A Day In Rishikesh

The Laxman Jhula. Picturesque

The Laxman Jhula. Picturesque

I was up – down – at Rishikesh last week. Rishikesh is about 250-300 km north of Delhi, and is at the foothills of the Himalayan Ranges. This is the place where the Ganges River actually meets the plains. The rive is called the Bhagirathi, and then it reaches the plains. So, I went up for a day, to do something of an intensely personal nature. So, I went up there with my sister, and did not really have too much time to do much photography. Still, we completed what we had to, and walked around.

This is a holy town, and is full of temples. The river flows by and people pray in the temples. On the one hand, the town has not changed much since I last visited it, about 12 or 13 years ago. On the other hand, it has changed somewhat.

The religious aspect has become more intense, with International Yoga festivals being held. The town has also become over run with westerners, who come here for spiritual and other release


Foreigners At The German Bakery

Foreigners At The German Bakery

There is now a German Bakery, at the bridge called The Laxman Jhula, and this is on some prime land. The town is vegetarian, so you get some rather bland vegetarian sizzlers, and awful mashed potatoes, which you can eat. We did, while listening on to the conversations of people like the trip above. There were people discussing all this wonderful tosh about how our soul simply melts into the universal truth when we die. It does, you know. Melt, I mean! And, there was this rather attractive lady who kept flapping her hands at these two young men who were quite enamoured, as she expounded on The Indian Way, whatever that is!! All of us Indians know that there is no such thing as “The Indian Way”!!

Still, they come here for the spiritual ease, presumably. Many stay on for three to six months, and many stay beyond the legal expiry of their visas. Our Indian authorities are very lax when they have to be.


The Sadhu seeks Shambhu

The Sadhu seeks Shambhu

We walked around, and saw “sadhus” like the gentleman above enjoying a session with Shanbhu. Well, he was smoking weed, and I am sure that this is an attraction for those Westerners who come and stay beyond their legal welcome. There is very little pressure to do anything but enjoy life, and this is not such a bad thing after all!

Think about it – to paraphrase a famous quote – all the animals on earth, except man, know that the primary purpose of life is to enjoy it.

Think about that quote that I have highlighted. What exactly do we mean about enjoying life, really enjoying life down to the belly? And, do we need to feel guilty about it?

At The Halfway Point

At The Halfway Point

Whatever you do, don’t drive to Rishikesh. The drive takes seven hours. The first half, is quite nice, and the second half is bone-rattling, gut-wrenching, spine-chilling all rolled into one.

I took the photo of the flower from a midway eatery complex called Namaste Midpoint, a very nice point.

From there on, hell started. We had to go through hell to reach earthly heaven!!

Yeh Hai Bombay, Meri Jaan…

The pigeons fly at Chowpatty

The pigeons fly at Chowpatty

Bombay represents a first for me at several levels.

One. This is the city where I started my corporate career, after I completed my degree as an engineer.

Two. This is the city where I resumed my corporate career, after I completed my MBA

Three. This is the city where I returned to, when I came back to India after living in China and Singapore

Four. This is the city where I started a blog that I am now converting into a fantasy novel.

Five. Most important. This is the city where I first began my love affair with photography.

It is not my hometown, however. My hometown is where I now start things anew!

Despite the fact that I, as a confirmed Delhi-wallah and Delhi-phil, have cribbed and criticized the city, I have a deep affection for the city. It is huge, and I avoid parts of the city. I took the above photo when I was on a recent trip to the city, and while driving along Marine Drive and saw these pigeons fly into the sky. There is a sense of freedom that Bombay used to have, a willingness to let people fly. In the days gone by, we used to all drift towards Bombay to start our career. No longer. Parts of the city, like Marine Drive retain much of the magic that they always had, and the sweep of the road, with the evening lights, is justifiably called Princess Necklace. It is indeed beautiful.

The spirit of the city is really captured in this old song from a Hindi film of years gone by. This is a classic, and I need to apologize to all those who don’t speak Hindi. But, here it is!

Some of my old shots are also attached – posted – below. The spirit of Marine Drive, the magic, really does remain. So do the beggars, sadly. This is one area that we, as a nation, have not done so well – in lifting people out of poverty.

These are some of the first pictures that I ever took in my life. There was an innocence, in my nostalgic mind, in those times.

Sitting In The Evening Sun

Sitting In The Evening Sun

Reflected in the setting sun

Reflected in the setting sun

They begged even then

They begged even then

The city is a collection of seven islands, and according to sources, earliest inhabitation goes back to the Stone Age. The Kolis, a Marathi fishing community first settled here. In the period upto about 1500 AD, it was largely under Indian tribes and peoples, including the Mauryan Empire. The real history, in a sense, started around 1500 AD, when the Portuguese started to develop the city. Bombay,it seems, comes from two words, that mean “Good Harbor”. The islands were leased to the Portuguese in 1534, and after the annexation of Purtugal, by Spain, in 1580, the other European powers started to play a more major role in the city, particularly because of it’s trade routes.

In 1661, when Catherine of Portugal married Charles II, the city was given to the British, as part of her marriage dowry. Thus did a city pass into the hands of the Brits.

The city retained it’s cosmopolitan nature, and in the fifty years after Independence became the major commercial center of India. This has changed in the last twenty years.

The city was renamed Mumbai, on the insistence of a few jingoist political parties, who claimed that the city was actually protected by a goddess called Mumba. No one had heard of her before. In my view, the character of the city changed after that. So, stubborn old fart that I am, I refuse to call it Mumbai. I still call it Bombay, in honor of the old spirit of the city.

The flight of the pigeons represent the old spirit of the city. It should live.



The Sun God (??) The Moon Goddess(??)

The Glorious Sun

The Glorious Sun

Before I move on to the next bit of travel, I thought that I would pause a bit, to do indulge in some pop philosophy. I have always loved sunsets, the light of the moon, the light of the sun. Photographically, the light of the sun has a huge impact on how we photograph and see things. Ever since I started photography, I have been very conscious of the light of the sun, how it changes during the day; how it changes with the season; with reflections; how the sun is affected by the polluting effect of our race.

The sun is fundamental to us humans. In many ancient civilizations, the cult of the moon was replaced by the cult of the sun before both were replaced by Gods that are more human in their aspect than the old nature Gods. Surya is considered to be a Hindu God, but his origins predate Hinduism, and go back to the Vedic times, when the Aryans first came into India from Central Asia. We see by the light of the sun. It allows us to see, and seek prey. It allows us to see predators from afar and take defensive action. The light of the sun was concentrated to burn wood. So yes, while the light of the sun allows us to see, it can burn. It can also blind us, as can be testified by anyone who lives in hot countries like my own. There is almost no escape at times, from the hot, blinding light of the mid day sun in summer. Yet, the same sun takes on an almost gentle aspect when it rises, or sets.

The Sun Deity is generally assumed to be male, yet there are civilizations, like the Japanese, where the Sun Deity is female.

Huh? And, we all thought that the sun is associated with the strong, masculine principle of life.

Moonlight Over The Waters

Moonlight Over The Waters

When I was practicing the occult in my teens, I read somewhere that the moonlight reveals that which the sunlight hides. Moonlight reveals strange shadows, and is generally associated with mystery, and the cult of the Moon Goddess. Yet, in some civilizations, like the Japanese, the Moon is male. Chandra, the Moon God of the Vedic/ Hindu times, is male.

The old Moon cults were later perceived to be belonging to the cult of witchcraft, and was thus considered to be heathen and wicked. Hence, the witch trials.

We count our calendar by the Gregorian system, which is a good business calendar. However, if you are a farmer, and want to predict the seasons, then it has to be the lunar calendar. This is something we follow in India, in China and, I believe also in the West, for predicting sowing and reaping seasons.

There is mystery in both, the sun and the moon. When you look at the sun at a more detailed level, then you become aware of solar flares, sunspots and a whirlpool of fiery activity. That which warms us is alive, with the dance of life pulsing through it’s mass. Some believe that the sun’s activities have a significant effect on our climate, something that most climatologists do not fully take into account.

We see in the sun, yet are blind to it.

The moon, it shines in reflected glory. Yet, at night, when the moon comes out, and bathes the waters and the earth in it’s silvery light, out come the creatures of the night. We, of the brighter light, are often scared of the creatures of the night, and so we light up the sky with bright neon lights.

The old days when we marveled at nature are disappearing slowly, and this is sad. We live in the world, and it is the only one we have. Some of the magic and mystery does indeed need to come back.

The light of the sun and the light of the moon are magical, if we just pause and look, and take the time to wonder at the beauty of it all.

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