Maha Kumbh Mela 2

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Tribal woman at her tent the night before the big bathe on the 15th
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A tarp tent houses a camp of babas.
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Tibetan holyman poses for the camera with his Baba and Guru.
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Pilgrim with his Baba
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Mad Max Apocalypse Now
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A veritable army of civil workers cleaned up during the night at Kumbh Mela. This was a basket of Lye plonked on the ground at strategic points to be later swept.
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A pilgrim at Kumbh Mela

 

Maha Kumbh Mela

After coming to Varanasi and being here for a few days, looking back at Kumbh is like rubbing your tongue in the hole left by a pulled tooth. Kumbh is a distant memory, every white person in Varanasi has because we all bailed at the same time. The build up to, then the event and the aftermath we all seem to have similar sentiment towards it, ‘meh’ and apt American word for ‘yeah been there done that…Next!’. Im glad I went, Im glad I saw it, but Im left with a distinct sense of dissatisfaction.

The Kumbh authorities and organizers out-did themselves in terms of putting this unprecedented event together. 120,000,000 people in a 56 square mile area of Indian military engineering mastery; supplying fresh filtered water to everyone, workable roads paved in steel plate, and pontoon bridges, and the policing of such, and the refreshing level of sanitation, litter control and basic but fully functional hygiene and the army of workers who provided it was completely impressive.

The first time I stepped out of the Kumbh grounds I was approached by two students from Allahabad University who were conducting a detailed survey for non Indian travelers and what we thought of the event. The questions themselves were somewhat revealing in that they were asking a lot about what we thought about the administration of the event and whether or not it had much of an impact on us (yes it did), and whether or not we felt more devout about the high levels of celebrity Baba’s and whether or not they needed the level of coverage and pomp they received (no they didnt).

I went to see what millions and millions of people would look like and to feel the presence of such levels of humanity in my face, and the the most part the benevolence of the Indians meant that it was a peaceful affair. Everyone was on vacation, or were there in devotion and to seek enlightenment from their Baba and to bathe in the sacred Ganga, and to take little bottles of it home for their shrines.

The people that impressed me the most were the blue-collar workers, not necessarily only the lower caste, but the people who had put their lives on hold to go.

The Baba’s were a mix of the high profile dicks with their giant self promoting posters plastered everywhere expressing hollow and borrowed promises to their followers, then there were the smaller Baba’s who had less money prowess and smaller numbers of devotees and offered rudimentary accommodations in the shape of thatched huts with straw beds or tents with straw floor coverings, and then the lowest levels of Baba’s who had nothing but their meagre paraphernalia, a tarp and some pillows to offer their flock to come pray in front of a cleansing fire. And maybe share some of their hashish.

Then there are the various levels of holy men, most of which blend into one another without much of a difference in their ways, some stand out;
The humbleness of the Brahmen monks and their generosity is breathtaking. They are the ones who shave their heads and mark their forheads with stripes and lines, wear orange and carry with them a sick which has a small roof attached so they always have a place to stay. They fed me good food and asked only to be photographed. I would later meet the same Brahman in the chaotic twisted streets of Varanasi where he recognized me and gave me blessing.
Ahgori’s who relish death and devote themselves to it, who eat the flesh of the dead to consume death, they (of course) wear black, and have some party piece like bones or a skull to embellish themselves with a talisman. Later I would find out that they usually have to get mangled on whiskey before they can perform their flesh eating rituals..
Then there were the Naga’s. They are the renounciates, the ones who are naked, and cover themselves in ash and wear marigolds around their necks, and paint their faces and look like something from a White Zombie album cover.. They are also the ones everyone wants to photograph because they are the most outgoing and flamboyant, they are also the most conceited and have been known to smash a camera if you make a picture and dont pay for it. Asshole celebrity photographers have ruined for everyone including non photographers who want to follow their beliefs because the Naga’s know that they are currency in of themselves. I still managed to get the best shots of them on their way to the bathing just because I happened to be in the right place at the right time.

The Maha Kumbh Mela is more about show and pomp now then it could have been back in 2001. I saw awesome arrays of film making equipment with cranes and dollies and entire film crews squabbling with each other over locations.

Then the rain came, a giant storm, so much rain, and wind that smashed and destroyed anything up to 60% of the grounds. Some say it was an act of god, and how it would wash away the pomp and leave the devout. Im not going to argue with that.

20130213-14 First Night and Full Day at Maha Kumbh Mela

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Pilgrims wait by the entrance to an Ashram looking for a place to settle for their time at the Kumbh
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Tribal Pilgrim women gather around a straw fire outside one of millions of Army tents pitched outside of ashrams at Maha Kumbh Mela.
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Keeping warm is key at night for me it was warm for them it was freezing.
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Basic water supply was available all over the Kumbh grounds for pilgrims to avail of for drinking, cooking and washing.
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A family had gathered under a wall-less army marquee in an un marked area of the Kumbh, they beckoned me to come in a make pictures of their children.
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A pilgrim wanted me to make a picture of him at Kumbh, he has no way of contacting me for his image. I dont believe the man could write or read, despite the language barrier we had a good conversation.
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A man rests under a tarpaulin, to escape the direct heat of the Maha Kumbh Mela Sun.
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Commerce on the grounds of the Kumbh for pilgrims. This fruit and vegetable seller on the corner of the ‘block’ had better ssaled then those in the middle of the block.
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Boy Scouts of india, filled in for the Police to aide and give directions. This is a map of the grounds, from what I gathered later on, the grounds were approximately 56 sq miles.
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Clothing Logos in India are just that Logos, they mean nothing and mostly say nothing intelligible and all are in embroidered in English. I found this one on a chai seller, particularly hilarious..
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A bicycle would have been great at the Kumbh before the storm.
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Brahman Pilgrims circle and pray around a giant charnel temple, built by hand on the grounds. This was one of three that I could see, a fire is lit inside and the smoke is teh cleansing. Behind this was about 100 single person wooden pyramids where the monks chanted Om and the harmonics amplify the flames.
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Millions of army tents covered the Kumbh grounds outside of the Ashrams.
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Pilgrims walk around the fire temple with offerings.
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Reflections in a sewer pond opposite the Fire temple. You are never far away from food and sewage in India.
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A single monk sits by the corner of a field of “personal” chanting pyramids.
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Yours truly. Photo by Tim Durkan.
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A mystical figure in a back alley near my Ashram at Maha Kumbh Mela.
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A family gathers around a straw fire to chat and socialize, outside of their tent.
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An entire village of people who came from the south built their own village complete with village square, where the met fed along the tents and the women fed by the fire. They graciously let me in to make images of their life at Maha Kumbh Mela
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Matriarchs of the village, ushered us in and offered us food at Maha Kumbh Mela.
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Another tall mystical figure floated by me without a sound in the darkness at Maha Kumbh Mela.

 

20130203 Interdependence.

Goa. My memories of Goa were from a track that the Prodigy put out as a B side in 1994. I never even heard of the place until then. Blur and Oasis were kicking the shit out of each other in the pop charts and on the ‘techno’ side of things there were a handful of artists which spanned anything electronic as a term which included the Orb, Orbital and Future Sound of London, and more, which were anything but techno in the real sense of what Techno actually is today. Anyway Im sure theres someone out there to disagree with me, and thats alright discourse ist gut? Music always has contentious aggravators.
But back to Goa, I knew there was a contingent who were going there to party soak up the sun and as much “e” as possible and a few big DJs would go there and make a presence and then go back to Ibiza which was the party capital of Europe. It was two hundred and twenty five quid to jump on a plane to Ibiza for a week of sunburn, drinking and getting lucky with someone after the bar closed at never o’clock. A right of passage for a great many twenty somethings, getting away from the parents for the potential of a hot fuck and lots of partying.
Goa on the other hand was a more exotic location farther away and cost more to go to. it seems now that the place has a well established and well beaten track though its not as burned out as many other right of passage places primarily because Indians themselves are slow to move into the 21st century and that is a blessing and in return; the interest in coming here is less and so it remains a beaten path and not a highway. Despite it being a destination since the beatniks in the 1960s.

Sadly I have to say that my ten days here have been pretty uninspiring. It seems that the beaten path comes with some baggage in the form of a strong sense of peter pan syndrome (I’m coining that phrase if it hasn’t already been coined). Peter Pan Syndrome: in the sense that, may white people come to Goa to avoid growing up. Every day is a recovery from the night before, and every night is seeking out the next party and who’s going. Subsequently you get 45+ year old post burnouts who are so far from reality in any sense of the word, burned out over drugged, over boozed and over smoked people Its like the Break glass for Emergency Exit was broken but the Exit was never made. A lot of Yoga folks come to south Goa to get some peace from their ‘peace’ going specifically south for short terms but never leave, or go to expensive exclusive reports to avail of a genuine blast from the 1960s. I met some German people who all had children and had accrued them whilst on the road. People that who have been here for more than a year, here come here to get away from something and end up becoming assistants to yoga teachers in leu of enlightenment.

There are also Indian people who come here to work- migrant workers, a lot of them from up north Kashmir, Himalaya, Delhi, Punjab, Calcutta, Bangladesh etc to work as cook’s in teh scattered bamboo bars and leaf huts with mosquito repellent candles and broken plastic chairs.

Then there are the old guys Who left when the going was good as Hippies or renegades and they never left like they transcended from one level to another and never left. There are plenty of those in America also, but they arent like these guys who are typically intellectuals with self educated professorships in everything. They are in some cases stoners but not all, because there are people who left America to contentiously object to some policy, or had minor felonies, for crimes now deemed legal like possession of Marajuana.

i love the tropics, its a fascination I got from my time in Australia.. Living and working in cities forces you to look closely at the things in your immediacy because cities are fast moving and theres a lot going on. Existing in the jungle forces you to expand and see the world around you at a distance but with intimacy. Theres less to catch the eye with specificity but more to capture the spirit and magic. I think this is why I like to make field recordings because its photography for the ear, capturing a more esoteric and expansive reality with the intimacy that playback is.

I have more to say about Goa but for now lets move on.

In my 20s I decided that I was going to try my level best not to own a car before I was 40. and so I never owned a car before I was 40. And so learned to ride a scooter in Goa and for the liberation of the natives to my righteous new message which my people are working on as we speak. Perhaps Ill have to get into the rat-race of car ownership if I ever get back to city life. I hate the reality of it but love the concept and the independence. One thing I realize having come away from America is that I actually really love it there, and that I want to soak up as much of at as I possibly can. Its a fascinating country with a lot going on under the covers.

From Lucknow to Maha Kumbh Mela 2013

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I think this is the only shot I took in Lucknow. It was straight off the plane and into the hands of a bunch of 20 something white people who navigated the financials with a taxi driver to take us on the “2.5” hour drive to Allahabad which ended up being 5.5 hours. There were 5 of us in the car, 2 russians 2 yanks and an Austrian. The russians were a Teacher~Learner Combo the austrian was an intellectual student and then there was me and Charlie.
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The landscape up here is quite different to Goa, but not insanely different, the views from the car window were very serene the kind of image of India Id expected to see when I first got here. Unfortunately I had no time to get out and shoot any images. However every 30 minutes there was a small town and though similar they were all different. I wont know what the names of them ar until I have a better connection and the time to go through my GPS and google earth..
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This town apparently doesnt like cars..
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20 minute cram job traffic jam where EVERYone sits on the car horn whilst waiting for something they have zero control over -the train- passes through. –note the guy in the middle of the pic taking a piss! This is something I will miss back in the US, just being able to whip it out like we were kids in Ireland and take a whizz behind a bush or do it india Style and just letter rip in full view..
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The first view I had of the Ganga river (Ganges) was through the linearity of the passing two dimensional stage sets that are life as you you drive by in a car..
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Mother Ganga, this is one of 20 or so pontoon bridges built by the Army Core of Engineers a long time ago, they are still as functional as they were back whenever they were built, and they provide a striking visual narrative to traversing this giant river.
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My first visual exploration of my Ashram or Camp was to not shoot it but to shoot out the back and see whats over the wall.. MILLIONS of heavy canvas army tents provided for free to anyone who wants to use them. Straw floors, a trench for shit and piss, and a faucet for every 50 tents. Functional and luxury for some. I saw some families inside these tents with their own lamps and fired going inside the tents, the tent material is a very heavy oiled canvas with moisture inside. theres a small flap for a vent which is completely ineffectual, but to locals that level of smoke is acceptable.
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In stark contrast, my room, has power, two lights, three mattresses and a flushing non indian style toilet and hot and cold water… I feel a bit of a fraud having this luxury but since the storms hit I feel ok about being a fraud.
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The fisrt thing I see the morning of the 13th. The color is so intense that even in shade the camera cant even begin to describe the colors accurately.
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The crowd at this years Mela is varied..
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This is a typical Ashram entrance, the workmanship is impressive, some of these things are 40 stories hight and are made from relief painted canvas stretched over intricate bamboo infrastructure. The work is really amazing. This particular one is all of the above plus sculpted polystyrene.
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Lunch was very kindly provede by the Brahman monks who sit on mats in rows and are given plates made from banana leaves which are stitched together with twigs, and then steam pressed to look like prison plates!!! and these are amazing, completely biodegradable and for all you wankers out there organic too. This chap definitely wanted to have his picture taken and after I did he arranged for us to get dinner. After the meal the monks are handed 10 Rupee notes as a blessing, and I expected that Id have to pay so I offered and I got laughed it by 200 monks!
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This is the brahman guru and his sadhu who fed us. He recently had a haircut and he showed me his picture in the paper pre-cut and I recon he lost about 20 years after the cut. What a sweet guy, I took a bunch of pictures for him and he was just non stop friendly.
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This is one hell of a bridge.. and I have quite a few pictures of it. Taj Expressway Ring Road Bridge.
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Charlie sitting in the Naga Ashram (the name fails me now), and one of the Babas sat beside us and called him “Motorcycle Baba”
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Pop Corn! I swear I only saw this once in the whole time Ive been here!
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Ganga
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Ganga
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Theres a lot of these guy about, I dont think they are Babas and they are not Hari Krishna
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The end of the road I am on in Sector 9 on the way down to the Sangam where the bathe will occur.
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The white spots are Lye placed in a wicker bascket and plonked onto the ground to deposit just enough Lye to later be swept over the ground by someone else. The sanitation and littler control at the Kumbh is extremely impressive. Everything is done by hand, and every road is taken care of at night.
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Taj Expressway Ring Road Bridge.
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A fortune teller. The bird comes out of the cage and picks a card, and that card has your fortune on it. He gets the bird back in the cage by reaching around the back of the cage and pretending to feed it. Its impressive.
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The other famous bridge here is the railway bridge.. ohh if I could only get on top of that thing the image possibility would be incredible.. Its clearly a lot older then the other bridge as its redbrick. I dont know what its called but a name I found is Jhusi Railway..
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Nice handwriting
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Baba 1008 and the rest I cant even begin to spell or pronounce. His thing is peace and divinity through self awareness and his party trick is to drink out of a Human skull. These guys are all show men no doubt about it even though they say they are not.. He was a very nice guy a friend of Charlies, and he introduced me to two college professors who would like to work with me in the future.. !
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And then there are the complete show queens..

 

Last days in Goa

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Eagles..
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Almost prehistoric looking place, this is a peninsula with igneous rock and giant man swallowing fissures. The foliage is bizare and alien to the rest of the landscape, there are Leemurs in the trees and Giant Eagles by the truckload..
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Pen? You have Pen? The local Hells Fairies gang came out to meet me and ask me if I had any pens for them..
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Fisherman repair their nets. Amazing to watch the unity at with they work and the speed.
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Goa recieved its independence from Portugal later then India did from the Commonwealth. There are still strong vestiges of their past around north goa. Architecture, churches, and Nuns!
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Blessed wax body parts outside the church od St Francis of Xaviour.
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St Francis of Xaviour. was not recognized as a saint by the rest of the Catholic church.
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Consumerism is coming to India whether you like it or not, and its swallowing up the hearts and minds of everyone.
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I wonder what Bryon Gysin would have thought of this.
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Here he ism entombed, and his body hasnt decayed one iota since his death..
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I dont know whose ones these are but they have writin’ on them!
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Lets put this int perspective here, Islam, Hindu Sikh’s and al the rest no one knows how to do children scaring grotesque quite like catholics..
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yes, its a wall of death..
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Original hippy town..
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Cool kids checking the white guys out at the barber..
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Some Germans on the beach had a hot air balloon. Ive never seen one of these actually ever take off..
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Fisherman in Galjibag Confluence.

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More from Goa

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Bhopal to Goa – Southern India Railways

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Station Porters. For a fee they will transport your stuff from the car to the area of the platform your carriage will arrive. They can gauge with exactitude where the carriage you are supposed to be at will arrive. I watched in complete and utter astonishment as this young short guy sprang towards us wearing a red shirt with a brass plate on his sleeve and a red scarf. he negotiated a price and then rolled up his scarf and put it like a donut on his head, then grabbed my trunk and scooped it up with a deft one body move and placed it on his head, and his colleague picked up my backpack and placed that on top of the trunk -a whopping 235kg load- and the he swept through the masses and onto the platform like a waft, fast and definitive. I had difficulty following him. Just completely amazing to witness that..
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Muslims pray on the station platform.
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Muslims pray on the station platform, everyone in the station stared at them. India is funny in that way. Its a multicolored society and yet they will stare at muslims praying in public.
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Bidis, or Beedees, an indin cigarillo made from a Banana tree leaf made into a pulp and dried for smoking and then the paper is actually another leaf, whipped with cotton string. 15 Rupee for 25.. Indians get a real kick out of a white man smoking Bido’s. I use them to break the ice for conversations with strangers, and to get photographs with also.
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Kumbh Mela Pilgrims in a station I dont remember the name of in a place somwhere between Goa and Bhopal
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Water. When the train stops the people on the Class III carriages all spill out and clamber for the water.
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Everything is Organic. Snacks for Class III but I thought their food was nicer then the onboard Class IIAC food
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Its like a Constable painting.

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Catching up..

I havent done enough to render writing a blog entry but I do have a few days worth of images to put up.. These are the last of the Bhopal Images and then some more. Bhopal -if I havent already said it is a predominantly Muslim city, I am utterly fascinated by the women and their multi-level attire. The Hajib is typically black and covers everything but the feet hands and eyes; but the eyes have it.. you can tell so much about a person by their eyes, especially when the rest of their bodies are covered.

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Opticians in central Old Bhopal. Cant resist the mirror shots..
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Standard fair telephone system in Indian cities. They syphon off anything they can from the main wires. There is some kind of order here I just know it..
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Paan. Paan is a interesting “snack” made of about 9 ingredients which very depending on the locale. Read this for more.. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paan I cant chew it because the bits get stuck in my teeth, and the concept is that you jam this package in the space between your cheek and your teeth and you chew and suck and then spit.. On long road journeys or train journeys you will typically see dried Paan spit slattered down teh sides of vehicles. Its a burgundy maroon colored substance when dry.
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Feed me.
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If I didnt already have a hotty Id consider putting one of these in the stranger and the NYT..
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The little ones love the camera.
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The eyes have it, and the eyes always will…
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Theres a sweet innocence in countries that dont have modernity. Children play with eachother and are typically motivated and happy. Theres a profusion of Kites and kite flying in Western Asia, and the children play with these very simple little squares of paper or cloth on a cross of thin wood, advertisers caught on and now many of them have beer commercials on them. I caught this one mid shoot on the Bhopal film, caught between two wires. I love the Asymmetry.
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Many younger women of non islamic traditions have adopted the Hajib so that they can go hang out with their boyfriends or scoot around late at night downtown where they drink pop and hang out it parks malls and romantic lookouts. Police used to tell them to go home and be respectful but because of the Hajib the police can nolonger identify non muslims -its a major offense to ask a woman to reveal her face when she is covered by a Hajib.
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Double Damage!
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Hey boy thats a mighty big tyre you are playing with there..
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Bhopal Disaster memorial. Hindu rememberance.
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Two famous people who were at ground zero when the Union Carbide disaster occurred December 1984 in Bhopal. One is a Muslim and the other a hindu, both equally effected and both hand in hand in memorium to the many that were killed in the biggest chemical disaster in history.
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Marigold & Incense Hindu tradition for purification.
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Marigold & Incense Hindu tradition for purification. Muslim and Hindu together.
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There is an infamous image of a partially buried infant which has ultimately become the poster image for the Union Carbide Disaster which can be seen here http://old.studentsforbhopal.org/Assets/Images/baby-raghurai10.jpg The sad fact of the matter is that The land that the original grave site and crematorium is now located on has been partially sold off. The Indian govt. seems not to care about the importance of the site itself. There is a small garden and memorial plinth in its recognition, but the garden doesnt extend into the area where the bodies were put on pyres and cremated and where the infant and other children were buried. Unfortunately now, this area is fallow, it looks like an orchard but its actually a dump, and there is the ubiquitous trash, dried feces, garbage and plastic bags strewen haphazardly around the area. On the day we made a small area for recognition of those buried and cremated there. Very sad.
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There is an infamous image of a partially buried infant which has ultimately become the poster image for the Union Carbide Disaster which can be seen here http://old.studentsforbhopal.org/Assets/Images/baby-raghurai10.jpg The sad fact of the matter is that The land that the original grave site and crematorium is now located on has been partially sold off. The Indian govt. seems not to care about the importance of the site itself. There is a small garden and memorial plinth in its recognition, but the garden doesnt extend into the area where the bodies were put on pyres and cremated and where the infant and other children were buried. Unfortunately now, this area is fallow, it looks like an orchard but its actually a dump, and there is the ubiquitous trash, dried feces, garbage and plastic bags strewen haphazardly around the area. On the day we made a small area for recognition of those buried and cremated there. Very sad.
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The UC Disaster memorial plinth in Hindi with Marigold garland.
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Hindu & Muslim together at the UC memorial Bhopal MP India.
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Those hands helped bury and cremate bodies.
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Respect the hand that worked to tirelessly bury and cremate the bodies from the UC Disaster.
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Ahhhh! Traffic!
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Legacy hotel Bhopal.
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Wedding!
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IRREVERSABLE. That intense french film, reminds me of this place a horrible turkish bath in Bhopal, nasty hot humid and greasy I was convinced that I was going to slip and skull myself.. fucking disgusting place.
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IRREVERSABLE. That intense french film, reminds me of this place a horrible turkish bath in Bhopal, nasty hot humid and greasy I was convinced that I was going to slip and skull myself.. fucking disgusting place.
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IRREVERSABLE. That intense french film, reminds me of this place a horrible turkish bath in Bhopal, nasty hot humid and greasy I was convinced that I was going to slip and skull myself.. fucking disgusting place. Fat greasy men playing funny games in the dark.

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INTERDEPENDENCE.

In my 20s I decided that I was going to try my level best not to own a car before I was 40. and so I never owned a car before I was 40. And so the theory is that I will learn to ride a scooter here in Goa and then use it for the liberation of the natives to my righteous new message which my people are working on as we speak. Perhaps Ill have to get into the rat-race of car ownership if I ever get back to city life. I hate the reality of it but love the concept and the independence.

 

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Out the window of the train.
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Tribal women in Bhopal, with their very interesting facial tattoos. Tattoos of any kind are not very common as far as I can tell in India.
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…trippy dude… Tribal art, some of this is 2 weeks old some of it is 200 years old..
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eh.. yeah.. This is not a theme park this is a a tribal area, and these things look like disney. I can only imagine what these are like from the air..
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The manager of the whatever bank in Bhopal is Gay and he had these flags put up around the parking lot. Can you imagine Todd Maclin of Chase or Brian Moynihan of BoA doing that?
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Seen on a cool kids’ shoulder in new Bhopal. Im sure theres more I could caption it with but I cant be bothered.