Adventure in India: Chowpatty Beach. Mumbai, India.

Mumbai is an amazing city, there is no doubt. Besides the thick air pollution (that eventually gave all three of us a nasty sinus infection) Mumbai is the perfect place to meet local people, eat well, learn about Indian culture (including a passionate devotion to Cricket) and see the multiple ethnic groups that form India’s most commercial and cosmopolitan city.

It wasn’t until I went to Chowpatty Beach in Mumbai that I witnessed how Indians spend thier leisure time.

Arriving at nightfall, the string of hotels, restaurants, and food stalls circle the bay like a pearl necklace. Under the cool night sky, young Indian couples and families come to Chowpatty Beach to socialize, eat roasted corn and nuts, ride carnival rides and stroll the moonlit beach.

It was great to speak with local people about the other side of Indian life, when people are chilling out from work and reconnecting with thier families on the beach.

The night after Chowpatty Beach, we headed south to Goa via a 13hr train ride. Things did not go according to plan, but such is the way of the train system here.

Next post will deal with that train ride and our arrival in Goa, which if anything is the opposite of Mumbai in every respect.

Adventure in India: Pondicherry

Arriving in Pondicherry was like a breath of fresh air.

I had it up to here (imagine me with my hand at neck level) with just about everything Indian as I left horrible Chennai.

Upon arriving in Pondicherry after a five hour bus ride, I immediately felt the slowing of time, the increase of personal space and an almost imperceptible transition from strictly Indian architecture to the more refined lines of French influenced architecture: whitewashed walls, small terraces, and relatively clean streets set in a logical grid.

 

Catholic School Girls, Indian Style. Pondicherry, India.

Pondicherry, coincidentally the home of M. Night Shyamalan and Yann Martel (of “The Life of Pi” fame), was the last colonial outpost of France in India. No more than 50 years ago, the French left Pondicherry for good. Well, the French government at least.

The police still wear French inspired uniforms with traditional red Kepis, and you can find a mean baguette or coq au vin in many of the local cafes and restaurants in town.


Gandhi Memorial. Pondicherry, India.

During the day, and especially at night, locals stroll along the seaside boardwalk, watching the waves crash against the shore. Vendors with carts full of fresh pineapple and lime fill the sandy elevated beaches above the boardwalk.

Young men, either out of school, on break, or unemployed, gather along the promenade, walking as a pack and checking out the women both Indian and foreign.

It made for great portrait opportunities.
India Book of World Records: Tiny Roller Skater. Pondocherry, India.

While walking along the boardwalk, I witnessed the strangest thing. A tiny roller skater skated back and forth under a parked car, while crowds and news crews watched. After a few passes under an impossibly low car, the tiny roller skater was ushered over to a large group of newscasters where both father and son were interviewed for quite a while. Despite all the people present, no one knew what was going on.

India is renowned for holding many Guinness Book of World Records. So many in fact that a separate book was created just for India. I could only imagine that perhaps this tiny kid was setting a new record. Skating Under the Smallest Car perhaps.


Lakshmi, goddess of wealth, as an elephant. Pondicherry, India.

One of the last things we discovered in Pondicherry, was a small Hindu temple that worshiped a tethered elephant, who was supposedly the earthly incarnation of Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth.
Lakshmi, goddess of wealth, as an elephant. Pondicherry, India.

Lakshmi sucks coins into her trunk. As you bend down to receive Lakshmi’s blessing, she lightly taps you on the head with her trunk.

I had mixed feelings about this. I felt terrible the elephant lives tied up in a busy walkway outside a temple, taking coins from passers-by.

On the other hand, Lakshmi may be lucky. Being fed and taken care of is a rare thing for elephants in India who are often used for very difficult labor.

I thought about this as we departed for Mumbai and the last leg of our trip.

I’m going to India for three weeks, and all I’m bringing is:

Tomorrow I leave on a three week trip to India with my girlfriend and our mutual friend Jamila.

I’ve really been looking forward to this trip for months now….since Summer really, when we all booked our tickets.

I used to travel a lot when I was younger.

In fact I made it to many corners of the world…in the years leading up to me becoming a photographer. I vowed never to travel abroad again until I was a photographer, a real photographer, and capture what I experienced to share with others.

Now, years later, I find that my job as a photographer has kept me in the United States. I have made a lot of progress in the last few years, but I never fulfilled my wish of using my photography skills outside the United States (except for a brief stint in Sweden and Norway a few years ago.)

I’m heading to India to relax, think about the year ahead, and come back to the United States with a refreshed sense of direction, new goals and hopefully a beautiful set of photos and/or videos.

My whole kit for three weeks. Seattle, WA. 2008.

3 Shirts, 1 pair of pants, 1 pair of shorts, hat, Ray Bans, toiletries, small Mole Skine journal, pen, plug converter, flashlight, money belt, Canon intervalometer, Sony T500 + accessories (for 720P HD video,) lens cloth, lens cleaning swabs and fluid, battery charger, Canon 5D, Canon 50mm f1.4, Canon 17-40mm f4, 24GB of CF Cards, my passport, two novels and last but not least, a small Kata backpack given to me as schwag at last year’ Aurora Photos meeting in Maine.

As you can see I am traveling super light. No more than what can fit into a small school bag. I hope to lose myself in the experience and follow where the story takes me.

More updates to follow, as internet access allows.