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.
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.
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.