100 Days in India Project

Two boys taking a break from flying their kites by the side of the river Ganges in Varanasi, India.

16/ 100 Fishermans Friends

These two young boys magically appeared each day every time we sat down so that Fiona could work on her travel sketchbook, and I could have a mental reset after a hot day walking the streets of Varanasi consuming large amounts of snacks. The ancient stone ghats that led down to the river Ganges, worn smooth from centuries of use, were a great place to sit and take in the view as the sun went down, and the local children always had their eyes open for something worth investigating, even if it was only two sweaty tourists.

Kite flying is a very popular pastime in India — it is a big part of the Makar Sankranti festival that finished shortly before this visit — and these boys, along with all the other children there, spent much of their days untangling their kites from annoyed boatmen and confused cattle. When this photograph was taken they had just lost another kite to the holy river Ganges. With nothing in particular to do their inquisitiveness got the better of them and they cajoled one another until one of them sauntered over to see what we were up to.

When they weren’t flying their kites they loved to stand around and watch Fiona as she was making a drawing in her book. Today her two young students watched silently, completely engrossed in her creation of a picture of a boat until I got out my packet of Fisherman’s Friends extra strong mints. A staple for us in India where practically everything we ate was mildly spicy (even breakfast) and it was nice to have a fresh tasting mouth, even if only for a short time.

Before I even removed the green tin from my bag I knew there was absolutely no chance that I would be able to have one myself without sharing them out between the two boys, and their two other friends who had been attracted to the action. Sure enough, they held out their hands for a sweet and their polite requests couldn’t be refused.

I will admit to feeling just a little guilty when I popped one into each of their small hands and watched the look of horror on their faces as they started to chew them and the extra-strong mintiness did its thing. One was discretely spat back out but the other three boys soldiered on and managed to fight through the ‘strong mint aroma with heightened menthol content’.

A few minutes later Fiona and I had another (we had just had a particularly strong curry) and, unsurprisingly, there were no takers for round two. The boys went back to sitting next to the river, no doubt figuring out how they could acquire a new kite for the next day of flying, or blag a can of Mirinda orangeade to wash the minty taste away.