Southern India Railways

2013.01.30 INDIA In transit.
Ah, necessity: the mother of invention: I’m on a train going from Bhopal to Garabja in Goa. The journey has now become my destination. The train I’m on is a sleeper car on a 28hr trip, its quite possibly the lcoolest thing I we er done in my life. I feel like a giddy child or a boyscout because its like what every kid dreams about. You jbare going somewhere and yet you are in bed and your room is rumbling and shaking and there are cool noises like the horn of the train like a distant foghorn on a foggy night, and then there’s the stuff outside, its night and you are going through uncharted black terrain but all you can see are the stars and occasional lights in the distance on a black horizon where black trees swish past a black sky. There no color. And then there are other trains passing by for a few seconds the sound is that unique sheering abound of wind compressed between two fast moving objects
Accented by the sounds of bogies on welded rail. All you want is to see another face like an inserted subliminal frame in a movie. The layers of sound low black soft heavy percussion of the underside of the train the bogies and thick gasket suspension play a warm comfortable song of affirmation and the rattle of loose metal brushing fingers against the creaking superstructure makes for a romantic symmetry of memory forming experiences…
Its a sleeper car so there is the whole part of making your bed with which is traditional bedding with laundered and pressed “12 Rose Bedroll for Southern Railways” white cotton sheets Wool Blanket and pillow that add another dimension on this new reality.
***
I had a fairly good sleep, a touch uncomfortable with the stuff in my pockets keeping me awake because I left my pants on. I am on a side bunk in a two tier carriage, which means on the left side there are four bunks head to window feet to corridor, and on the right there are two bunks aligned with the wall, I’m in the bottom one so I get a great view out the window while laying down.

I just woke up 7.30am stop in a mountain town called Kalyan apparently a lot of spaghetti westerns were filmed there and Bollywood. Certainly it has the looks.

Bahrddy Vartell is what the hawkers say when selling Bottled Water.

From Jan 22 2013

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No its not organic, its called India Telecoms.. literally stealing signal from the telephone cables. I love it!

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Maruti Suzuki, the India branded Suzuki, this thing is a fucking tank. at 40mph it takes large potholes with ease. It has a turning radius of a dime and it runs on vapor. This is the economy version complete with punch-outs for luxuries. If American cars were made like this…..

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Damn what a handsome fellow! I think this guy is the Lee Marvin of Bhopal, and hes a cool fucker too because he and his brother here are the only remaining British Motocycle repair techs in India! Specifically Royal Enfield Bullet.. what a machine.. used mostly by the colonialists the country has a ton of them and they are highly prized.
Also there are thousands of ‘Britisher’ jeeps still around they are also highly prized and worth unlawful amounts of money!

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There are millions -literally Millions- of Piagio’s and Vespas here, old ones, originals with no modifications and they are all still running. In some ways this country is a massive step back in time..

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View from the Mosque.. Im having a really hard time trying to ID the names of streets because my iPhone connection is 2G and its really slow and blah blah I just cent ever seem to get my head around the names of streets at all here. I know them by view..

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The Grand Mosque..
this place is so beautiful… a ‘mini’ pink Taj Mahal north central Bhopal.

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Overlooking the shanty towns from that new Bridge which pretends to make the Union Carbide plant not be there.. the “New Bhanpur Bridge Rd”

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Not really supposed to make pictures in here.. its the main Police Station. I love how these guys are all drinking tea and chatting whilst the chaos of bureaucracy and paperwork and rubber stamps and the mill of people flow around them like leaves clogging a drain..

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Home made bike repair tools.

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The ZZ Top guy of the Lee Marvin Motorbike repair cave.

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Watching construction here is –INSANE– everything is manual. Men and Women work, carrying bowls of sand or gravel (can you imagine how heavy that shit is??), on their heads like worker Bees and ferry backwards and forwards from piles to the cement mixer, where a foreman will take two bowls of gravel and two bowls of sand to mix in with lime and then turns the mixer over and dumps its load into a bucket which is then hoisted by its own weight to the next floor up.. where the bowl people start ferrying the mixed cement through the latticework steel-reo and literally shove it off their heads and into place, other worker bees then come along and smooth it out and the whole process works like clockwork, its totally insane and I could watch it all day.. and apparently they could have watched me all day too. Ive been buying Bidi’s here (a dried leaf rolled and smoked) for leverage and to help me get more pictures, I went through two packs of them just shooting these amazing workers…..

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Me looking shamefully plump and healthy in front of the Bhopal Union Carbide Disaster monument. The locals dont really give a shit, and the monument had to have a guard rail put around it because of vandalism. Thats what happens when your government breeds ignorance.

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What I look like in India. A day before I got food poisoning.

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I went to restaurant to eat good clean light food after I got sick, it was quiet and a little uncomfortable until a massive Hindu family dating party arrived where the grown-ups and kids sat at one table and the horny teenagers sat at another table taking pictures of each other with smartphones and flirting with each other. The guy in grey was our waiter, he was so nervous of me because I dont think many Bhopalis see many white people, my colleague says Im “exotic” by their standards. Everywhere I go people stare at me, its very strange, and if I nod, smile or wink they all give me big smiles and waves. If they see the camera then traffic stops so that I can take their pictures.. no shit.

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On a street corner somewhere north east near the tribal areas. Very cool.

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Bhopal has its own version of Petra ~Las Vegas Style!!!

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More Pictures from the Police station, these are tribal elders who have been cast out of their tribes.. there isnt much else worse then this for a tribal member, especially for an elder. My understanding is they were cast out because of a disagreement.

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Scenes from the Police Station where we went to get permission to shoot inside the Union Carbide factory.

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Scenes from the Police Station where we went to get permission to shoot inside the Union Carbide factory.

Some everyday images ending January 22 2013
Im not entirely sure why, but the order of how I uploaded these images is not represented here properly..

The Road to Despair Leads to Walmart.

The main reason I came to India was to take pictures, the reasons exactly are a mix of re-opening my mind to a life not stuck in one place and to experience new things and within that to try and expand myself and work towards a new future career, one in which Ive been preparing all of my life to one degree or another.
Ive been here for two weeks now, in Bhopal, and the plan is that in about 5 days we’re leaving for a short trip to Goa to spend time with my friends family in the tropical heat and green natural surroundings of mangrove swamps and all the things Ive been dreaming India would be like outside of the cities. After that I travel back to Bhopal to rendezvous with my equipment and get ready for the Journey north to Allahabad and into the ever widening jaws of the Maha Kumbh Mela the main reason I came to India in the first place. Its like Burning Man meets Apocalypse Now. Indians treat it like the way Burners treat Burning Man, with the added festivities of a million year tradition and international recognition. From what I have gathered so far, ‘Kumbh’ is a crazy intense surreal exposure to humanities extremes through faith and devotion. Its by no means purely a retreat either, this has become commercialized to quite a degree, and there will be quite some technological presence there too because the monks or ‘holy men’ or ‘Babas’ have to keep in touch with their flocks and to do that requires sat phones iPads iPhones and all the rest of it. Last time I was told there was a giant billboard TV screen provided by Samsung right in the middle of one area of the event which at night with the dust and smoke provided a surreal experience with the rest of the festivities going on.
Needless to say Im very excited to go to this event and experience it, Im not looking forward to severely dust damaged cameras though. That will be painful to deal with if the dust just proves to be too much despite my usual standards of extreme precaution.. I intend to experience this event to the fullest degree. I suspect that I will be doing a lot of night photography there. Also I am told it will be very cold there at night. Other then this I have little or no idea about the other practical parts of it. I hear Krishna, Ram and Jesus will be there and 65 virgins too. Whether thats 65 virgins in general or 65 per man woman and child then it might become a photographic melee.

I had an Indian head massage!!! Yes, just like that one on YouTube… No shit, they are fucking unreal. ‘Chakra Massage’ or ‘Chakra Milkshake’ as I like to call it. I have to say, that the experience of having a well trained and attentive man give you a haircut, a superb shave like only god himself could, and then place his hands on your head and give you the most insane wave after wave after wave of incredible cranial pleasure AND then give you a face massage on top of that with waves one more intense then the other over and over and over again like layers of an onion revealing more and more and further in to your subconsciousness through his hands, and a strange clop-clopping sound he did on the back of my skull.. my eyesight, my hearing, my sinuses and my concentration levels are all better then Ive had them in 20 years. My colleague said I looked about a decade younger, and when I got home and looked at myself in the mirror I nearly fucking died, I really did look as though I had a decade lifted off my body…

I knew it would happen, that I would get sick from the food, the funny thing is, that its not the Indian food that made me sick, its a fucking McDonalds. No shit. Ive been eating all the “wrong” things since I got here, my colleague has been prepping me with Local milk and Yogurt to reset the bacterial ph in my gut to the Indian norm, and it has worked, as Ive been enjoying the fruits of street food for the last ten days without hitch, and then today we thought ok lets have an Indian McDonalds and see what thats like, and then whoop four hours later its reborn with less packaging but just as much fanfare; more back alley then high street. I think its food poisoning, the lack of decent preparation of fast food is a real concern, going from freezer to microwave is NOT cooking. It was the fucking “Maharaja Burger” (no shit). Being sick is no fun, especially in a foreign place, where all you have to look at is a ceiling fan the the rotating shadow impressions as they paint themselves across walls. This was a shitstorm~pukefest of biblical proportions.

 

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Today is India independence day. Jan 26th 1947 a new constitution was written up and India detached herself from the british colony. Similar to Ireland we secured our independence in 1916 and part of Ireland is still occupied by the british in a similar way the elite here are what is colloquially known as coconuts.. Brown on the outside; white on the inside. Conservative Britain is still very much alive in the ruling classes in India. After that you have the revisionists and then the chaos that ensues which is India, but it works.

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So for the last ten days or so I have been working with my colleague on his follow up film on the second day of the Union Carbide disaster documentary, in my own capacity as a stills photographer, and it has provided an reasonable insight for me on how to actually make documentaries by collecting footage and data and other information with an idea of the end result but yet having a loose enough idea that doesn’t constrain the flow of the work, because it all comes down to the editing. Editing stills is different to video, thankfully its vastly less tedious. There will be some cross over between my stills and his video and in mine there will be some of his video. Its a nice thing, collaboration.
The project has been shot around the shanty towns of the UC Plant area and the railway line which cuts along the back side of the factory and a little further away there is an area of land which looks like a lake called “Solar Chemical Evaporation Pond” which is a fancy term for a nasty processed water dump for nasty chemicals teh factory was done with which were accessible by the shantytowns people to drink from and use to feed their animals which of course all died.
The theory was that the residual chemical would evaporate and the water would settle, except the chemical is heavier then the water and went into the ground, and has continued to affect the people that live there and over generations have manipulated their DNA to produce horrible birth defects, pulmonary, arterial, respiratory problems amongst a host of other problems as the DNA mutates and grows further and further out of control.

This is the worst industrial accident in history.

The US Govt. says the investigation is still open and their holding court on extradition proceedings against Warren Anderson. The Indian Govt. owned a 49% stake in Union Carbide at the time, and Dow Chemicals bought UC in 2001.
Theres a railway line and a new bridge and that new bridge gets commemorated tomorrow (Jan 26th) despite not being remotely finished. Its painfully ironic because the thing throws a blanket over the slums and divert the eye away from the glaring decaying asbestos ridden blight that is Warren Anderson’s Union Carbide Plant with its rotting rusting pipes and leaky titanium tanks smelly chlorine wash and towers of complexity which look like a concentration camp. In fact one of the only remaining tanks on “moderately” good shape is the tank which housed phosgene which is a nerve agent used by Hitler in Auschwitz.
Natures slow reclamation of this place in its own peaceful consumption a sort of strangulation and silent digestive crushing like a Boa-Constrictor which snakes its way from one slum over another through the “chemical evaporation ponds” then through a shanty-ish development area through to a fucking Walmart.

Oh… the Irony.. More visions of the future from the past..

Ill have something to read soon..

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Shiva and the Whirlpools.. oh the irony..

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I use a Fuji X-Pro-1 and it gives me the best black and whites straight from camera.

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Diverging generations.

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of all the MILLIONS of scooters and motorbikes ive seen here, this is the only bike wash Ive seen..

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Everything is shanty here, this is a basement ‘mall’ for cellphone, computer and electronic repairs, theres an open sewer in the middle of it, and at the back it goes from the basement to four floors up, with concrete casement stair-cases and no railings and the steel-reinforcement sticks out everywhere..

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I have memories of exatly this in Dublin 15 years ago. Young guys with money and security in business spreading their wings and spending their cash on nice upgrades to their places. This guy owns the only Apple mac retailer in MP, and is really riding a heatwave of income. Every big US company wants to work with him, so hes always doing business even when hes not. Theres a great buzz here in India with younger guys making room for themselves. Theres one fundamental different here though unlike Ireland or the US, there is an intrinsic link to their original culture and a basic respect for elders. The longer Im out of the US the more I realie how strange a place it is.

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Islamic district, tinctures, seeds, flavors, colors, candy, hair dye, spices, cigarettes, cigars, everything is crammed into these tiny tiny little box stores and they are crammed into tiny streets which are crammed into tiny higgeldy-piggeldy ancient city blocks woven like a coven into an ancient tapestry of rich color warm filth and fast life.

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Hand delivered gas

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Islamic district pano.

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Linen, tweed, silk, cotton etc all top quality weaves buyers from all over the world come to india and then there are the master tailors.. Amazing.

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Back Alley Mosque.

 

Street scenes from Bhopal

My favorite thing in the world, Chai, hot black tea with sugar, salt and milk. It comes in small doses because its so fucking strong but the salt helps clear the throat. I want to come back to Seattle and start a business where I can sell this stuff….

More from Bhopal and the rapid changes in India.

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We play here.. and you will get cancer too.

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This ia what a country crossroads looks like 20 miles outside of Bhopal.

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7th Century BC Bhuddist Temple. So serene and peaceful. 42km from Bhopal.

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Egg sellers on the side of the road, There are a lot of children in India that I Dont ever get to se in the US, and I can see that they little guys and girls are the deffinite future of india. Little guys like this will educate themselves and jobs like his dads will dissapear, or get folded into places like Malls. It will take another two generations on top of his for these jobs to come back. The cycle of life.

 

Stories from a Changing India

Indira Ghandi, National statue, will soon get a roof over her head and lost in the pollutants and shadows. Stories from a Changing India

Stories from a changing India

Stories From A  Changing India

Stories From A Changing India

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Over looking the Slums which reside beside the decaying remains of the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal Madhya Pradesh. The disaster Killed more than 16,000 people.

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Islamic Chai at the Islamic Cafe in Bhopal

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Its a knock-off! And a good one at that, but I love how odd this looks in this environment!

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Yessir, please thank you!

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Turn left then straight and left again and thenright and then left and then left and then right and then right and then oh I dont remember..

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Let us honour our mother Indira Ghandi by building a bridge right through her head! Thats the way we do it here!

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Chatting on the steps of the Grand Mosque, Bhopal India.

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Recording with a Roland R-26 and Binaural Mics on the roof of the railway signal tower beside the decaying Union Carbide Factory which leaked Methyl Isocyanate gas killing thousands within hours and directly affecting almost 600,000 people who are sick to this day from the vapor.

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