhi. I was there for a month, and I know that I barely scratched the surface of the country. I took over 5000 images. Most of them are not great works of art, but they document the places I experienced and the women with whom I traveled. Some of them take my breath away when I look at them because they bring back a particular memory, a scent, a taste, a mood. A few of my recent favorite images were taken on this voyage: a leopard who turned his back on us, the Taj Mahal reflected in a pool of water, a family looking out a window at the Amer Fort.

The trip was in February and March, and I turned 50 in July. Between the two, I was in Italy and Malta for work. Later in the year, I was back in Italy. At the start of 2024, the seeds I had planted in Delhi on that first trip began to sprout and I was able to travel back to India in February, almost a year to the date of my first trip. It was quick, a week spent in Delhi and mostly in meetings. It was an opportunity to show my colleague a bit of the city and eat extraordinary food, including a dinner at a friend’s house (a connection from that previous trip), even if we didn’t have much time for sightseeing. But I did set aside a day at the end of the trip for myself, and a guide, to tour the city. It was a chance to visit a stepwell and the Sikh temple and the thousands of people it feeds each day. An unexpected, and wonderful, visit to a cultural center keeping regional craftsmanship alive capped off the day. It was also a reminder of the density of population as we spent most of the day sitting in traffic thanks to impromptu visits by India’s Prime Minister to several temples in the area. The air quality was historically bad while I was there and the number of street children in Old Delhi were also reminders of the challenges that face a country of over a billion people.

And now we’re already two months into 2024. I'll be 51 before I know it. Time continues to fly by and I’m grateful to be here. I am recognizing that maybe the enlightenment that comes with “middle age” is the obvious recognition that I am likely closer in years to my passing than I am to the day of my birth. I try not to take anything for granted and I recognize that I’m blessed to have seen so much of the world- and that there is still so much to see. This year looks to bring another trip to India and hopefully travels to Ghana, Italy, the UK, Barbados, and Japan. In the U.S., I’ll be in Florida, D.C., New Mexico, and California. And I’m committed to exploring more here at home in Ohio. There’s an eclipse coming and it’s maple syrup season now. My neighborhood is starting to bud and spring flowers are close behind. I’m signed up for some photography workshops and recommitting myself to practicing more and interacting with other photographers. I love my camera, but I’m embracing my iPhone’s capabilities. And I’m recommitting to this website.

There is a Hindi phrase that loosely translates to, “when it is springtime in the heart, all the world is green.” I might be getting older, but the world is still green. There’s still so much to explore and experience. There’s still time to learn and grow. I’m so thankful that I made that initial journey to India. It reminded me to be me and always remain open to the possibilities. Even in challenging times (maybe especially in challenging times), I feel the pull to experience new places, and familiar places anew. I’m excited for the future and the journeys I know, and don’t know, that await me.  

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