I invited Vivek, a part-time journalist, for a cup of tea at a restaurant by the river. I had heard that he was interested in working for me as a research assistant and translator. When I told him of my plan to study the boatmen of Banaras, he replied, somewhat condescendingly, that one must be wary of boatmen, as they are wellknown cheats, drunks and thieves. He pressed me to reconsider my research topic, saying that this group of people are of the ‘criminal type’. Well, I thought to myself, perhaps this is the reason why no anthropologist has travelled this murky path before. I was, however, intrigued by the prospect of working with ‘criminals’ that inspired such strong sentiments. This would indeed be a fascinating project to pursue.