Fun Times in Indias Socially Changing Landscape.

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Still learning the finesses of nuspeak here in the rapidly changing landscape of entrepreneurial India.. Ill take a WTF for here please and a ThumbsUp -no ice..
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Thats the best place to put the bouncing castle, and stem current population growth. DB Mall in Bhopal, Malls are gargantuan here, and around them is typically wasteland.
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The last of the Wandering Minstrels. Men who float around with their worldly possessions seeking to play music for a few rupee. A seriously dying breed, perhaps less then a decade from now these people will most likely no longer exist.
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The Pony Kids of Dublin have definitely had an influence here me thinks…
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New Bhopal, I didnt come to this part of town much because its pretty homogeneous cleaner and people are not as friendly.
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In traffic, everyone is facing each other beeping horns and shouting at each other, and amazingly enough amidst the foray there is functionality, every gets to go and no jam lasts more then a few seconds.
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Chai! My favorite, black tea, ginger, salt, sugar, milk and cream. Served hot, fast and sweet. Its the best thing in the world! The salt recipe is strictly an Islamic thing. I love the glasses, like ice-cream cones, tables are merely a grid of lats that the glasses sit in..
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Compliments of the house sir please take my picture.
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TILA CAFE JAMALPURA, Islamic Cafe in the old part of town where the traffic is OFF THE FUCKING CHARTS…..

Union Carbide Bhopal, preliminary images.

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This is the remaining presence of the former Union Carbide Plant
This is the remaining presence of the former Union Carbide Plant

 

20130131. CRAVINGS

This is the start of week 3 and I feel like Ive been here a lifetime already. Hank said time would speed up for me and slow down for everyone else, (or the other way around I cant remember which), but I remember thinking that it was one of those epiphany moments in text that doesn’t become reality until you think about it later on and realize that somebody already told you. Ive done so many new things and met so many new people and seen other peoples lives and investigated legendary stories and unearthed things about stuff and seen things first hand that had only ever been mythological as far as I was concerned. And in that time the amazement is that I got this far in only three weeks. Whats probably more revelatory is that its probably mostly down to being locked up in that shit-show with the dysfunctional band of degenerate oddballs pushing out of date work to people who didn’t know any better. The more Im out of there the more I scratch my head about how on earth I managed to get so low as to feel that working there was in any way good. Well life is a learning curve.

 

So Im enjoying the tribal leaf cigarillo called Bidi, a single leaf rolled to house crushed leaf itself. Its a very mild and short smoke, its easy. Unlike trying to find a fucking light.. Indian matches are seriously fucked. A matchbox which contains 35 matches will give you a headache by the time you are done. They break, they dont need to be struck because they flare so easily and it takes two matches to get a strike and then they are out before they get to their destination. Then at the end you realize that the cardboard box is actually made of wood also and then covered with cardboard.

So then leads to the other issue, of trying to find a lighter. Any lighter anywhere in any shop. Finally I found a metal chrome clipper rip-off which is a hilarious concept to think that clippers were the ultimate refillable lighter priced like a chuck-away.

 

This is the week of cravings. I really didnt want to be one of those people who hankers longingly for some piece of home, but there you have it, I had a craving for what I remembered as a kid in Ireland, and because this is a post colonial country there are still vestiges of the colonial tastes available in the shops. Cadburys chocolate made with Cane sugar not sugar-beet and rich milk, its divine.. better then the New Zealand stuff and better then the UK stuff too.. ..and theres no such thing as Hershey’s here either, none of that toilet scrubbing shit here. Polo Mints, like Lifesavers in the US but better and CHEAP 20rps for 5 packs!!! I spend most of my time giving them away to children for some smiles, I may have the sweet tooth of a hyperactive fiver year old as Jenny says but I so couldn’t eat 5 packs of Polo Mints. As for Indian chewing-gum.. well it aint Wrigley’s Ill say that much. Again about 20 packs for 80rps. The chewing gum here makes me fart.

The best part is that I went to get a bottle of CocaCola and was nicely surprised to find that its still original formula here and less carbonation in it too. The Cane sugar is less sweet and is actually better for you then the US Government funded Corn Syrup shit that is in everything in the US. When the corner store owner asked me if that was all I wanted I said yes and gave him the thumbs up with I attributed to being the universal sign of all things good. He said “ok thumbs up sir” and of course I said yet and then he pulled out a 2L bottle of ThumbsUp an Indian CocaCola variant, but apparently had been around almost as long as Coke and is of different ingredients, but tastes better then Coke itself, and ironically is now owned by the CocaCola Company itself. As corporations go I think think CocaCola has has any real crimes or misdemeanors that have tipped the scales in a long time, Im open to correction on that. Ive also heard that they are using their incredible and amazing distribution network to extend fresh water to remote towns and villages in parts of India, and there is no branding on that water either. Oddly enough, a corporation that may not suck..

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.

Abdul Jabbar

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http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jul/18/in-praise-of-abdul-jabbar-bhopal#start-of-comments