Tiger Man April 20, 2014
I stumbled across this man while I wandered into a little village somewhere in South Mumbai. He looked so interesting to me – his facial features, the hair everywhere and his eyes. He seemed so gentle and I wondered what his life was like as a young soul. What made this shot even more interesting to me is the art work behind him. The tiger and him look so much alike! I did not speak to him at all until I was done taking several shots of him. Kaushal, who is another street photographer was with me and spoke the local language and explained to him after I was done why I found him and the background so fascinating. He just nodded his head Indian styles, clearly not as impressed as I was with his resemblance to the tiger!
Champals April 15, 2014
The Best Butt in Mumbai April 13, 2014
So, as I was hanging around the Gate of India, my eyes met with a fantastic behind. I then looked further up from the back up to the head and realized that it was a man’s. I was so fixated on it that I took numerous shots of a scene from behind, which also captured his backside. At one point, I decided to have some fun! See if you notice what is going on in this picture. Enjoy the best butt of Mumbai!
A Time to Reflect April 12, 2014
Street Photography in Mumbai April 10, 2014
I have always had a keen interest in photography, but never really explored it, other then taking travel shots mostly. I decided that since I had some time, I would head to India to learn more about photography, and practice shooting. I was not sure what I really wanted to focus on. I like taking pictures of buildings, food, people…so I was open to any genre almost within this area. Mumbai would be a good place. I always liked Mumbai and had only spent a few days there here and there. My friends Sans and Mike were also there, they live there, so it made sense. I started to look up photographers in Mumbai and came up with a list of about 18. I wanted someone to help me ‘open my eyes’ and see better. In addition to that, learning a bit about my camera would be useful. I had several people write back to me but it was important for me that the type of work they did fit within what I was looking to do. I was not keen on fashion for example. I was thinking more along the lines of travel or portrait but then I came across something called Street Photography. I mean I have taken pictures of people on the streets, but this is much different than that.
What is Street photography? Well, I would have to say that it involves capturing people or animals that are involved in an activity of some sort – capturing elevated moments, without asking people for permission and without them really stopping doing what they are doing. You really do not want posed pictures. It can be challenging and scary at times. I had to take my camera right up to people’s faces to take some of the shots that I did within the 5 days of shooting. What would they say I thought? What if someone hit me or yelled at me in Hindi?! I had 2 people say ‘no’ to me during those 5 days and strangely enough, they were both children! Good for them I say! The rest were quite friendly. Some of them asked what was going on…”Media hai”?
Street is about getting really close to people to tell a story. You have to think about framing and layering and making sure that you do not cut people’s legs or arms off. Sometimes it is fine but it really depends on the story you are trying to tell. One must take multiple shots of the same event and even then, you may not get what you are looking for. I went to about 6 different areas within South Mumbai with my mentor, Kaushal Parikh. It was great fun. In terms of knowing my camera’s functions, we did not really focus on that. I actually used Kaushal’s Olympus on the first day and my Canon on subsequent days. I think it really is about the eye, though I would like to know more about reading graphs and ISOs etc. at some point. Right now though, I rather focus on ‘seeing better’ and just taking pictures. I am not so sure how this would work in North America. I mean I cannot imagine people in NYC being okay with me taking a picture of their child randomly. There are people there that do this though, so I will just have to give it a try!
Some famous street photographers include: Vivian Maier, Eugene Atget and Henri Cartier-Bresson.
2 Years in a Nutshell, Part I December 16, 2012
The posts over the next couple of weeks will be in no apparent order, but it will document my memories of the last 2 years, specifically related to my work and travels.
I think that I have seen just too much sometimes, that things that might phase the ordinary person, do not always get to me. I mean, I have had my fair share of interesting sagas- I was almost locked in a restaurant on hotel grounds, with the music being turned up so loud that I could not even hear myself. Then 3 men walked into the restaurant from the back entrance…good thing my instincts told me to bolt out of there. I learned, that in some countries, you should never be the last person dining, especially the last woman. In some hotels, people come into your room when the do not disturb sign is up! Men will shake your hand and hold it for a few seconds too long. I sat next to a woman on a plane, chanting loudly and making tsk tsk sounds every few seconds. Oh and yes, how about the man who was clearly having too much fun under the blanket on a 9 hour plane ride! No joke.
Never mind the cockroaches, ants in my hotel bed and mice I’ve had to battle. Oh yes, I cannot forget the 2 children who massacred the plane, as their parents watched. The best in flight video ever….different types of cutlery are shown on the screen above the toilet with a big red X on them. Seriously, how many people take their meal trays in the bathroom with them? This lady cried once because she wasn’t allowed on the plane. It was about to take off and she was too busy shopping. Apparently, it wasn’t her fault that the gate was so far away. She screamed to let her on the plane while it was in taxi. Then she made the person at the desk walk her back to the main terminal to pick her bags up. I watched all of this as i waited for my delayed flight. And yes,I have missed 3 flights this year alone.
A bachelor party took place on the plane from Majorca to Geneva. They were a fun bunch though, dressed in pink. In front of me sat a little boy, about 2 years old. He was traveling with his father, who left him alone twice to go to the bathroom, unbuckled and who then fell asleep before we were even all the way up in the air. The poor boy was so bored, tearing up a magazine and crawling under the seat. At one point, I got up, reached over the father, and brought the child back to sit with me. At least we could entertain one another. His father didn’t even blink. We played games on the iPad and took funny pictures with the iphone booth app. It was great fun. It wasn’t until the pilot announced that we would be landing shortly, that the dad awoke and panicked. I tapped him on his shoulder to tell him the little one was with me. He just said ok and closed his eyes and went back to sleep.
Of course, sometimes the journeys are chilling. Like when the helicopter had to land in the middle of nowhere in Kyrgyzstan. There were about 11 of us if I recall correctly. How would 11 ppl find their way to the city while in the middle of the mountains? A trailer type thing drove by. An Australian and New Zealand couple were on a road trip. They were on their way to Afghanistan. Imagine they had exactly 11 seats left in the vehicle. Divine intervention.
I was forgotten once at 3am when I landed in Islamabad, Pakistan and recovered my lost luggage, which was dropped on the runway and later found. Instead of doing the obvious and heading to the Serena with one of their cars which would have been the safest thing to do, I found ‘mommy’. He claimed to know where the hotel was that I had to go to. I told him there were two with the same name and I needed the guest house. He said he’d been living there all of his life and he knew where he had to take me. To make the story short, we ended up at the wrong place, got lost going to where we were supposed to after he got directions to the right one and ran out of gas. I was left alone at 430am in the middle of the road, while he went to find a cab, which he didnt get. He called a friend to get us…yes, I know, mad thing to do. I finally insisted he take me to the Serena and I’d sort things out the next day. Lucky for me he was a nice man. Honest. And he really did make sure I felt comfortable. He actually made his friend stay behind on the road and watch his car while he dropped me.
I must say that anyone that I know that has been to India has had a nightmare story. I was rather lucky to have met great people for the most part. No rickshaw drivers took me for a ride- well a joyride! Once one got lost but it was my fault because I didnt realize there was more than one Taj hotel, and he was super apologetic. I then decided to walk at 11pm, having no clue where I was and not knowing that Delhi was one of the unsafest places in India to be romping around, let alone. After all these years of living alone, I rented an apartment in Delhi, well a room. The other room was empty and I honestly did not think after a month of being there by myself, that someone would move in. Yes indeed, Hugo from Paris. A 20 something year old who was there on an internship….to party! Beer bottles lay around and chip wrappers were left here and there, along with the countless number of pizza boxes. But leaving the doors unlocked and the iron on….gees. He fell in love with a Russian model and soon I saw Hugo less. She had a 10pm curfew so they tried to make the most of the evening. He was a nice boy though, always offering me his pasta with ketchup or trying to get me to come out and party.
Of course, there was Josephine from Uganda who journeyed with me from Dokollo, Uganda to Kampala. She shared her tragic but inspiring life story- a woman who had fought all odds. However, about 6 months ago she emailed me to say that her caregiver had gotten her pregnant. Sometimes, life is made too difficult for people. However, her baby is negative as Josephine was infected with HIV.
I have been asked to climb on the back of motorbikes without a helmet and almost attacked by baboons. I have had to sly away from stray dogs. Walked with keys in my hand just in case I needed to poke someone’s eyes out. Been spat on. Sunken into mud. Hugged and been hugged. High fived. Been adorned. Laughed so hard it hurt. Danced in the rain. Been drugged. Been eaten alive by bed bugs. Thrown up on an airplane. Seen flight attendants throw up because the turbulence was so bad. Shared intimate conversations with strangers. Fallen a few times. Had nice, strong strangers help me with my bags. Had some of the best, unhealthy foods. Loitered at the grandest hotels. Smiled with glee. Loved. Been peed on….
I have gotten lost plenty of times, including in the subway station in Moscow because I couldn’t find my way out amongst the hundreds of people in there and that made me a bit anxious. I couldn’t find anyone who spoke English. I saw a bus driver in Delhi get beaten. That made my arm hands stand up. I’ve watched children play all sorts of outdoor games. Gotten rashes and DE. Seen some of the best beaches in the world. Listened to some of the loveliest tunes around. Lost things. Found things. Melted in the heat. Gone blue in the cold. Seen different kinds of wildlife. Gotten stuck in the most horrendous traffic jams. Shopped till I dropped.
It is true what people say….once you start, you can’t stop!
Madness in Geneva? August 9, 2012
Being back in Geneva has been alright. I was somewhat worried as to how I would feel after being in India for 3 months, surrounded by madness. This is a calm and quiet place. I guess a good one after 3 months in chaos. The Fete is on, which is the Geneva festival in the summer, so whenever I have the need for craziness, I just go there. It is 2 mins away from my place. The Middle Eastern folk are no longer here, as it is Ramadhan. Last year, the city was full of bhurkas and fabulous cars, which they fly down to Geneva for the summer. Strolling along the water, roller blading and biking have been somewhat tougher with all the people around, but still doable.
I have been getting more sleep than usual, which is good. Perhaps the days of insomnia are over? The energy is still there and it is difficult to find things to do at all hours. I work 9 to 14 hours a day, depending on where I am. I sleep for 4 to 5, which gives me 6 to 9 hours to play with! I read. I write stories. I blog. I facebook and now instagram! I watch movies. Go for walks. I meet with friends. I sometimes do scrapbooking. Tried knitting. Looking at online courses. I think the next step might be meditation.
I had friends come into town the following day after I landed, and they continue to come. I went on a trampoline with visitors and fell many times. Farrah arrives this evening. My pregnant Farrah. More strolls along the lake and picnics at the waterfront. Cannot forget shopping and eating good food.
I am having many chai lattes again from Starbucks. Why do they call it chai tea latte? Isn’t chai and tea the same thing? Yesterday, a man was talking so loud on his phone and walking around, as though we all wanted to hear what he had to say. And then he complained about his drink twice about how watery it was, while he was still on the phone. Be nice. And get off the phone and explain to the person what the problem with the drink is. I felt like pouring it on his head. Did I say that out loud? I remember when my brother was about 6 years old. I was reading the famous Superfudge, by Judy Blume, which still happens to be one of my favourites. Fudge was being a pain in the butt and not eating. So his brother said…’eat it or wear it.’ I recall wanting to try that myself so I pushed my little brothers buttons and ended up creating a scenario where I could use that line too. Poor thing, he ended up with milk and cereal all over his head and lap. He pays me back now with carpet burns whenever I go home for a visit. He is much bigger than me now.
Dima left for Sri Lanka today. She was my noisy neighbour. She used to have parties through the night on weekdays too. One day before I met her, I banged on her wall with a broom very loudly. But I do not think she got the point. Then one day, I was watching a movie at 11pm at night and the girl had the audicity to knock on my door and ask me if I could keep it down…that she was trying to sleep! I did. Then some time later, I needed a bottle opener. I knocked on her door because I could not find mine. We became friends from that day onwards. I think we saw each other at least once a day ever since that day. I will miss that girl.
Time to go.
Goodbye India July 26, 2012
I leave India tomorrow. I know I’ll miss it for sure. Geneva will seem rather bland. And small. And no good food and no McDonald’s and Dominos delivery! I won’t get pushed and shoved on the metro, causing me to lose my shoe. And which old ladies will give me dirty looks when I watch movies on my iPad that show ‘ adult ‘ scenes that I was not aware of. No more shopping. Nothing to buy in Geneva. And can I make deals with the auto drivers? Nada. I will miss my favourite antique store in the Red Fort, Tularam, where I spent time amongst the antiques, listening to the shopkeeper talk history and his mother, about modern life. No one to practice my Hindi with. And I busted out words in Gujarati that I didn’t even know I knew! Whose going to call me Madame? No more women in colorful Indian suits. No more men seen spitting or peeing on the side of the road. No more messy Hugo. And no more places to hang out after 7pm, when everything closes in Geneva. How about the many temples and gorgeous hotels? And no more red velvet, but I’m alright with that! I will move out of E52 in Saket area. Hand in the old skeleton like keys. Leave behind the Time Out Delhis. And my tin box from Nepal. No room in the suitcase for that. No more dodging traffic and having to run across lanes frantically. No more bag and body screenings everytime I use the metro or go to the mall. Hauz Khas galleries will be missed. And having to find Airtel recharge for the mobile at the worst times, no more! Goodbye to the young boy at PVR near my place that sells me jhanjar (anklets that have bells). And no more American shows in English! The crazy cat that rips apart my garbage will be history. She’s still super skinny, despite the McDonald’s fries I leave behind for her! Oh my goodness, no more mangoes, mango shakes, mango sandwiches, mango soup or mango paneer! And those Bihar bananas are the best I’ve had in my life. Yes, you will be missed India. I will never forget the flight from Gujarat to Delhi. Second worst ever. And cant forget the friendly flight attendant who buckled mine and mansi’s carry ons into the seat next to each of us. And how he played along when we told him they were our children. He even brought bottles of water for them!
But I am looking forward to the beautiful summer in Europe. I have a month to enjoy it. Wearing nice clothes and carrying fun handbags. No one will look at me funny if i walk around with wet hair. I wont have to worry about sewage smells or jumping over liquids on the streets. I will see blue skies and mountains and breathe in fresh air again! Maybe my sinuses will unblock. Fresh, white chicken and great salmon again! And chai lattes from starbucks! Walks near the jet d’eau. Seeing friends and catching up on the drama over the last 3 months. And yes, many visitors coming through in August! A normal toilet that works all the time is the best. French instead of the other many languages spoken in India. But thank god no more hooting! That is the worst. Dude, there is nowhere to go. Stop hooting! One lock on the door only? Yes, no more bolts and chains and grills on windows. Such different worlds. No matter how many times I do this, I am still amazed, as if it is my first time to such places.
Things to see and do in Delhi
Red Forth! Chandni Chok, Lotus Temple is supposed to be amazing, though I did t end up there, Khan Chachas for kebabs, Oberoi Hotel to chill, Hauz Khas village for everything, Humayun’s Tomb, GK 1 for shopping of all sorts, SouthExtension 1 for sarees, Try Frontiers. Khan Market for many things. Geetanjslis for spa services. Dili Haat and INA for local market experiences, take the metro, have a coconut, Connaught Place to wander, Wenger’s for dessert, Modern Art Gallery, Kingdom of Dreams…never got to it but hear it is worth seeing, Silver Line for jewelry, Turtle Cafe in Khan Market for books. Great carrot juice there too. Fabindia for organic products and cotton kutis, DLF and Emporia Malls, Mamagato for great watermelon martinis, Elma’s in Hauz Khas for dessert, Napa Dori for great travel bags. Go to an all you can eat and drink buffet on Sundays. There are many. Great mangoes. ESP. during the season. Global Desi for funky kurtis. Forrest Essentials for natural face products. Lodhi Gardens.
Back to the Motherland May 8, 2012
The CIES conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico in April was informative and interesting. I presented for the first time, as one of my colleagues from Kyrgyzstan did not make it. I took one day off prior to and one day after the conference to see some of San Juan. Of course, one of the days was dedicated to the beach. It was nice spending some time with Linda and Nafisa, who also work within the network. On the way to San Juan, I had an 8 hour layover, which was planned, so that I could meet with friends. The bus ride from Manhattan back to Newark only took 45 minutes on a Friday evening. I met up with a friend of a friend’s to chat about education and development. Faizal K happened to be in NY too at the time for his birthday, so him and I met up for lunch. It was nice and warm and definitely walking weather. I headed back to the airport, met up with Linda and off we went to SJ. Linda and I have roomed together for the last 2 years. I learn quite a bit from her since she has been in the field for a long time, not to mention an AKF employee for ages! She is one of those genuine and honest people and you know that what you see is what you get. I ended up getting tendinitis somehow in SJ and could barely walk mid week. So of course, lucky me, fell not once but twice in the main lobby, hurting my other foot! Oh Shez.
On the way back, I reconnected with my long lost soul sister, Tasleem. Everything was the same in the sense that even though we had not seen each other in years it was almost like we had never left each other. We went for a great brunch and I got to see her place in Manhattan, which was warm and welcoming. It is amazing how her and I experience similar emotions and events in our lives at the same time, truly understanding what the other feels. Then I met up with pal Shaffin, whom I stayed with on my first trip to New York alone. Seeing him is always entertaining and light hearted. Farah, his tiny wife, met with us very late! I missed my connection from NY to Geneva on the way back from the conference. Luckily, I was re-routed but had a longer flight since it was not direct, but had a layover through Frankfurt. I ended up getting to Geneva 4 hours later than planned and went to work.
Back at home in the evening, I began to pack for my long trip to India. My flight was scheduled for the next day. In addition to the India packing, I also had to pack for my US trip, which is soon, since I will be flying straight from Delhi. In my hurry and scurry that evening and my 2 bad feet, I ended up getting into a small accident which sent me to the emergency room for 3 hours. Yes, 3 hours while my head bled. I am not sure if I was tired, physically and mentally exhausted or what. But I alternated between crying and laughing fits, that I think the staff thought I belonged in a straight jacket. My friend Kahila, who was super supportive, even though her and the doctor were flirting insanely, was amazing to sit with me through all of it. I had to ask the doctor to focus and concentrate on my head as I felt the conversations between the two were insanely inappropriate. What does dating mean in America vs Switzerland? Are Kahila and I lovers and would she be staying the night to take care of me? Yes, this was some of the conversation. He was very kind of course to email me only an hour later with a report and to let me know it was a pleasure to treat me. And of course to pass his regards on to my friend!
So I did end up packing for both trips in a timely manner and of course, forgot a few super important essentials, like underwear! Yes, I brought a few, but will have to pick up some things next week while in Amreeka! I am very much looking forward to that trip. For now, I will not mention what the plans are, but will write about it once I return to Delhi. The plan is then to be here for a month and a half in the sweltering heat. I am enjoying staying in my place. The last time I was here in March, I found an apartment to rent during the duration of my stay. I have TV, with English channels for the first time in years. Except for a brief moment in Kenya, I have not had TV in about 6 years. It is close to the metro. Oh yes the efficient metro. I must say something about that. It is fast and clean and there is a lady’s only compartment. However, at one station the compartment becomes mixed male and females, where there is a transfer. Never be the last person on this train. I almost got mowed down by the men. I have never in my life witnessed grown men running into a train, pushing each other so that they can get a seat. How did other countries learn about ‘subway etiquette’? Or is that just part of courtesy that some learn over time depending on the context within where they live? I mean how do you not wait for people to get off before you get on? So today I did something that I have seen other women do on the train. Yes, I am already becoming Indian…not sure that makes much sense when I am. I wanted to sit down and I saw a small space between 2 women and so I squeezed myself in and then I looked over at the other lady and with my hand told her to move aside and make room as she had some extra space there. Yes, I have integrated into society here. The metro station is not that far from my apartment which makes it quite convenient as walking alone after 6pm can be an issue in some areas. I feel safe in the neighbourhood that I live in- very residential. And around the corner is a plaza with food, such as McDonalds, which I have been indulging in. Yesterday was a spicy chicken wrap and a strawberry milkshake! There is also a cinema if I feel like watching a Bollywood flick, without subtitles. But then again, if John Abraham is in it, who needs subtitles anyway?! I will meet him soon. i can feel it in my bones.
The temperature has changed drastically since I was here a month ago. Dry heat. In some ways it feel like Mombasa heat actually. I think it is 40 degrees today. There is no beach of course as Delhi is not a coastal city, but there are some exquisite and superior hotels in India, which one can frequent. I believe a day pass can allow you to dip in the pool. I hope to travel over the weekends within India. When I am back in June I will head to Bihar again and Gujrat for work. I flew to Bihar the day I got into Delhi for an inception workshop on one of our proposals. I did not get to see any of it as we were out by the morning and back to our hotel when the sun had already disappeared. My grandparents are from Gujrat, so it will be nice to locate where they were born and grew up.
For now that is all I have to share. Will post soon. It has been sometime.