Posted on May 27, 2014
In North India, we call cows “Gai”, and the more religious minded call them “Gau Mata” or, Mother Cow… Therefore, the title of this post!
Now, I have travelled on the wonderful highways of the world, in India, China, Japan, Europe, the USA… Honestly, apart from India, driving on the highway in the other parts of the world is – borrrrring!! Safe, but borrrrring!!
I have a collection of tales from the past, some that may seem fantastic, and others that are more prosaic. But hey, what’s a road trip if it is not accompanied by tales with which you can regale your future bored grandchildren. Like the time, that I was travelling in a jeep with 30 other people, and two police officers. The cops wanted to go home, so they actually attempted to hijack the jeep! They failed, the buggers! Thankfully!
But, Gau Mata shall stand witness to the veracity of these old tales, some of which shall be woven into future posts…
Posted on May 20, 2014
Posted on May 19, 2014
In India, we wear turbans. Rather, they are still worn in the rural areas quite often, but not so in the urban areas, where we have adopted a more Western style of dress for dsy to day living. We still wear turbans for ceremonies, some social and some religious. The colour and shape of the turban vary depending on the occasion. In the days of McDonalds, KFC , instant noodles, we now also have pre-set turbans for urban idiots like me, who cannot actually wind a turban around his head.
The Sikhs, by the way, wear turbans every day.
We, in the Northern parts of India, call a turban a “pagdi”, or “pagari” Anyone outside of India can forget about being able to pronounce it properly. We have three ways of pronouncing the letter ‘d’, and this one is the most difficult and inaccessible form. The “ar” and the “d” in this case are pronounced the same way in Hindi.
Having said that, when I was in Pushkar, i thought that I would shoot some men with their turbans. They wear them with pride, in Rajasthan.
It seems that there are over 1,000 forms of turban in Rajasthan, and even as a proud Indian, I can tell you that this is a lot. The style of the turban is said to change every 15 km or so. What’s more, is that the style of wearing, the colours, the material and the decoration will give you an indication of where the person comes from, and what level in society he belongs to. The rich, obviously, have more elaborate ones, and some of the kings of old had turbans with rubies and all sorts of precious stones, and pearls, happily emblazoned on the turban. Rich pickings! A poor person generally wears a turban of one colour, and a richer person wears one with several colours. No prizes for guessing which of these gents is the richer of the lot.
To give you, kind reader, an indication of how complex the process can be, you need to keep in mind that a turban – the cloth- can be as long as 82 feet long, and 8 inches wide. Try winding that around your head in an intricate fashion, and you get an idea of why the instant noodle variety has become popular in the urban areas.
As a side note, a word about Indians of my generation:
– we measure distance in kilometres, but height, length and area in inches, feet and square feet
– we measure ambient temperature in degrees Centigrade, but body temperature in Fahrenheit
– we measure weight in kilograms, and here we are completely consistent!
The problem, of course, with the instant noodle variety of turban, is that it is a bit like instant karma, or like a get-rich-quick scheme, or a lose weight quick scheme. Some of the tradition and the pride disappears in the process. Old traditions are replaced by newer ones. This is fine when you talk about things like technology up-gradation, like better varieties of fuel to reduce pollution. However, when these traditions are replaced by faceless, ill-fitting grey suits, then that is something to be mourned, rather than celebrated. Perhaps, even in conformist cultures like the Eastern ones, there is a burst of individuality amongst the younger generations. No one wants to be a brick in the wall!
Meanwhile, enjoy the turbans!
Posted on May 12, 2014
I took this photo while driving to Rishikesh. I used my Nikon Coolpx P something in the macro mode.
I am useless with the names of flowers, and I shoot them a lot!!
Posted on May 6, 2014
The Annual Pushkar Mela takes place every year, around November, and is timed with the full moon. It does mix religious faith with commerce as, apart from the rush of pilgrims who come to bathe in the sacred waters of the lake (and, to wash away their sins), there is a very well known cattle trading fair that takes place every year. This has become quite famous, and it was because of this fair that Mr Topiwallah and I were drawn to Pushkar. Never trust touristy pictures, I have said before, and I say it again. The pictures look very romantic, and I hope that the picture above looks sufficiently romantic as well.
So, we walked through the village-town and came to the outskirts where the actual fair was taking place. Hindi filmi (we say filmi, when we talk about Bollywood movies, sorry!!) music was blaring it’s way to the heavens at one end, and hymns to various Gods were blaring their way to the heavens at the other. We made our way through the cacophony, and I started to wonder why the Gauls resented the singing of Cacofonix so much. Poor chap, he was modelled on my singing capabilities, but this was horrendous.
It did not help that we arrived at Pushkar at the fag end of the festival. It seems that, as per our myth, the 330 million Hindu Gods and Goddesses gather here during the full moon festival, and sanctify the pious. 330 million? Holy shit, is what I have to say. I never knew we had so many of them. No wonder our human population keeps expanding at this rate.
Pushkar has been mentioned in the Mahabharata, as well as in the Ramayana, as well as in the Vaman Purana. When the old traveller, Alberuni, was sent by his king to study India in the 11th century, he did mention Pushkar, as did the Chinese pilgrim, Fa-Hsien. The travels of Fa-Hsien, it seems, were the inspiration for that wonderful Chinese book, “Xi You Ji”, or The Journey to the West, in which the marvellous character, The Monkey King, came to be born.
But, for all that, what I saw (apart from many foreign photographers, including Chinese ones, and some Indian semi-professionals) was a bunch of tired looking camel traders and camels. I must confess, I was a mite disappointed.
Still, I watched as the villagers gathered around, bathed in the water tanks, and gathered together for a friendly cup o’ chai in the late afternoon sun. You will notice, that the gentleman is sipping from a steel vessel – a katori.
And others, sat around and smoked their weed. To be honest, I don’t know why the West is making such a huge fuss about weed. We, in India, have never even discussed this topic. Hard stuff, yes, is a problem. Weed? No.
And so, they smoked, they drank their tea, they conducted their business, and we took our photos.
Life carried on into the sunset, and the camels grinned their sarcastic little grins, as they watched us fall over ourselves to find salvation, and to make a little money. And, to take a few photographs as well.
The year rolled by..
Posted on May 3, 2014
As you may have discovered from the last post, Pushkar is a very holy town. It is the only place in the world where there is a temple dedicated to the God of Creation, Brahma. This is significant. It is almost littered with temples, big and small. There is a lake that is considered to be holy. You can go down to the bathing ghats and take a dip. The term ‘ghat’ refers to steps that take you down to the river, or to the lake.
After Mr Topiwalla (from Dubai) and I were strolling back to our little tent after dinner, we saw these tourist-residents sitting by the German Bakery, singing to a (rather melodious) chant on the radio, or CD player. “Hare Rama, Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Hare Rama” went the refrain.
Elsewhere, we passed by people with no home, no place to sleep. Luckily, they had been given blankets to ward off the chill of the November night. There, in Pushkar, night temperatures do drop rapidly. The day was warm, but the night was indeed chilly.
He and I retired to the tented accommodation that we had booked. My room is shown below. This is the best of rugged, rural, rustic, adventurous living in a semi-urban environment.
I took the photo of the room with my now defunct Samsung Galaxy Grand. My intentions were honourable – to wake up before sunrise, and to go out with my camera. However, the blanket was warming my tootsies nicely, and I decided to be lazy (after soothing my photographic conscience), and to lie in. I was awake, however, and the sun was coming up. I could make this out, as the sunlight slowly filtered its way through the tent cloth. It came in, accompanied by the chilly morning breeze.
As I lay there, I thought about the homeless people there on the streets. I don’t have a solution for them, and the thought made me feel slightly guilty.
As I lay there and listened to the sounds of the morning, I could barely hear the sounds of the twittering bird. Birdsong, some call it, and it was nice. It always is nice, very nice. Nice, in fact, is a very bland word to describe the songs of the birds. Far too bland.
In the neighbourhood, was the sounds of Mr Topiwallah’s snoring. He did try, poor chap, to stay in tune with the birds, but he failed completely in his attempt. It was, at least, a natural sound, uttered in all its innocence.
And, in the not-so far distance, there was the sounds of the priests bellowing out their morning prayers, the sounds of hymns blaring from their CD players, all vying to reach the ear of God with their loudspeakers. As they strained to send their bellowing voices to God, the howling priests forgot to listen to the sounds of the birds. They forgot to listen to the sounds of the morning, to sit there in silence in praise of the new day. They forgot about the homeless people lying on the streets, shivering with cold
Competition raged amongst the Alpha-Priests in their mad rush to the ear of God.
As I lay there, I thought that while I tried to find God in Pushkar, God was sitting there in the voices of the birds, in the rays of the morning sun, in the chilly breeze.
If indeed, and if indeed , God exists then you don’t need to go to Pushkar to find redemption.
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