The Orange Men of Rishikesh
Text and photographs © Charlotte Purin
It was fitting that I met G.T. Roa (above) on the holiday of Holi, the Indian festival of color that celebrates a man’s survival thanks to his unwavering devotion to God. On this day Hindus, especially adolescent boys, throw or smear brightly colored, staining powders at anyone in the street. Despite this, I left the safety of my ashram and ventured out for sweets. Zig-zagging in order to avoid the boys, I bumped into G.T., a much-bemused sadhu, who was color-free except for the orange uniform that all sadhus wear to signify their life path. I thrust some sweets into his hands and said, “Happy Holi!” He smiled: “Come and talk sometime. I will be sitting here. I am always sitting here.”
The next day, there he was in the same exact spot. And he was there every day until I left four weeks later. G.T. Roa is a man who left his job as a welder for the life of a monk, renouncing worldly desires for a life of devotion to God. One day he told his family he was going to the mountain – the Himalayas, refuge of seers (rishis) and saints.