Chakala Dangol, 75, holds a coconut as he prepares to throw it to devotees of Rato Machhindranath, who are gathered below.
Every year Dangol climbs to the top of a 32-meter (104 foot) wooden tower built on top of a chariot. It is believed that whoever catches the coconut and returns it to the chariot will be blessed with the birth of a son.
"I was shocked to learn that this man, who I had been photographing for years, could not speak."
Rato Machhindranath is the god of rain, and every year huge crowds gather in Lalitpur around a 32-meter (104 foot) high tower during the chariot festival in an effort to ensure good rains.
The highlight of the day is when someone climbs to the top of the chariot and throws a coconut to devotees below. This ancient ritual is thought to guarantee the catcher of the coconut the birth of a son. Few people believe this nowadays and participation is more about enjoying the day and preserving the tradition.
Every year I see the same man climb the tower. Every year he throws the coconut down towards the devotees. I really wanted to show the perspective of this man, looking down on the crowds.
I started searching for him as soon as I reached the chariot, and there he was in his favourite spot - up at the top. I could not call him down, as he was sitting so high and the sound of the drums was too loud. I waited for him to come down.
Finally, the man I was waiting for came down. I was very happy to see him descending. I introduced myself and asked for his name. I was shocked to learn that this man, who I had been photographing for years, could not speak.
I wanted his help to shoot the picture I had planned and even though my challenge was growing tougher I didn’t give up. I smiled and grabbed his hand to get his attention. He smiled back at me. He led me to another person who knew him and they told me his name. It was Chakala Dangol and he was 75-years-old.
After spending some time with him I took out the GoPro camera I had borrowed from a friend and asked if he was willing to take it with him as he climbed the chariot. He gave me a ‘loud’ smile and gestured, trying to inform me that he didn’t know how to use the camera. I told him that he did not need to worry or do anything, I would arrange everything, he just needed to keep the camera attached to a headband I gave him. He nodded his head.
I quickly set the camera to shoot a picture every five seconds. As I adjusted the camera on his head and explained to him the camera position my eyes fell on the word “Hero” that was written on the camera. He was definitely my hero. He started to climb back up the chariot and I felt excited and anxiously as he ascended. I went back to shooting pictures of the festival.
When the festival was over, we met and I took the camera from him. I was very happy to have met Dangol. He was such a nice cheerful person, whose face always had a big smile. I thanked him and took a picture of us together. It was not at all easy to climb the chariot, especially when you are 75. I salute Dangol, who left a mark on me with his courage and love for the festival. He also helped me make one of the most remarkable pictures of this event I have taken.