Somewhere over the rainbow…

This post doesn’t have pictures by me or isn’t about something I did or learnt about through my photography course. This post is about something that inspires me, that moves me, that makes me truly wonder how big the earth is, that makes me wonder if dreams should ever just remain just that – dreams?

Have you ever heard this song written by E.Y.Harburg, composed for the movie ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and sung by Judy Garland? This song haunts me, in a very good way! I forget if I have mentioned it before, but I can’t help but think of this because of an article I read recently in the National Geographic Magazine. An article by Andrew Evans called the ‘Bus2Antartica’ – an epic journey by the author who travelled by bus from Washington DC to the very tip of South America, before boarding a ship to Antartica through the Drake Passage. He tweeted and blogged his way through the trip for Nat Geo. This is the stuff that dreams are made of isn’t it? The journey we all want to make but never do for a billion reasons. From financial commitments to plain fear, there is a whole range.

Photo: Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia

Photograph by Andrew Evans as it appears on nationalgeographic.com.

I am in awe and envy at the same time, that someone could convince Nat Geo to sponsor them on a trip of their lifetime. I would love to get my sea legs back and make a journey from Cape Horn to Antartica via the South Georgia Islands. Stopping by those beautiful and picturesque group of islands that king penguins tend to call their home. Back to Andrew Evans, his is a riveting little article and blog for the inner explorer in you. The whole article wreaks of the fact that dreams can be achieved, in the authors own words – “..What I do know is that my trip to Antarctica is no longer a dream. It’s now a vivid memory.” I could not have said it better!

Somewhere over the rainbow…

A photo challenge on the terrace

Yesterday, I found myself completely out of things to photograph and write about. But then I remembered one of my first lessons at NYIP(New York Institute of Photography) – there is always something to photograph as long as you open your eyes and look at things differently. The challenge, as my lesson puts it, is that you walk around your own neighborhood and look at life through a lens. What is normal to you is not so normal to a tourist! I tweaked the challenge for myself and shortened my radius some more – to just my terrace! Why, you ask? Its a little pearl of wisdom I picked up whilst working in the corporate world. The lesser the resource, the more innovative you get with its usage to get the biggest bang out of it. It pushes you to your creative limit, to think out of the box! I admit though, that our terrace is India also doubles as a mini garden, so there is enough life here to photograph. Here are some normal everyday occurrences, objects and experiments of mine from last evening.
Please click on the images to view an enlarged version.
From Brooms to waterpipes and tea mugs…….
I also did a small experiment with my circular polarizer just to appreciate the quality of image that it can render. I took the same picture at the same exposure level, with the same fstop , with just a minute’s difference (so i could screw on the polarizer onto my lens).
Without Polarizer
With Polarizer
Huge difference isn’t it?  Makes one appreciate the nifty little gadget, more. For me, its these tiny little inventions that make me feel like there is no end to innovation and creative genius. That no matter how small or large, acutely complex or simple, how grave the need or how insignificant – human genius can solve a problem. That there is always a solution. That there always is more room for creativity.
A photo challenge on the terrace

Dakshin odyssey ends in Saraswathi Puja

Yes, my dakshinchitra odyssey continues. Considering the fact that only two states could be covered in one afternoon of shutter frenzy, my odyssey is actually incomplete. Someday soon I will go back and cover Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka – the ikat display, beckons. Till then let me complete my journey through Tamilnadu and Kerala. As you walk through the intersection of the two sections, at an interval of every thirty minutes, the sound of dolaks,idakkas and chendas (Indian percussion instruments) draw visitors to a makeshift performance stage. The beats are rudimentary in composition, nevertheless, can lull you into a trance. Artistes dressed as fisher folk from the south, play these compositions for a never ending stream of visitors. Here are some of my compositions of the performance.

Please click on the pictures to view an enlarged version:

I personally love the above picture for composition, color and the motion blur. Its my favorite photograph of this set.

As I woke out of the reverie of this trip and the processing of these pictures, I realised I was bang in the middle of the festival season here. The nine day extravaganza that we in India call – Navratri. Celebrated in different ways across the nation, the festival is in honour of the nine versions of the Goddess Shakthi. From Golu(a display of dolls like a christmas manger scene) to Dandiya ( a dance form), the festival is resplendent with revelry. At home though, we have a slightly muted puja to the Goddess Saraswathi at the very end of the nine days. We pay homage to the Goddess who imparts wisdom and knowledge and give her a well deserved day off. We offer fruits, flowers and all sorts of sweet meats as a sign of respect, thank you and as a sign of saying -‘I hope you will continue to impart some wisdom to me’.

The thing about India for most outsiders is that it is a sensory explosion in every way. There is a burst of color and flavor in every thing you see and everything you eat. Flavors and colors, that are sometime very unique to India. Pink and yellow are by far considered “gay” colors in America ( I apologize in advance to anything that sounds politically incorrect, but I state what is ,as is!), but men in India will not shun away from wearing such colors. Our most popular celluloid heroes wear bright pink t-shirts , on screen. Our puja times are no different, from the bright yellow chrysanthemums that adorn everything from gods to cars , to yellow bananas and red apples given as offerings – its feels like you are in wonderland ! A wonderland that is half willy wonka and half crayola’s lab. India, hence makes for a photographers delight! I take these colors in muted compositions to present a couple of pictures that border on the artsy side of photography(hey , its my blog and I get to call it what I want ;))

This first picture is my mother stringing loose chrysanthemums together to form a garland. Notice, how even the thread is a bright color explosion. There is always something to see in even the smallest of things.

The above picture is an experiment in photoshop , that I am yet to pass verdict on. If you have any thoughts, leave me a line. I’m finding it rather tough to soften the bottom edge of the bright flower, when I do figure it out I will post the refined version.

The last two days have been longs posts, but since they have been long overdue….I guess its’ okay. Enjoy and do remember to click on the pictures to see enlarged versions of the photographs.

 

Dakshin odyssey ends in Saraswathi Puja

Dakshin Times….

Its’ been a little over 15 days since I’ve been back in India. India is shining. There is an abundance of conspicuous spending, there are more Mercedes cars per square mile than ever before, people take off to exotic locales around the world for a holiday at the drop of a hat. Its’ the land where a Volkswagen Buggy costs 2200000 rupees and no one bats an eyelid to spend that. There is a new and nifty looking symbol for the Rupee, which is yet to find its way onto computers everywhere. There is nothing you don’t get here – from a Fendi Spy bag to the latest Bentley you can find it all.

Chennai was far more traditional in its demeanor, years ago. It still probably is compared to its other cosmopolitan sisters from the north. There are still kutcheris attended by patrons in silk saris and diamonds on one side, and on the other there was a weekend Electronic Dance Music festival filled with youngsters who were bumping and grinding to house and trance. It seems that somethings have changed, there is more industry , more construction, more people, and more money in the city than ever before. Then again, its the same old Chennai that just supports more people now. Her roads are congested, grandiose residential houses are razed to the ground to raise apartment buildings that cost the earth($8.1 million for a four bedroom apartment in Poes Garden and its sold out! and yes it is $$$ not Rs). Food inflation is at 16.44%. Infrastructure is yet to catch up with demand in a country where they just spent 70000 crores on the Commonwealth Games(which in itself is a fiasco which also got fixed in 36 hours!). As much as all that is food for thought, I believe the day the political system is cleaned up, Chennai and as a whole India, will clean up very very nicely in every sense of the word.

None of the above irk me as much as the sight of men openly scratching their balls!(pardon the language, for I am out of polite or democratic words to voice this) Why does anyone have to subject another human being to an action that is meant to be private? Was there not a reason to call the genitals , one’s privates? I understand, the heat and the sweat are a potent combination – but I will never understand why anyone else needs to be privy to the consequences of that combination.

So much for serious dabbling, and back to photography and all things beautiful. I spent an afternoon at Dakshinchitra – a living village that is built to preserve the rapidly vanishing architectural styles of the south. The four southern states(Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamilnadu) are represented with their architecture and a smattering of local artisans working on everything from handicrafts to a loom – weaving silk saris. Architecture was thoughtful even in those days of pre-engineering wonders, before electricity was commonly available in India, before the industrial revolution swept away the world. Cross ventilation, function and form, abound. Adornment, embellishment and beauty , coexist. It took my breathe away to take in the simplicity of ideas. Back doors and front doors are in a straight line and are huge to facilitate cross-ventilation. The center of the house has a square or rectangular courtyard , again to facilitate ventilation. A vat of water is always placed at the back end of this courtyard, so that when one returns home – they can quickly wash their feet without having to traipse the dirt through the rest of the house. Rooms are large with huge windows and are off the main corridors along the courtyard. Homes were always large enough to stretch from one street in the front to another at the back. The intricacies of each pillar that supports a beam, the woodwork and craftsmanship on each piece – is nothing but a dream. India is a country filled with artisans, who are rapidly being left behind by the IT boom. As much as the economy and the country has benefited from all that, true quality craftsmanship is fast vanishing . What’s left today is a very poor knock off that is sold at an exorbitant price, with the foreign tourist and rising incomes, in mind.

I happened to have a pleasant and eye opening conversation with a man who was working the looms there. He was working away at an old fashioned loom weaving an extraordinary silk sari. Even his children have forsaken the old art for greener pastures. His is a dying art form – there just a few hundred people left, all belonging to his generation. When they are gone there is no one left with the know-how.He told me how, often what we get at a store these days are machine made silk saris, which cannot interweave threads like a loom can, which in turn means that the weave is not strong enough to last a long time. To make the tension of threads just right, so that the sari falls gracefully when pleated, the threads are inter woven tight and a metal piece is rubbed over it to test the tension. The heat from the friction is then cooled down with water, and not just any water – it has to be the purest water you can get. If the thread used is genuine silk, interwoven with kora silk(a type of silk) only pure water can be used. Apparently, any other water will undo the tension after first wash! For this reason, Kanchipuram silks are only half done in Kanchipuram these days because of their lack of pure water! They are finished off at Kumbakonam – whoever knew?

Its been a learning to step out of the country and come back to appreciate the dying arts. The USA is all of 200 odd years old, but they preserve and maintain that short history with kid gloves. India is centuries old and there are Indians who claim to be tradition bound – why then , is it all dying away?

I post this picture because to me this is how India is in someways, the cow(my symbol for tradition, religion and conservative behavior and the symbol of everything that is India to an outsider) will continue to sit in the middle of the road for as long as it shall please. The traffic is modern India, it will always ebb and flow around the cow. No one will disturb it, no one will hurt it, no one will hit it. Unless the cow decides, no one will make it go away. It will be the gentle giant which will brandish its horns every now and then.

 

 

Dakshin Times….