Nocturnal visitors

It was about 1 AM. We heard some sounds outside and saw a crowd forming in front of our house. Someone asked us not to come out; since there were two elephants in our yard!

They had wandered in from the nearby forest and lost their way. Seeing some vegitation, they broke the compound wall and entered. By the time we had got up and come on the balcony, they already had a gala time uprooting plants and sqashing young saplings around.

Seeing the crowd, they wanted to find an escape route and tried the far back corner. They broke the wall and saw they could not go out thought that! So they came back to the center and started filling up their stomach.

By this time the Forest Department people came and the elephants taking the cue, quietly stepped out of the compound through the broken wall and started to walk.

And the Forest Department persons showed lights and sounded screeching sirens to get them walk on the way to the forest. Last time we had these pachyderms walking our way was about three years back.

All these are happening due to unscrupulous builders building gated communities on the elephant corridor. Elephants are migratory animals and they treck a path year after year with the changing seasons. It is prohibitted to construct anything on or near the elephant corridor. But here there was a greedy builder who constructed a residential community right in the middle of the elephant corridor.

Poor elephants, they walk the same route and then come accross a concrete wall on thier path. They are confused. If they turn right, it would lead them into the forest. But, if they turn left, they would enter our residential colony, which is far from the elephant corridor.

So these kinds of intrusions are common here. The human-animal conflict keep rising and damages and loss of lives do happen.

Will the authorities ever understand this? Or will they continue to be greedy and pave way for more human-elephant conflicts?

What’s up, mate!

Fondly remember the days of social non-distancing. When I used to meet people, have a coffee in a wayside coffee shop, or just hang around in a mall, watch a movie, and so on. Shaking hands with clients and friends are gone, replaced with a humble namaste! (from a meter or more proximity)

My joints are paining; because I walk less now – only within my house! My hands are aching due to long hours on the computer, clicking the keyboard or moving the mouse with precision! (editing old pics or re-editing them!) I wish I could walk out and shake hands instead.

My car needs a start every few days or its lifeline would stop with a low battery! Gone are the days when my wandering instincts would make the four wheels to roam on terrain new and unseen by me. Even its tyers need a rotation and balancing to stay on the road!

Trips to relatives are now replaced with visual tours of their dwellings. (Kids playing around or uncles reading the paper). Culinary cravings have turned into cooking competitions. Every day someone in the family would post a new dish (or a well-tried out old dish) to make the others’ mouth to water or envy in agony.

Children dress up and log in to their computers to say “Good morning Mam (teacher)”. Then they don’t move till their on-line classes are over. They can watch football or any other games, but they can’t play.

Employers are happy since they don’t have to rent out office spaces. It is Work From Home – WFH (derivation from WTF#). As if there is not enough work at home already! Now the digital boss would reside inside your laptop or desktop to monitor if you are really working from home! These apps take screenshots of your system every five minutes to see what you are doing. And in case if the system is inactive, the boss gets a message and you immediately are called up to join a video call (just to check your status – sleeping or something else)!

For me, as a photographer, I can’t go out. I can’t take pictures of my clients. No one would like to have a head-shot with a mask on! I have finished taking pictures of ants walking in a line, of my dog with his disgruntled expressions (since I don’t take him out for walks), of my idle workplace, of leaves and flies in the garden, of the clear and occasionally cloudy skies,….. Nowadays I fumble with the manual controls on my camera; since I have forgotten a few of those buttons and swirl wheels due to impasse!

I feel my life has changed (for the better or worse?) How about you? What’s up, mate? 

Social Distancing

The epidemic of herculean proportions has made the whole world lock themselves in. To contain and break the chain of the Coronavirus outbreak. This is for a social cause. To save ourselves and to save the rest of the world.

distances…

I am an extrovert and I like to roam, meet people, talk and of course, take photographs! Nevertheless, I am holding back my instincts and sitting at home.

The good part of staying home is that I can reminiscent of my old memories, dig into my old collections of songs, and look at all the discarded images I had clicked.

some of my old collection of vinyl..

So is the case of everything else too! This confinement has made me look back into so many things that I once used to do so lovingly. As a child, I used to be very happy doing things that I liked. Now the child in me has come out and is leading me to those happy days!

Music and books, what else is the need of the day now? This is helping me to cleanse myself off the disturbing thoughts around me.

Little do I worry now of the economy and the financial mess most of us are in now. After all, by worrying, nothing is going to change. What is destined to happen will happen.

I started to look at the old discarded images with a new angle. I started to like many a pic out of the clutter of discards. I start to reminisce why did I discard them in the first place?

If I stop looking at these negative things and try to look at them from a different angle, I will definitely start seeing some beautiful perspectives; which I might have overlooked, like those old pics!

Love of Rains

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As a young boy, I was always fascinated by the rains. Fortunately, I grew up in a place where rains were a plenty. We used to get rains two times a year – during the South-West Monsoon and North-East Monsoon. When it rained, it used to be an incessant downpour, which used to last for hours together!

The start of the rains always used to coincide with the start of the new academic year. The first day of school, was always a wet experience; all of us getting drenched. The umbrellas were of little or no help at all; for the rain used to hit us from all sides due to the heavy winds. Sometimes, the umbrella would turn turtle in the wind and getting it back in shape was an effort.

The roads and the by-lanes would be totally submerged with the gushing water as it found its least resistant path to the sea. The front of our house was always knee deep with the rain water. When the rains used to take a break, we children, used to make paper boats and play boat race. We used to be very creative in making the boats. We had a single sail, multi-sail boats, covered and open, catamarans and yachts and so on..

We never had the TV and video games then. We used to play together in the open. That taught us the principles of sharing, caring, give-and-take, compassion, respect, cohesiveness, love and affection.

Sorry to say, todays’ jet age children would not know any of these. They have lost the love for rains and rather hate the rains. The life lessons that the rains taught us in our childhood unfortunately is not relished by the current generation.

How I wish I was a child once again!

 

Photo or Video?

Gone are the days when critics would gaze over a photograph and admire every single detail of the photograph. There was a time when people used to pay attention to the composition, lighting and the story every photograph portrayed.

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People used to comment on the angle of the light and how that accentuated the features of the model in a dramatic or subtle way. The highlights and shadows used to give a dimension to the picture.

All my dreams were shattered once I entered the commercial photography in m home town in India; or rather, the so-called commercial photography domain. Within a span of one year I understood that high-key, vivid colored, flat lit photos were the need of the day than one created with a lot of thought.

I was fascinated by the camera from a very young age. In those film days, photography was considered to be an expensive hobby few could afford. One could not afford to make a mistake while taking a picture. Now in the digital era, an average photographer has a hit ratio of 1:10; that is he gets one good photo on an average when he clicks ten. It is mostly a trial and error game!

Then comes the new age video. Every thing is shot as video. On smart phones, cameras or action cameras. One gets 23 frames or more per second. So there are quite a lot of frames to chose from. The probability of missing a shot got reduced. So to play it safe, video is the best thing now!

There is lesser strain on the viewer in watching a video clip rather than viewing a good photograph and trying to understand the story behind it; like enjoying a painting.

On to the video days!

A Dream Come True

Drove down to Cochin from Coimbatore mainly to drop my daughter who is studying there. Had been hearing about the Cochin Biennale – a culmination of art forms from different parts of the world!. This happens only once in two years.

So, just took my camera and a few lenses and stepped out towards the Boat Jetty in Ernakulam. I decided to take the boat to Cochin as it was faster and more picturesque.

Got down at the Fort Cochin boat jetty. There were many like me who had come to see the Cochin Biennale. The streets were abuzz with tourists from all over the world. I started walking towards the Aspinwall House, which was the main venue for the Biennale.

There were may mural paintings on the walls of the street. One such painting caught my eye.. the detailing was so realistic!

After a few minutes walk reached the main venue – Aspinwall House. It was a very old group of buildings in a very big compound by the waterside. The organisers had made the whole place look exquisite without spoiling the heritage look of the buildings. Each room had the work of an artist with a brief note about the art form exhibited and the artist at the entrance to each room.

The open space between the buildings were also used to display creative work by artists from far and wide..

never felt that the simple coconut husk – coir – could be made into sheets with intricate textures!.

another set of work by local artists..

artifacts and antiques..

and art forms from waste…

Mechanical creations…

 .

Bold expressions….

true to life paintings..

perspective paintings….

…. and more…and more….

follow me for more pics from Cochin Biennale, to be posted soon.

Cheers!

Light and the lack of it!

I live in Coimbatore, a city in Southern India, and love Coimbatore. A very laid back city with a unique blend of tradition and cultural heritage. Traditional Coimbatorians are very peace loving and respectful of each other; irrespective of their age.

This city made people from all over India and abroad to settle down here for their career or for retirement. Along with this, the city also imported some bad influence; such as road rage, show-off, ego, cultural shock, etc.

There was a time when one could never find out the ordinary looking man of Coimbatore, clad in his white dothi and sporting  a yellow cloth bag, was a millionaire. This down to earth man never had an ego or wanted to show off that he was rich. Slowly, with the influx of this new cultural mix, the new generation wanted to show off, most of the time, their unrealistic pomp.

One small example is the hype for top of the line luxury cars and SUVs. There was even a news that the maximum number of Audi cars sold in India was in Coimbatore! Just imagine how many of the new generation would want to show off their prized possession on the roads of Coimbatore?

Talking about the recently acquired road rage, the situation gets worse come nightfall and the roads become hell joints. What I mean is the street lights which never burn or light up our pathetic roads. Driving in the night is a nightmare! You will never see the pothole or the stray dog, donkey, horse, cattle and of course, the lone inebriated pedestrian trying to find his way home groping in the dark! To avoid hitting on any of the above, the already raged vehicle driver keeps his head lamps always on high beam. He or she is impervious to the blinding caused due to the high beam on the vehicular commuters on the opposite side. So they also put on their high beam. Result more blinding lights and more road rage and cursing under the breath!

If the street lights really worked, there is no need to put the high beam within the city. This is our curse to this once peaceful city – the light and the lack of it.

Growing up – then and now!

The other day I was remenacing my childhood. How we used to be very content and happy with what was handed down to us. It could be the scratched bicycle handed down from your brother or the EnidBlyton super 7 collection.

I grew up in a joint family. We were 15 members of which 8 were children of varying ages. The hierarchy was always followed. The eldest kid in the house often decided what to play. No arguments. The same was for music and cinemas.

We had a Murphy radio in the main living room inside a glass case. The case would be opened twice a day. At 8 AM & at 7 PM, by my grandfather to listen to AIR news in English. After 7:15 PM, if he was in a good mood, he would allow us to listen to music. Which station to tune to was decided by either my grandmother’s sister, who came from Bombay; in which case it would be Binaca Geethmala with Mohamed Raffi, Kishore Kumar and the likes rattling out the melodies of yester years. Or it would be decided by eldest cousin sister, who would want Ceylon radio for some Tamil extravaganza. What ever station, the radio had to be switched off at sharp 8 PM in time for supper.

Now I see the new generation of kids, who have grown up or growing up in nuclear families and seldom understand the give and take mentality of yester years! These kids get very upset at the slightest turn of events in our today’s ever changing and fast lifestyle.

The youth of today are always distracted by the mobile phones and tabs. The expectations of employers and the college curriculum has not changed in line with today’s youth who hold their mobiles close to them as if they were their un-implanted ‘pace makers’; without which they cannot survive!

Off to Georgia….

Last year, one fine morning, when I woke as usual,  I felt a pain; as if bitten by a bug! Then i realized that it was just like what my aunt (Ananga aunt) said, I was bitten by the travel bug! The weekend was a long weekend and I had not made up my mind as to what to do or rather where to go!

The first thing that came to my mind was to go home, to India. My wife proved me wrong and said… “use this time to explore places you have never been to”.. Quickly checked the places I can go without a VISA. I found this country Georgia very interesting. For people with a residence permit in Saudi Arabia, there was no need to apply for a VISA to Georgia.

The fever rose to a new high. I started searching for cheap flights.. found.. done. Next accommodation.. AirBnB came to my rescue as usual. And lastly who can show me around the city of Tbilisi? The answer came from a nice person, Natita, who volunteered to show me around. That was it. I packed my bags. My camera kit took most of the place and weight, as usual.

The flight from Riyadh to Tbilisi  was early in the morning with a short layover in Istanbul, Turkey. The flight was half empty. The seats next to mine were not occupied and I could put out the armrests and spread out to sleep on three seats. Woke up just to shake my leg in Istanbul to walk over to the next departure gate. Again the flight was empty and I had no reason not to get some more sleep before reaching Tbilisi.

Reached my room after a bit of a confusion. Quickly freshened up and informed Natita that we could start our tour of Tbilisi. Off we went through some parts of the old city, savoring the beauty of old architecture and see some of the new architecture as well. She explained to me the story of their kings and some of the great poets and people who had built the city.

It was getting dark and the lights were coming up. So was the beauty of the night lit city. We crossed the Modern Bridge. It was an architectural marvel and the lighting was so wonderful. The theme park on the other side and the lighting of the buildings were a gift for the eyes.

Next day, went about strolling by myself. Found an Indian restaurant and got to know couple of other Indian as well there. One Indian, studying medicine in Tbilisi, Mohamed Shan, was kind enough to offer to take me around Tbilisi. So the next day morning we set off to the mountains in Shan’s car. His car was a beauty, a two door BMW. He took me to various picturesque locations and showed me a lot of architectural marvels in the form of old monasteries and houses.

We reached a place up in the mountains called Goduli. The snow covered mountain peaks were a delight to soak up through my camera. After spending some time there, we returned to Tbilisi and reached where I was staying by late evening.

One more day of strolling through the city and evening dining out with my recent friends made my day and I started to pack my bags. Shan offered to drop me to the airport. On the way went to Natiti’s work place. Bid farewell to Natiti and Girogi. On the way Shan took me to a beautiful park atop a hill.

And it was time to say bye to Tbilisi, only to plan for the next visit in 2017.

Interesting Personalities

It was approaching summer holidays here in Riyadh, where I work, and I decided to pack my bags and go to Eastern and Central European countries. Planned meticulously for over a month; which all places to visit and what to do in each city. Thanks to information available on the net, I was able to square in on three places – Prague – Czech Republic,  Budapest – Hungary and Vienna – Austria. I had a criteria for selecting each place. Prague, due to its historical artifacts, Budapest, for its scenic locations and landscapes and Vienna, for its historical connection with music and art forms.

Then came the most demanding part. Where do I stay in all these never visited places by me? One of my colleagues told me about the site AirBnB. I checked the site and found some accommodation suited to my liking and very affordable. I started inquiring with each of my intended hosts for my stay. Prompt came their replies with assistance as to how to make my stay comfortable and enjoyable. I chose my local hosts. So far unknown people to me or to say, strangers till the day before.

I left for Prague. The flight was delayed. The taxi I had booked had waited for sometime and left. That was my first experience. I took another airport taxi and proceeded to my local host near to Florance. It was not difficult to locate the place. My host was there to welcome me. A nice room. Met another traveler like me from Paris who was staying in another room in the same apartment. Surprisingly, I could strike a conversation with ease with my host and the other guest.

The next day, my previously arranged local tour guide took me all over the interesting places to see.

She was a student as well as a founder of an organization associated with media and publicity. We talked all the way and I was going on capturing the interesting and scenic beauty of Prague with my camera. We could have walked easily about 10 kilometers on that day. Prague was a small place and all places to see were in walking distance.

My guide, Hripsime Arakelyan, Ripa in short, was an interesting person.

Very focused and smart. She was doing her PhD in International Business. Also she is the founder CEO at Olympeah. International Representative at “Beside Woman”, an NGO organization. She was also volunteering at World Bank. So much confidence and enthusiasm to prove herself!

The next day  I took the train to Budapest. Could chat with many fellow travelers during the ride to Budapest. Reached Budapest and my local host there was texting me with direction to reach her place. It took hardly 5 minutes to reach the apartment.

She was an artist. The apartment was full of painting and carvings. The whole place had a Bohemian look.

My host was very nice and we could immediately start talking about painting and photography. Both depended on the incidence of light falling on the object. We had a lot to talk.

Next day she took me to her studio, which was about 100 kilometers outside the city. A beautiful, calm and serine village. I could see more of her creations there as well as the work done by her fellow artists. She asked me to explore the mountains and told me that I would really like the beautiful hills and valleys.

Breathtaking captivating views welcomed me all the way to top of the hills. I just soaked myself in the beauty of the surroundings. I don’t remember how many snaps I had taken there on that day! A few locals thought I was lost and greeted me. Some suggested some more beautiful surroundings I could feast my eyes on. I walked on and on untiring and aimlessly.

The return trip from the studio was adventurous. My host’s car broke down. And another artist friend offered us a ride back to the city in the night.

The next day I took some directions from my host and went around the city. It was a wonderful feeling all the time. Budapest had its unique locations to view and enjoy. I was very happy to see a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in a park. I was amused by the care and pride with which the local body was maintaining the gardens and the surrounding.

My next journey was to Vienna. Again by train. The country side as it whizzed past the fleeting train was a joy to my eyes. Two fellow passengers, an old couple from Mexico, had a problem. They had misplaced their journey ticket; however, had the proof of payment. When the ticket inspector came, he understood their situation and said it was alright and they could travel. I could see the sigh of relief in their eyes. They broke into a conversation. Generally as to where I was from and what I was doing. Yet another interesting personalities.

Reaching Vienna, my local host there kept me posted as to which metro train I had to take and which direction I had to come out of the station. And spot on, I reached her place in a couple of minutes. The apartment was spotlessly clean and well equipped. Unlike my previous hosts I had the whole place for myself. The few minutes we chatted were very informative. She left behind one mobile phone, just in case I had to call her for any help. So caring.

The next day my local tour guide met me at an agreed meeting point in the city. She was a qualified guide. Straight away we started our tour of the city. Another feast to the eyes.She showed me around beautiful and interesting localities, churches, buildings, palaces and parks.

My guide, Maria, another interesting personality. She was an artist. She was a dancer and was studying for her masters in dance forms.

A very energetic and talented person. We could easily talk on subjects of mutual interest during our walk through the city. She completed the designated number of hours of the tour and we parted, only to become fiends.

I took the train to Prague the next day. My return ticket was from Prague. I went back to the same host with whom I had stayed earlier; but, this time my room was different. It was a bigger room with a good amount of sunshine through the windows. I enjoyed my stay there.

Next day went to the castle area, some places I had not seen during my earlier visit.

And time came for me to say good bye to Prague. I took the flight and returned back to Riyadh, from where I had started my journey ten days earlier.

I was very happy to have met so many interesting personalities and getting acquainted with them throughout my journey in Europe. This is what makes me happy. To meet different personalities, getting to know them, exchanging views on areas of common interest. That is the wonderful part of any journey – meet as many interesting personalities as possible!