Friday, March 14, 2014

Hello India!

Six days in India. I went there to buy goods for a shop I ran in southern Sri Lanka. Six days. It felt like 100.

I first went to Delhi. Somehow I found myself a taxi driver to cart me around. I wanted to go to Chandi Chowk, an area where I was told I could get batteries for my digital camera, on the cheap. The taxi driver refused to take me, saying it was too crowded for a car. I was clueless on how else to get there, so I coerced him into it.

The driver was right. There was no room for cars. Too many people, too many bicycle rickshaws, too many shops, too many of everything. And there we sat, in the crush. Until my driver bumped and tipped over a bicycle rickshaw. Then all hell broke loose! The driver stayed in the car, the bicycle driver righted the rickshaw with help from the crowd, all the while yelling at Mr. Taxi, with him yelling back. Soon a crowd gathered around the car, totally surrounding it. They rocked the car and shouted at the driver. I closed my backseat window on the right where all my camera gear was, and went to close the other next to me. I couldn’t close it! A ragamuffin young girl, holding an even dirtier young child on her hip was pressing down on my window, preventing me from shutting it! I wound the handle harder. She pressed down harder. Some man finally knocked her away from the car and I quickly shut the window fearing for my life!

Hello India!

Mr. Taxi and the bicycle guy final settled on RS700 ($10) damages. The angry crowd dispersed and we crawled off toward the center of Chandi Chowk to find my batteries. After all that, I wasn’t going to give up!

Next stop, Rajasthan, where several people were located that I wanted to do business with. I took the train and was amazed at how clean and streamline it was. The landscape zoomed by and before I knew it, I was in Rajasthan. My first visit was to a Shalvar Kameez manufacturer (typical Indian dress, with long top and pants). It was a family owned business and they took a shine to me and had their young son (mid-20s), Rajiv, shuttle me around. Thank goodness, as I wasn’t doing so well on my own.

Before Rajiv, I had a tuk tuk driver zipping me around, stopping when I saw something to photograph. It was 5 days before the Festival of Color and Rajasthan was packed. Wall-to-wall people and I was the only one with blonde hair. From the tuk tuk, I heard drums and made the driver stop. A group of teenage boys were working up the crowd, and I admit, myself also. I love drum music. I went to get close for good tight shots and someone goosed me! I turned and it was a 10-year-old boy. I grabbed his hand and twisted it, scolding him in English. He got my message. The driver shouted at me, “Please Madam, come! Before I have to defend your honor!’

I missed the bullet on that scene, but it wasn’t too much later that we were stopped in a mess of traffic and someone reached into the tuk tuk and stroked my arm. I can still feel how creepy it was.

Grateful for Rajiv’s offer to chauffer me around, we went to a sari place, where silk saris, the colors of the rainbow, were stacked up to the ceiling. It took forever to make up my mind, but I bought a sari. My first and only, so far.

We went to various places of historical interest and to a moneychanger late at night; up, up, up narrow staircases, with dim to no light guiding our way. Not for the first time, I wondered what the hell I was doing in India on my own!

One day, I asked Rajiv to stop the tuk tuk, where I saw a woman dancing in front of crowd of people. I wanted to sneak in and get a shot of her up on the stage. When you have blonde hair, fair skin, and a big camera, there is no sneaking in India. A man spoke into the microphone, ‘Madam, Madam, come!’ I’d been caught. The dancer stopped and everyone waited for me to go up on stage. No photos there! Instead friendly people, gathered around me, closing in tight.

On my own, I tried to get a full shot of Hawa Mahal, the Palace of Winds, but it was obstructed by traffic. A man tapped my on the shoulder and said, ‘Come, I show spot.’ I probably should have had my head examined by I followed him up a narrow staircase, winding up and up, until we were on the rooftop of the building across the street from the palace. The view was perfect! The man was so kind and I got great shots. And he didn’t try to goose me, or stoke my arm; he was just helpful.

I met more helpful people in India than the ones who invaded my space. In such crowded situations, there really is no such thing as personal space. The Festival of Color was to start in two days and I left just in time, for once the festival started, people would throw handfuls of neon colored powder…just what my sensitive camera would need!

Back on Sri Lankan soil, I vegged out to relax from the Indian crowds and sounds and hurried way of life. I was only in India for 6 days and I needed a good two weeks to get over it!

But then, I never have gotten over India. It’s burned in my cranial hard drive forever.

My hotel in Rajasthan.
The doors and doorways in India are glorious.

A wide shot of my hotel.

Rajiv (in dark blue shirt) and his family.

The Palace of Winds.

The kind man who guided me up to the rooftop
for a great view of the the Palace of Winds.
Street scene from the rooftop.

Picture of me; younger, blonder, thinner.

I loved the rooftops in India!

Elephant decked out for the Festival of Colors.

Pretty elephant, but I'd rather see
her in a jungle, without the paint.

There's a tractor (far left), and then
there's a camel to pull the load.

His look makes me wonder what he's seen in his life.

Lake Palace, lake Pichola, Rajashtan.

Factory where they dye and print fabric.
This man is block printing the design.

Two of the many block prints.


Floor to ceiling!

Rajiv; he gave me his watch to remember him by.

Powders for sale for the Festival of Color.

I was told that this palace is for a princess, a Marharini,
who lives there alone with her staff.
All this for one person!

I took this photo hanging out of the window
of my car. Too wonderful to miss!

Traffic, back from Rajashtan to Delhi!

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