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.

 

 

 

Nov 072015
 

so, there was a march today, to prove that India was tolerant.

and, while on the face of it, it was a good idea – who can disagree with the concept of ‘marching for tolerance’, it has gone wrong  in terms of basics – don’t lose your temper, smile, wave, come across as reasonable. This march should have been less about the sense that India is insulted and you have to take up arms against those you think have insulted it; and more about reaffirming the civilisational ethos of tolerance. Somewhere it got muddled.

There are things you don’t do when you are marching for tolerance, you don’t call into question the right of other people to hold views, no matter how offended you feel about it. Nor do you rage at those you oppose. Or call them names. I am not sure of what the takeaway of those who walked for tolerance, as opposed to those who viewed it on their screens – i daresay it would be different. What came across as news feeds, from reporters on the ground, from other media houses – was the same kind of anger that one sees on social media every day. And, that kind of anger is off putting. It may attract those who are already angry or raging, but, it really doesn’t do too much for the rest of the people.

On the other side, it is the same story. The desire to label somone as ‘fascist’, a stormtrooper, bhakt and other things. The screechy pitch of wanting to demonise rather than understand. And, this sense that if you are not in complete agreement you are outside. The feeling that George Bush put rather crudely, but succinctly,  “you’re either with us, or against us”

All there is, is rage in the discourse. That desire to shout someone down, rip out their hand and hit them on the head with it. Sometimes that bothers me the most. where does this rage come from. Has it always been there? And, this rage is not specific to one side. It is almost like everyone is having a monologue in raised voices, with other people having their own monologues.

Tolerance is the absence of anger, a certain understanding & empathy, and the sense that we will live together in relative harmony. It is an active state, and should not be mistaken for apathy. A view that says, that i am benevolent, and you can hold your views because of my benevolence, is not tolerance, it is arrogance.  And, this is a problem with both extremes.

There is polarization and intolerance. And, it isn’t religious or caste. It is between those who controlled the narrative in the past, and those who want to control the narrative now, and going forward.  And, in this battle, the doublespeak is phenomenal, the positions are carved in stone, and the middle-ground is shouted out or down, or just put off by the ugliness and leaves. The tendency to quote out of context and fan flame is great; as is the ability to take offence and flame people. All in all it is ugly, and it is going to get uglier.

Mumbai - fire in the sky2

and why this picture, because in all this screaming and shouting and general purpose ugliness by both sides – i feel kind of adrift in the ocean 🙁