Laze

A journey through India is never complete for me without stopping by in Kolhapur. It’s a shame that I had a 3-year gap from the last visit to this one. Happily, not much has changed in our neighbourhood, except for the addition of many new neighbours. The lake is still visible from the terrace, and plenty of birds to be sighted and identified. 2 out of 3 was not bad for me (identifying birds… ahem… not my specialty).

First, I had to drive out to the Khidrapur temple (or Kopeshwar temple, as it is known), a 7th? 12th? century, ancient site that has been on my wishlist for a few years now. Baba told me about the design of the temple: how the natural light is gradually cut from the entrance to the sanctum sanctorum which is completely windowless. The idea being, your eyes gradually get used to the darkness, and at the most sacred spot you can feel one with God, with no further need for external light. However, the Archeological Society of India has put a dampener on this experience with strategically misplaced tube lights. Plus, the guard at the entrance prohibits photography inside, simply as a show of his power, I guess. The temple is beautiful, and atmospheric, and some other lucky people have made nice pictures in their blogs here.

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Besides the odd outing around town, there’s nothing better to do at home than loll around, breathing the fresh air, and walking down to the lake. Which was made even more fun this time with my uncles and aunts visiting, and college friends driving down from Pune to spend a weekend together.

There’s a happy family portrait from that time sitting in my camera chips somewhere. I must shake off the laziness and put it up one of these days.

 

Forays

A wedding in Agartala. My reason for the last India trip. First time in the north-east part of the country. Suitably excited.

Wedding excitement aside, there are always sunrises to chase and palaces to paddle to. Scenic lake inside the college campus, great spot for landscapes and pre-wedding photo shoot (did both!). Would’ve liked to venture out further north and east, but for now, this will have to do.

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Sunrise at College Tilla Lake

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Before the wedding party could wake up, I was perched on their terrace, enjoying the views and the stillness

Ma and I spent a day out of town, driving up to the Neermahal and back. Agartala feels more of an extension of Bengal than the exotic “northeast” of my imagination, but hey, the wedding and the company all made up for it!

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Our day of sightseeing at the Rudrasagar lake

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Approaching the Neermahal

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Maharaja Bir Bikram was inspired by a palace in Jaipur, and built this one in the middle of the lake

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Life is a boat…

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Yes, it is!

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Lake. Tree. Sky.

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Live for the Golden Hour!

Haze

And an eventful Friday photo walk at Jama Masjid, Delhi. So nice to be reunited with my photopals, Sara and Arun, on this one.

Jama Masjid, Chandni Chowk, Winter, Haze. All the ingredients for an engrossing morning.

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Mughal Architecture

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One of the big entrances

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Why use a tap when you can wash at the tank?

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Like this?

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It takes a lot of focus

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The devout

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Jama Masjid, the Friday mosque

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One of the popular selfie guys

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Prayer hall

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No birds were harmed during our shoot, but we did our bit, shooing them around

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Take a picture, make a friend

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This shot has been 3 years in the making for me

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Waiting..

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Waiting.. and posing ..

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For a small additional fee, you can climb up a minaret, and pause at the terrace

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Did I say, “Haze” already?

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On a clear day, you might see the Red Fort in the distance, but this was not one of those days

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This man claimed his photo was in every country in the world, and I believe him

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Friday Prayers

We rewarded our industriousness with a paratha feast in the famous Paranthewali gali. We may have ordered everything on the menu there!

Prayer time

Ramadan and Idul Fitri is always an interesting time to be in a country with a predominantly Muslim population. For one thing, the focus on food goes up tenfold, with the high point of the day being buka puasa, the breaking of the fast. People take the opportunity to connect with all their friends and family and almost each evening ends up in a big party. Closer to the end of the month is the golden week in Jakarta – the mudik – exodus of people from Jakarta to their hometowns – causing all kinds of angst for those traveling, and sheer bliss for the ones staying behind, in terms of traffic. The two weeks in the year when you have to do your own housework brings its own brand of anxiety, and checking in to local hotels is a perfectly acceptable practice for many.

Devout I am not, but a visit to the Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan seems to have become a regular feature for me. The Masjid Istiqlal is the largest in Southeast Asia; for the second year running, I have joined the hordes to the big mosque early, early morning, just to soak in the atmosphere and try to make a few good photos.

What always impresses me about the mosque, and Indonesia in general, is how chilled out the people are. Everyone is relaxed, happy, friendly, and ever-willing to pose for a photo. I feel bad thinking about the terror strikes across the world, a number of them in quick succession in the last week, but hanging out with Indonesians brings a feeling of calm and good cheer.

The prayer itself is short, and if you’re like me, photo-hunting, it’s best to strategise where you want to spend your time in that 15-minute window of opportunity. The grand hall and the 4-5 tiers are impressive, but the outdoors are interesting too. Some of the fashions are extraordinary, as people always make an effort to dress up for the occasion. Very important for families to be completely colour-coordinated too! Another photographer tip: there’s a lot of photos to be had of people bowing their heads respectfully. Just try to compose the shot minus the smartphone that they’re poring over :-D.

There’s also the effort it takes to wake up super-early, and try to arrive at the mosque well before daybreak, to get in before the large crowds. It’s quite an adventure.

I’ve combined my photos from this year and last:

Selamat Hari Raya Idul Fitri! Mohon maaf lahir dan batin!!

P.S. Cleaning the house is overrated. I’ve instructed Mia, the cat, not to shed, and we’re managing to co-exist with minimal physical exertion, while Rofa gets her well-deserved break.

 

Of Butterflies, Dragonflies, Flies, and How Time Flies

It’s been FOREVER since I logged in and blogged, mostly thanks to a slight change of pace in my real life. Photography had taken a backseat, until this morning, when I joined a bunch of friends for a macro photography shoot.

I am a macro novice, and never been tempted to buy the expensive lens. We’ve found a great guy to rent camera equipment from in Jakarta – these people are priced reasonably and they give great advice too. I shan’t share the name, coz then my secret will be out! Hahaha, just kidding, good service deserves good publicity, and I shall do my bit for www.sewakamera.com.

We went to the butterfly park? museum? thingy at Taman Mini – the Indonesian showpiece ‘amusement’ park – which had to be the saddest butterfly display ever. Pity to see the live ones in captivity (Yes!). Singapore has a better park at the airport! In any case, I was there to learn macro photography, with all its technicalities, and was pretty determined to look beyond the obvious.

And then my eyes opened. WIDE. Who knew that these creepy crawlies were so cute! I’ve seen other people’s macro pictures, of course, but looking through your own (or rented) lens is a completely different feeling.

I have a long way to go, and a lens of my own to buy some day, this is just the beginning. Click on a pic and see the enlarged view, I absolutely insist. That humble little fly, I just want to enlarge and give a great big hug!

I’m not winning awards any time soon, but thanks are due to my friends who taught and inspired me today. The knees hurt from all the crouching, but who cares.

It may be the Chinese New Year of the Monkey, but it’s gonna be a weekend full of the lil bugs for me!

The Hills Are Alive!

The day after my Lago Titicaca exploration, we were scheduled to fly out from Puno back to Lima. Woke up at an unearthly hour 4th day in a row to find that the clear skies of the morning before had transformed into gloomy and overcast. I’d been following weather reports that were so off the mark until that point – cloudy in Cusco, rain in Machu Picchu, rain at Titicaca,  all in reality ending up being warm and sunny days and cold nights – that I sniggered at another rainy day forecast. There was a little icy drizzle as we bundled up into the car, but nothing had prepared us for this sight from the airport after security check:

Juliaca to Arequipa

SNOW????? Oooh, we didn’t see THAT coming! Never a cause for complaint, especially when a camera is handy to click away. Except, soon there were announcements that the flight was cancelled, and we would have to queue up to reschedule. As the announcement was made first in Spanish, we were the last to figure it out, and ended up in the tail end of that queue with little hopes of getting out that day.

With plenty of time on hand waiting for our turn, we made a Plan B, and a Plan C. The brightest idea we had was to drive to Arequipa, 5 hours away (sunny forecast), and fly out of there. The lady from the airline had heard that the road might be dangerous or blocked, but if we could make it to Arequipa, she would have our flight changed at no extra cost. Nice!

I must admit I was excited at the prospect of a road trip. We rushed through a late morning breakfast, and soon, were on the road. Predictably, the landscape was gorgeous. A light sprinkling of snow on brown mountains gave it a cake-dusted-with-icing sugar look. We marvelled more than once about the sudden snowfall. And I couldn’t resist all those moving vehicle photos that I warn people about.

Juliaca to ArequipaJuliaca to Arequipa

Juliaca to Arequipa

Juliaca to Arequipa

The sun made an appearance at midday, skies turned blue, and all was well on the road.

Juliaca to Arequipa

Juliaca to Arequipa

Juliaca to Arequipa

Juliaca to Arequipa

And then, this:

Juliaca to Arequipa

Juliaca to Arequipa

Juliaca to Arequipa

Hey, all those photos with a greenish colour cast are through the tinted windows, thanks to Souvik’s strange reluctance to open windows. Maybe it was the cold? I didn’t notice 😉

I requested Señor Jimmy, who was driving the car, and taking photos on his own camera at the same time, to stop if we spotted any grazing llamas. He obliged.

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Juliaca to Arequipa

Juliaca to Arequipa

Llamas, alpacas, does it matter? I was pretty much on top of the world, whooping with joy, no other people for miles around!

Juliaca to Arequipa Juliaca to Arequipa Juliaca to Arequipa

There was only one roadblock on the way. A long lineup of vehicles, because a bus had broken down. No movement for almost an hour, then some aggressive moves by some cars, and good old-fashioned road rage. I’ve added to my limited Spanish vocabulary “El Burro” and even contributed “estúpido”, coz one must learn the ways of the locals, right?

Soon after that traffic cleared, the landscape had a drastic transformation too.

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No more snow. Only desert. And the hint of canyons.

Juliaca to ArequipaJuliaca to ArequipaJuliaca to Arequipa Juliaca to Arequipa Juliaca to Arequipa

Juliaca to Arequipa

Juliaca to Arequipa

Arequipa itself is one of the major cities of Peru, and has a long and interesting history and culture. I would have loved to visit, especially the Colca Cańon nearby, but time’s too short, and Lima is calling. Saving Arequipa for another trip!

After an eventful 5 hours, one of those rare drives where I stayed awake throughout the way, we arrived at the airport. The LAN airways staff were super helpful, and we had our flight changes without any trouble.

I like to think that this was a bonus adventure thrown in at the tail end of my stay in Peru, and I left with a lingering image of awesomeness:

Juliaca to Arequipa