Nov 282016
 

Sometime last year, I figured one thing about my life. That my brain was going to rust, metaphorically speaking, if I didn’t do things apart from work. A news role, placed serious dampeners on my meeting interesting people, and doing interesting things – both of which i did extensively in my earlier life. Everything i did, i tried to bring back to the work space – how does it fit here, or there – and my personal space, and interests were getting squeezed. And, i had begun chaffing (at myself).

One of the things i do enjoy is photography. And, walking around Mumbai and just shooting buildings, street life, and life in general, was something i toyed with. But, I have tremendous capacity for personal inertia — do nothing apart from have a happy thought. The thought of the photo walk made me so happy, and a few weeks passed by without me doing too much about it. It was also a bad time for me personally and professionally. The reasons don’t matter – all i know was that i felt like i was in an Indiana Jones film, and the walls were closing in on me (very rapidly).

It was at this time, i came across Khaki Tours (via a kind soul on twitter, when i asked about walks around mumbai). And, i have been attending a fair few walks since i first discovered the group.

My love for history, my love for my city, and my love for photography – have all gotten satisfied – on these trips.

clastrophobia_

This is from the first walk at Gamdevi – literally the village goddess. Gamdevi as an area of Mumbai, is brimming with history. It is the seat of Mani Bhavan – the Gandhi Museum. There is the Theosophical Society in the area. It is also the seat of modern Hindustani music. IT is also where the Indian National Congress was born, where the Quit India Movement was launched, and where many progressive men (and in those days it was men) decided that they wanted to help their fellow countrymen to not just gain independence, but also help them to become equal.

Right now, like the rest of Mumbai, there is a tussle in progress. Vertical Growth or conservation of heritage. There is a lot of brown heritage in the area. The Goregaonkars and the Rauts who helped build the city. The old temples and homes. Unfortunately, it is not seen as heritage.

theosophical-society

And, one of the things I do really like about this particular walk, is the focus on the Indian part of it. Indians who helped build this city. Indians from all over India.

There is a lot more to gamdevi than two photos and 5 lines – but, i did mention the inertia part. I have my notes. I have my photos. But, i have to still put them together. I did a series of other walks – the Banganga Walk, the Parel Walk, the Bhuleshwar walk — all of them not just great fun, but extremely informative and engrossing.

Bharat Gothoskar, whose brain child this is, loves the city. And, that comes through during the walk. This isn’t about dry numbers and dates, and events. This is about exciting human beings, who pushed the limits of their era, to succeed. Recently, Bharat and Khaki tours have moved beyond the walkabouts, and added an open jeep ride to the menu. Saturday, last week, i went on an Urban Safari (it is called that) that took us on a Fort Ride.

asiatic-3

From the steps of the Asiatic, the journey begins that takes us through the last 150 or so years of history. From the Opium traders, to the modern bankers. That part of Mumbai is quite fantastic. If this is your kind of thing, the do look out for the walks, and the rides.  The story of Bombay (as it was then) is quite something. She is quite a character, our city … 🙂

 

Feb 122016
 

Sometimes, in the middle of the hustle and bustle of a city like Mumbai, you come across a scene like this. It makes you stop and pause.

boatman 1

Shot on a one plus one. It just was a golden hue, at sunrise …

The last few days i have been hearing this song, almost on a loop

Rashid Khan at his mellow best. Raga Todi. And, here is a variant of the same composition by Naseeruddin Saami

Every time i see a boat set out, the song comes unbidden to mind.

Nov 302015
 

Yesterday, i was sifting through the photos that i had shot during the travels.

This one stood out for me, for one simple reason. In the ruined remains of a former, glorious, capital city, of the Khmer Empire, a thin gossamer of what may be a completely alive life form.  Everything else is gone, but the stone structures. The living tradition of culture is not just gone, but also forgotten. I wonder how many such empires there were through history. Stories forgotten. Histories forgotten. Lineages Forgotten. Culture Forgotten. Not even a footnote. Just not there. Like they never existed.

web of life

(Spider’s web. Angkor Thom. And, the light was just right) 

Nov 302015
 

The last time i took a break, was about a dozen or so years ago. I had just finished launching Zee’s education channel (in my first stint with the group), I was exhausted – physically, mentally and emotionally – and i took off to Munnar, in Kerala. Within 3 days of going there, Offitis struck me – i began missing work and the people there 🙂

In the intervening years, many things happened. I quit corporate life, set up on my own – and traveled a bit, on work. The travelling was less metro, and more hinterland. Less tourist life, and more a seeker. I shot extensively in the rural parts of India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia. And, the decade i worked for myself, it never felt like work. And, taking a break was out of the question. There were lulls in work life, those became breaks in themselves.

This has been a sort of traumatic year. More than anything else, I needed to heal. Angkor Wat was the break. It was both a visual treat and a spiritual journey. The world’s largest temple complex dedicated to Vishnu. Awesome and Awe inspiring.

Angkor Wat

 

While Agkor Wat was a visual delight – and a physical strain — gosh it is a lot of walking and much of it is steep, it was also immensely informative. The way the structure was created, the thinking behind the various layers of temples, the library within, the prayer areas, the grounds – all of it was thought through to the greatest possible detail.

Angkor Thom – the Buddhist temple complex (Angkor Wat, too in that sense is Buddhist. When the country turned Buddhist many centuries ago, Buddha’s statue replaced Vishnu’s in the main prayer area) – was the capital of the Khmer Empire.

Angkor Thom - the doorway to the royal garden

 

But, the single most spiritual part of this journey was the trek up to see the sahasralinga – or the 1000 Lingas. This was at a place called Kbal Spean, and it is a 1.5 km vertical trek. While trekking up, the thing that strikes you most (apart from the fact that you are terribly out of shape) is the aroma of the ‘sacred’ forest. And, when you get to the top, it is simply like going home. The calmness and pristine nature of the place, the aroma of the woods, and the purity of the water fall – all help heal.

More pictures to follow. But, this is what i was doing the last week.

 

Nov 122015
 

Mumbai is not, what you might call, a beautiful city. It has none of the splendour of a Delhi, or the old world charm of a Kolkata or Chennai, it probably is not as hep as parts of Bangalore and Pune. But, there is something about this city that is very alive and very energetic.  Also it is a city that looks much better at night than during the day – decades of adhoc urban planning has left us, Mumbaikars, with a melange of styles and structures – most clashing with each other.

I tried this as an experiment. I shot the same shot, more or less, across various day parts. It was not scientific. It most likely, was not even the same exact  frame, and, it was not automated to take pictures at regular intervals. Everytime i took a break, and remembered to bring the camera out, i shot a frame.

Mumbai - the Mill areas

This is how it looks during the day. Almost like the dwellings of human beings are swamped by alien structures.

Dusk approaches - mumbai

This is at evening, and the allure of the city beckons.

 

Dusk approaches - mumbai 2

Dusk makes the city look even prettier.

Dusk turns to Night

And, night makes it look like the city of gold. Where anyone can make a fortune. And, no one will sleep hungry.