Sunday, November 29, 2009

River of Life

The Ganges, or Ganga, River begins its 1500 mile journey from the base of the Himalaya’s and it winds its way across India and ends in the Bay of Bengal in Calcutta.
The Ganga is more than just a river…….it plays many roles in India…….it is woven into the very fabric of Indian culture, religion, mystery, and life.

We crossed the Ganga on our way to Jim Corbett National Park……and since we were all very eager to get to our final destination, there was no time for pictures……but on the way back, long before we reached the area, I mentioned to Ramesh that Preston and I would like to stop for a few moments to take some photographs.The wait did not disappoint…….as a matter of fact, I could have stayed in the area a few hours or so, in hopes to capture some very interesting shots of the happenings at the river…….

Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister penned these words about the Ganges in his book, “The Discovery of India” ; written in 1946.

“The Ganges, above all is the river of India, which has held India's heart
captive and drawnuncounted millions to her banks since the dawn of history.
The story of the Ganges, from her source to the sea, from old times to new,
is the story of India's civilization and culture, of the rise and fall of
empires, of great and proud cities, of adventures of man…”

The Ganga is worshiped as a goddess, it is believed that she descended from the heavens to earth from a lock of Lord Shiva’s hair… make the whole world pious, fertile and to wash out the sins of Humans.Most Hindus believe that one’s life is not complete unless they have bathed in the waters of the Ganges at least once in their lifetime.

Many Hindu families also keep a vial of water from the Ganges in their home. It is believed to be prestigious to have water from the Ganges in the home and to also have it on hand in the event that someone is dying. In this case, the ailing person is given the water to drink not only to help cure the illness but to also cleanse the soul and erase their sins.At the crossing of the river we used, boats lined the shores eager to take those wanting to bathe, out into the depths of the river. These boats were for hire specifically to help those wanting to carry out this pilgrimage.

The shores on the opposite side of the river were lined with bamboo structures that Ramesh shared are used in the performing of the pujas.

The boats were colorful, as are most things in India…….many donned advertising of one sort or another.

We witnessed people bathing in the water……carrying out their belief and making sure that their life was complete……

I vowed to return to the banks of this very important river…….to soak in a bit more of the culture of India….to better understand the importance this river plays in the lives of millions…..

On the Shoulders of a Gentle Giant

Elephants enjoy a long and varied history in is an easy claim that the elephant and India are synonymous with one another. They have earned a place of respect in the fabric of India.....a timeline that dates back at least 5000 years.

It is hard to imagine India without the elephant, and vice-versa.

They were very hard workers, and I am told that they played a major role in the construction of many of the huge monuments that are found throughout India.....including the Taj Mahal.They were the preferred transportation of many of the Maharajah's......their size alone commands attention and respect.....for standing alongside it is easy to feel like a little person, regardless of your stature in society.

They play a huge role in the religion, as one of the most worshipped god's in India is Ganesh, the elephant headed god.

Today, while the Maharajah's now ride on the padded seats of a Mercedes Benz, many of those who climb aboard the back of one of these gentle giants are either grooms on their way to their awaiting bride, or those who have hired them for a safari along the periphery of Jim Corbett National Park, hoping to manage a glance at one of the 165 tigers that live in the area.Her name is "Larlee".....while I am not sure of the spelling, it is phonetically correct.....she is 30 years old, eats the stripped leaves from the sugar cane stalks and will live until she is around 80 years old.

While she is not adorned with the draping fit to carry a Maharajah,she still seems quite happy performing her daily treks into the jungle loaded with tourists to the area.So what did we see on our journey......monkeys, birds, lots of deer.....some spent antlers from a season ago.....and some tiger tracks.

We did not have any luck sighting a tiger on on journey, but the thrill of being on the back of an elephant provided enough excitement......truly an experience that everyone should have on a visit to India......and if you are from India, and have not visited the wonderful area that has been preserved for you to enjoy, please take the opportunity to will not be disappointed.

"Wetting a Line" India

Preston was out of school this past week, as the American School follows the US holiday schedule and people back in the states were celebrating Thanksgiving.

We took the time to escape the city and head to the mountains.....with some planned activities to celebrate Preston's birthday.

Jim Corbett National Park resides some 260 odd kilometers from New Delhi, and offers an amazing array of outdoor activities for those inclined to enjoy nature. One such activity was the opportunity for some a line!

It has been over a year that Preston and I shared some time on the water with fishing rods in our hands and trying to outsmart the fish. It was a great birthday gift for him and enjoyable for both of us.The hotel we stayed at arranged for a guide to take us to one of the two rivers available to us the Kosi and the Ramganga......of course I asked which one was the better of the two and we chose to drive the 55 km to the Ramganga.

The first stop was roadside in Ramnagar to pick up our guide Dinesh......the second stop was to purchase our fishing permit for the day.....then we made our way to a natural pool in the river.From the height of the road our guide pointed out some very large catfish and a crocodile that was sunning along the bank......the adventure was beginning already.

We made our way down the rocky wall of the river canyon to the bed and found the water to be crystal clear......just what you would expect to find in such an area and unlike the rivers much closer to Delhi. A short time after we arrived.....the first cast was made with some of the most antiquated equipment that I have ever held in my hand.....provided by our guide for 1500 rupees per rod.....approximately $30 US.

We were throwing a variety of spoons at first with not much luck.......and he then switched to fishing with bread.....chumming the water with some two day old hamburger buns and then baiting the hook with the brought back memories of when I used to fish in the pond with bread at my Uncle Charlie's or behind Prince of Peace Church in New Orleans. At that time, the sophistication of my tackle box was quite limited to some hooks and the most readily available source of bait.....worms, which you had to dig for, or Bunny Bread.After several hours, his method finally paid off......he and I ventured to a different area of the river, just past some small rapids......he chummed and the fish quickly started hitting the surface. A few minutes later, I had hooked my first fish in over a year.....and my first fish in India.

The species.....the "Mahseer" derives it's name from the Sanskrit words....."mahi" for fish......and "sher" which means tiger.

From the photographs you can see why the Mahseer is called the "Tiger Fish". It is truly a beautiful fish and a hard fighter...golden, bronze and striped.....just like a tiger!Now that Dinesh had put us on the fish, it was Preston's turn to catch.....and he did....his first fish in Indian water.....but unlike some of our past fishing trips, this time, mine was the larger of the two caught in the day.

We vowed to return.....with our gear.....both bait casting and fly rods......and we will once again find our way back to the Ramganga or Kosi, or some of the many other rivers in and around India for another chance at the mighty Mahseer!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

If walls could talk!

A visit to Amber Fort in Jaipur, or any of the historic places that form the landscape of India, should certainly have one wondering about what has taken place inside the many walls of such a monument.

Certainly the thought has crossed your mind at least once or twice...

But what about the outside walls? What stories would they be able to tell?

On the day I visited I came across several people on the outside of the great fort.....the same walls that protected the elite and kept them separated from those that were "not part of the "party" are still, in many ways, serving the same purpose today.

Consider this for a the past, the Maharajah's and their entourage were the wealthy......those on the outside were not...the "HAVES" and the "HAVE NOTS"
.....only today "the haves" come in droves to the fort as part of a tour, or like me, paid the foreigners entrance fee that would be equivalent to the amount of money that many live off of in a month.

But this entry is not about the plight of those who are less fortunate or who are making a living, as best they can, outside of the is about how time has stood still in many ways.

I am confident that when the when the Maharajah and his family moved from one of their homes to another, people from the surrounding areas gathered along the processional path to have a glance or perhaps ask for a small handout of some type.....there were those who were working......selling various, fruit, it is much the same.The photograph of the Indian Lady whose job today is to keep the walkways clear and free of debris and trash......I caught her leaning against that wall with that lovely patina......and could not resist preserving the image. If not for the modern bucket at her feet, this photograph could have been taken over 100 years ago.

My favorite of them, is of the man sitting on the ledge.

I have mentioned in the I prefer to take "candid" photographs of people....nothing posed or too contrived.....people in their natural surroundings, and just being themselves......

When I saw the man sitting with his back against the wall, I immediately framed the picture in my mind......I was being quiet, trying not to draw attention to myself......I didn't want to disturb him, nor did I want him to turn and catch me in the act of taking his picture.....

I raised my camera and isn't the best is just a picture.

So why am I sharing it with you if it isn't so "great" in my eyes?.....why did it even make the pages of the blog and garner so many words?

Here is the rest of the story......

As you can see.....his hands are camera captured just a part of his stealth like behavior had allowed me to capture my image without disturbing as the camera left my eye, and I began walking, I glanced back to only notice that the man who was the subject of my photograph was blind.

This picture is worth sharing as it touched me.......I will long remember those outstretched hands....the way he was sitting there.....waiting for someone to stop and share some wealth with him.....and I wondered if the same spot was once fill centuries ago by another of his brethren.The final picture was much less serious......more lighthearted in nature.....and is probably a great way to end this chapter......the elephant with his trunk against the wall. While I am not sure that this is a repeat of times past.....

Only the walls would be able to tell us.....

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Getting the Picture - No pun intended

I, like hundreds of thousands of people who own a camera, have used it to capture pictures of family, friends, pets, vacations, before and after pictures of "you name it", graduations, first steps, new cars, accidents, etc. I have even taken my camera to the hardware store to aid me in describing a home repair issue I was trying to solve on my own. While it may seem like the camera was in use all the time, the reality was the opposite. It was a very common occurrence to have the following flurry of questions take place before any of the above events. "Have you seen the camera? Who used it last? Where could it be? What did we use it for last? Why isn't it with all of the other camera junk? What type of batteries does it take again? Where is the charger?" get the picture? (no pun intended).

When the opportunity to move to India first presented itself, I packed the camera to capture images of my trip to take back to my family; glimpses of what our new life would be like living in a land that we never dreamed of living in......using the images captured by the camera to explain the wonder and mystery that unveiled itself to my eyes during that 13 day visit.

The camera used on that trip fell victim to a theft in the when making a decision to purchase a new camera, I opted to spend a bit more money to upgrade from our previous model, to one that provided more features and a higher pixel quality.....but still priced within my budget. I justified the purchase, in my mind, noting that I would be taking many photographs to share with my family during the process of looking for a place to live.....which I did.....I took over 1500 photographs of the various apartments I visited. I also used it to purchase furniture; although many of the furniture showrooms prevented me from taking pictures fearful that I would have their piece copied by someone else.

It was around this time that I started this October 2008.....taking pictures and and sharing my experience in words for those back home.....a means of keeping in touch even though the phone was always handy. It is true that pictures convey much more than words could ever tell of a particular event or experience.

Naturally, Linda and I thought that it would be a great idea to purchase a camera as a gift to Preston for his 15th birthday. It was much less expensive than mine, but certainly adequate for its intended purpose. Providing an outlet for him.....something to amuse him.....a way of expressing himself....after all, his parents were turning his comfortable life upside down...... making him leave family and friends behind, and moving him halfway around the world. I was also hoping that it would become a hobby that the two of us could share together, much like fishing.

Photography has certainly replaced our hobby of has evolved into much more than I ever could have imagined. I have also learned that, like fishing, Preston has a natural talent......some of the pictures that he has taken are simply amazing. It has even provided us both with the opportunity to be competitive....not only between the two of us.....we recently submitted several of our photographs in a Photography Competition for expatriates living in India.

There were over 350 entries in four categories....and while neither of us had a photograph selected by the judges of the competition, one of us did find ourselves on stage.....again, Preston has outdone his father and walked away with "the biggest fish"! While this was only the second year of the event, Preston received an Honorable Mention Award for being the youngest ever contestant.

Over the past year, much has changed in our lives.....a new city, a new lifestyle, a new adventure, new experiences, different food, different smells, different weather and a new hobby. One other thing has flurry of questions about an under utilized you "get the picture"? Both Preston and I will submit entries next year....and hope for the best!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sign's of the time......The interesting and the humorous

Throughout India, you are bound to see a sign that will catch your eye and the words or creative license that the owner or sign maker has taken may just elicit a smile or chuckle.....or may leave you pondering the question of "what in the world were they thinking"?

Here are five such signs; just a few of the ones that I have most recently discovered. There are countless more that I have seen but did not take the time to photograph.

I have decided to begin collecting them...on film of course.

Now for the first sign........

I have read the story of Snow White......and read it once again just to make sure that I had the story, perhaps this "SALOON" is owned by seven "vertically challenged" little people.....or perhaps, it is the wicked queen who was trying to kill Snow White....Maybe the prince is the proprietor of the saloon......High Ho, High Ho.....or were those dwarfs singing Jai Ho all this time?
Picture this......

Ladies and gentlemen, you can use this room to get "drassed" in......growing up in the southern United States, there is what is known as a "Southern Drawl" accent that is very common and stretches words and typically extends the word when spoken.......this photo was taken in Northern India (Mussoorie)......not Alabama! by the way......could someone put some "RAANCH DRASSING" in a care package for us???? is very difficult to find.

We are halfway through the pictures......and the combination of offerings at this Barber shop just caught me as being humorous....

I have never been to a BARBER, for any of these....perhaps you dont find the same the one year I have not seen an Indian, male or female with "Bleached Blonde Hair"......

The next sign caught my eyes in an alley way that Linda and I were walking through one morning in Mussoorie.

All this time, I thought that the cause of ROAD RAGE was the lack of courtesy of another driver.....some act that a particular driver does to another that would cause them to get so upset and to develop such anger.....however, the secret was revealed. The true source of Road Rage is when the owner of a car parks his/her car in the GAR please......everything on the road will return to normal and friendly if you simply park your car on the side of the street.....the only other thing I can think the US there is a fish named "GAR" you think he has a very nasty GAR FISH that is enraged behind the doors?...We may never know.
This last and final picture still has me scratching my head trying to figure out if this is some special code....or perhaps it is a dental office run by "identical twins"......or it is a Dentist Office that caters to stutterers......Dr. Ag g g g arrwall, could you please fit me for my BR R R aces?" is that the temperature of the office is kept so cold that everyone is freezing....BRRRRRRRR it is cold in cold the doctors decided that instead of purchasing a sign with the correct spellings, they spelled it like people are used to hearing them speak due to the freezing temperatures.......just look at this sign and see if you can figure it out.

Or could it be a special code.....?

I am open to hearing everyone interpretations of these me out!

What say you?