Making Friends at the Amritsar Bus Station

Having arrived at the Amritsar bus station hours before our departure time, boredom quickly caught up with me. I could sit and read; OR, I could wander with my camera and see what – and who – was around to photograph…

Something as simple as getting these men to look up at the camera proved to be a bit difficult with the language barrier
Something as simple as getting these men to look up at the camera proved to be a bit difficult with the language barrier

Snapping photographs of food stalls, fronts of vehicles and strangers could only entertain me for so long. Soon, I found myself branching out and entering empty buses to document their insides.

After leaving one such bus, a friendly (and probably bored) driver approached me with a big smile on his face. “Follow me,” he said, as I quickly walked with him to his bus and a collection of his driver friends.

“Take our picture, please,” my new friend requested.

Trying to explain through broken English and hand gestures that I wanted the Hindi-speaking drivers to look up for an overhead shot proved to be a bit of a challenge. But, after a little work they got the idea and immediately wanted me to join them for another shot.


Super friendly bus drivers and ticket collectors in Amritsar, India
Super friendly bus drivers and ticket collectors in Amritsar

Now Take Photos of My Driver Friends!

My new friend was SO excited that I was interested in taking photos that he proceeded to parade me around the entire terminal, introducing me to each of his driver friends. For someone who was looking for a unique way to document the Amritsar bus station, this behind-the-scenes access was my dream come true!

Bus drivers smiled wide, laughed, joked and were fascinated by me and my camera. As always, I never understand what people get out of having me take their photo: knowing that they will never again see the picture.

Finally, with no more of his friends for me to meet, we said our goodbyes and I went back to the benches where Carrie, Lauren and Tara were sitting to tell them the story of my walk around the Amritsar bus station.


A bus driver at the Amritsar Bus Station in India
Even with a bus to drive, there was still time to smile for a photograph

Nice Beard! Have a Chai. Are You Muslim?

A little while later, bordeom struck again…so I grabbed my camera and went for another wander.

This time, I was taking photos of power lines, tuk tuks and busy streets when I was approached by a pair of Sikh men: one a driver, the other a ticket collector. They immediately invited me onto their bus, which was waiting at the back of the terminal for their departure time.

We sat there in the front of the bus, chatting as best as we could across a pretty large language barrier. At one point, they offered me a chai tea, which I graciously accepted, not realizing that one of them had to go get it. This left me with the driver who spoke no English, though we manged to have a delightful conversation using mostly hand gestures.


Muslim bus drivers in Amritsar, India
The Muslim bus driver and his ticket collector who invited me onto their bus for a chai and a chat

Things got a bit strange

The longer my beard gets, the more people think I’m Muslim: to the point that strangers on the street often greet me with Assalamu alaikum. 

After drinking our chai, the driver asked me if I was Muslim. I said no, and he continued to guess other religions. “Christian? Siek?” “No,” I said, “Jewish.”

Now, it might just be me reading into things, but I’m pretty sure that the entire mood changed at that point. There wasn’t much conversation after that and no more than five minutes later I excused myself from the bus. I’m not entirely sure what happened, but my new response to “what is your religion” is “no religion.” 🙂

And as I said, I could be completely wrong about the entire interaction.


Me with my new friends on their bus
Me with my new friends on their bus

Back to the gate

With our departure nearing and no desire for any more awkward encounters, I returned to the gate to wait out the rest of the time. It was there that I met the below woman: a beggar with one of the most beautiful faces I have ever seen…


Indian beggar at the Amritsar bus station
I was more than happy to give this woman a few rupees in exchange for taking her photograph