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The Best Photo I Have Ever Taken
rivers cover.jpg

The best photo I have ever taken I wound up using as the cover of my debut novel, "From Where The Rivers Come."

I took the photo originally while in India on a three-week reporting assignment, writing about the place I'd spent many formative years that I learned to love, for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

I took it with my then-trusty Pentax K-1000 SLR 35 millimeter camera with a zoom lense. I took the photo the morning I went on a typical tourist boat ride along the Ganges river in Varanasi, where I had spent a year many years before as a language student with the University of Wisconsin at Madison Year-in-India program. 

The photo ran on the front page of the then-new International page of the Star-Telegram, along with a number of my stories. I had essentially returned with several rolls of film, and let the photo editors of the time select the ones they thought would be best. I remember Bruce Maxwell looking at the developed color negatives with a loupe, and declaring "that's it. That's the one. That's the shot" that defined my story, which was about efforts to clean the Ganges in 1988.

As fate would have it, on that same trip and when I took the photo, I interviewed the man in charge of the "Swarch Ganga" effort, who asked where I was from and upon learning I was from the U.S., asked me where. When I told him "Texas," he said "Do you know my friend Jerry Brown, from California?" I only knew of one at that time, and not personally--the former governor at the time who had been in India not long before working with Mother Teresa's sisters of charity in Calcutta. "Sorry, I don't," I said. "Why?"

Because, the helpful Indian non-governmental organization official said, he left his passport and some Indian money at the Swarch Ganga office by accident.

I had also run into an amazing woman, a student in Delhi on a Rotary scholarship from Dallas. I arranged, when back in Texas, to have the woman get Jerry Brown's passport back to him via the diplomatic pouch. I first called him to find out how best to get it back to him, and if he needed it still. American passports have always been valuable to people wanting safe passage, and I had seen it and his picture in it with my own eyes. When my friend the Rotary scholar returned to Dallas, and we reconnected by telephone, she assured me she'd managed to get the passport into the pouch and that Brown should have it by then. So I called Brown back to make sure, and he thanked me profusely and expressed how glad he was to have it back.

Brown is now again Governor of California. My Dallas friend moved to D.C. as she had wanted, and is now married and I hope happy. And I wound up with "the" photo that expresses everything within my debut, self-published novel, "From Where The Rivers Come."