Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cow's it going?

Their tanned smiling faces are still etched in my memory. On my way to the Sufi Durbar in the Nagaur Fort in Rajasthan, there was a large cloud of dust, meaning only two thing in the still desert. A dust storm or an exodus. It turned out to be an exodus all right but joining the humans and their monster trucks were cud chewing cows, Arabian looking horses, scared goats and loads of haughty camels. Inspection and business were the order of the day along with some good old cattle wrangling. Buyer and sellers had arrived from all over Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and even Gujarat to bargain their way into a new herd or at least a few heads.

Mini-temporary encampments had mushroomed up everywhere and by the seventh invite to partake a meal, I realised there was a spirit of camaraderie as well. This was a expo, picnic and excursion all rolled into one nice thick, spicy aloo ki paronti. As you might have assumed, I didn't wait for the eighth invitation to tuck into the aromatic delicacies tempting my olfactory nerves.

After plenty of handshakes and sometimes forced, sometimes voluntary petting of what seems like 500 animals, I felt like I was part of this wandering group of livestock farmers. Accepted into the fold, if I may. But two days later as I passed that way again, straining to see that cloud of dust, I was disappointed to see the well behaved desert once more. Vast, arid, shrubby but completely devoid of all life. My temporary family and other animals had disappeared like a mirage.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Downtown, where all the lights are bright....

I don't think I ever looked down on my first two visits to Manhattan. The glowering shimmering giants on all sides drew my gaze like reflecting magnets. Even the gleeful abundance of lovely ladies in their summer best couldn't coax my eyes down to earth. At times they were almost people and I walked about naming them, sometimes I even waved. And at others the shapes and angles, windows and blocks all merged into abstract visions. Let's go downtown....

Friday, May 15, 2009

A railway runs through it

It was a bit surrealistic really. Vishakapatnam is a city I wouldn't visit again in my wildest nightmares. It didn't help that the only 'beach front' motel that we could afford was a moth eaten glorified brothel. I kid you not. I've been around and this is pretty much the shadiest place I've ever had to stay. Lingering odours of cheap choking perfume in the hallways. A so-called office room facing the sea, apparently of limits turned out to be a garishly decorated bedroom straight out of some b-grade skin flick (don't ask how I know that). Then the mosquitos. Not in the tens but apparently in the thousands, buzzing about our room gorging on our four sapped blood lines. And the sticky stifling heat, making me long for an AC in a way I didn't think possible. With this kind of introduction to the Andhra coast, which btw is hardly awe inspiring, we were left with hardly any hope as we made our way to the hills.

But then we got off at TYDA, a tiny glorified hamlet with one, thankfully mosquito and cheap perfume free, affordable and all round nice hotel run by the Andhra tourism department with rooms with names like Golden Oriole and Raquet Tailed Drongo (bird watchers of the world, UNITE). There we were in the hills, in the midst of a large patch of forest and glory be, it rained. After two days of stiffling soaring Andhra temperatures, it was more than a miracle. It was heaven on earth. And wonder of wonders. This little place in the hills had a railway station. Ya, the ones in and around Darjeeling and Shimla are charming but this was the real thing. A broad gauge railway line higher than anywhere else in our impressive Indian railways. And in the middle of a veritable jungle. Instant love.

Even more than a couple of hamlets and some tribals the largest concentration of humans here is the railway community, from Andhra and across the border from Orissa. They live in their humble but charming quarters adjoining the stations and lead a fascinating, even enviable life. The youngsters here don't think so, yearning for the multiplex-mall lifestyle so glorified in most movies. No hot girls waltzing by in minis, no superbikes whizzing around the corner, not even a movie theatre in a 50 km radius. Who can blame them? Meanwhile we city slickers yearn for the quiet simplicity of the hills, away from the noise, pollution and constant bombardment of information. Ironic huh?

Anyway, I've figured out that flickr slideshows can be imported here, so that means a lot less scrolling for you lazy fingered folks.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Travelling in the states in the height of election fever had its advantages. I thought a photo essay on his supporters would suffice but through a series of fortunate incidents I found myself in Times Square, New York City, on the day the results were being announced. People turned out in droves and I got to capture some truly joyous reactions.