Tag Archives: India

Sidewalk Cricket

Sidewalk Cricket

While wandering around India, my wife and I realized just how popular cricket is there. Sure, I’ve heard many stories of cricket frenzied fans but never realized how frenzied it really was.

On our way back to the hotel, we were walking along the street and passed a park with droves of kids playing cricket. Some were in jeans and T-shirts, some were in tattered clothes, and some were in traditional religious wear. It was fascinating to watch, but after a short while, they boys took quite an interest in my wife.

Everywhere in India we went my wife was quite popular. We weren’t sure of the exact reasoning, and it was further complicated when a older gentleman briefly chatted with us and mentioned she looks eerily similar to a famous Bollywood actress.

While we were watching the boys play cricket, one eventually came over with his camera phone to snap a picture of us. (And by “us,” I mean he motioned for me to slide out of the picture.)

Since turnabout is fair play, we continued to watch the boys play cricket, but before we left I took a few photos of them.

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Sewing Red Chilis

Sewing Red Chilis

I had to scan through previous posts from India to make sure I hadn’t written about “Hack and Wheeze Lane” earlier.

After a couple of days in Delhi, India, my wife and I made an effort to REALLY get off of the beaten path. We ended up stumbling upon a busy district with lots of bulk items being carried away for sale at smaller shops. As we walked we came upon a number of men carrying large, brown sacks on their head and/or shoulders. Curious of their origins, my wife and I turned down a narrow alleyway between shops and wandered upstream (if you will) to see where the large sacks were coming from.

Turns out, about one hundred yards through the narrow passageway was a plethora of dried chili peppers being bought and sold. Men were buying pounds and pounds of  bulk chili peppers to sell at their smaller market stalls. The sacks were filled and weighed on a scale, then sewn shut. The buyer would heave the sack on his shoulder and away he’d go. The most interesting part of this process was nothing my wife nor I could have expected.

Because of the hot spices being moved around, the air was full of a thick odor of chili peppers. I have never, and I am not exaggerating, heard that many people randomly coughing and sneezing. It sounded like something out of a zombie movie’s hospital ward scene, but no, this was real life. Everyone, including my wife and myself, couldn’t stop sneezing or coughing. We took a handful of pictures and then made a scramble to fresh air.

Well, as “fresh air” as Delhi, India can provide.

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Street Scene of Delhi, India

Street Scene of Delhi, India

While traveling through India (including Delhi, pictured above), I was terrified to pull out my camera.

Terrified.

Everything I read prior to our trip went on and on about crime — particularly against tourists. I love my camera and didn’t want to be forcibly parted with it. So I give my wife a lot of credit for me finally convincing me to get the camera out.

We were in a busy, busy street scene in India (much busier than that pictured above), and she was shooting away with her camera. She looked at me and said something to the effect of “Really? You’re not taking any pictures?” Sheepishly, I pulled my camera out of my bag and I don’t think I put it back for the rest of the trip.

The people of India were, for the most part, fantastic. Sure, there were those peddling the “(anything but) free maps,” and at the train station a few men deliberately tried to send us in the totally wrong direction to buy tickets, but everything else was fantastic.

Yes, I received the occasional “wave off” from people who didn’t want their picture taken, but for the most part, people couldn’t have been nicer.

I’m glad I finally got my camera out.

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Framed Taj Mahal

It was getting bright out as my wife and I arrived at the Taj Mahal in Agra, India.

We started our trek to the famed historic site shortly before sunrise, from about a mile away. After we purchased our tickets, we paid the extra couple of dollars for a rickshaw ride to the entryway. The entry line was long and I remember thinking “This is the best time to be here?”

Turns out, it was.

Later in the day, as my wife and I went back to the banks of the Yamuna River to watch the sun set, we saw the line for the Taj Mahal seemingly went on for ever. I was really glad we spent a few hours in the morning with the smaller hoardes of people, because I’m sure going later in the day it would have been far more chaotic than I would have liked.

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Cricket in the Park

If you’ve kept up with my photography blog over the last few months, you’ve probably noticed it stumble along here and there. About mid-December I stopped posting images altogether, only to throw a couple up in January, one in February, and by the end of March, get back to posting with some sort of regularity (albeit, twice a week).

I like the new system, although I’m not sure what “system” it really is.

Over the last two years and posting an image a day, at times I felt I was handcuffed because it became a “quantity over quality” issue, and I really didn’t like that. Additionally, I had a lot of things I’d rather be doing, but never got around to them, as I had to keep up on blog posts. One of those things was posting more of my images to my stock photography archive at iStockPhoto.

I hadn’t updated my stock portfolio in awhile, and since my blog makes no money, and stock photography provides a little, I wanted to post a few images there. (“Stock Photography” is where a photographer will sell an image to whomever wants it for whatever they want it for. Sometimes the image is for a national advertising campaign; other times it is to be a corporation’s cover for their annual report. I feel like most stock photography goes toward other people’s blog posts, since the images can be licensed for a few bucks here and there. There isn’t much money is stock photography. The true money comes from having a plethora of images available for license.)

Stock photography is pretty particular because they don’t allow any company logos or recognizable faces. Some images, like the aerial photos of Chicago I took in October of 2012, do well as stock images; pictures like the one above don’t because you can make out the kids’ faces.

Regardless of whether the picture is “sellable” or not, I really like the image above. My wife and I sat for about an hour in the park of Delhi, India chatting with children of all ages playing cricket. I snapped a few images of them playing cricket, and they kindly offered to allow me to play with them. While it would have been awesome, I was terrified of completely making an ass of myself and politely declined the offer.

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Selling Colored Powder at Holi Fest

Last  night I was digging through various folders on my computer and I came upon a BBC list of “50 Places to See Before You Die.”

These lists always annoy me, because if you’re a foodie, New York City should be numbers one through fifty on the list. If you’re into history and old stuff, parts of China, all of Europe and the some of the Middle East should be on your list. If you’re into culture, the list would be completely different. What about going on a safari on South Africa to see animals in the wild?

When I counted, I was proud to have been to nearly half of the locations on the list. However, the list included a vague visit to “Florida” (Lakeland, anyone?), but had a very specific location like Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on it.

Look, BBC, if you’re going to give us a list of 50 awesome places to go, maybe include a specific part of Florida to visit. The Keys, perhaps? Tallahassee doesn’t have much to offer in the way of beaches and tropical settings. Also, why isn’t “Holi Fest” in India, included? Holi Fest is mostly celebrated by Hindus as the festival of color.

In India, locals stock up on colored powered and in the days leading up to Holi, throw said powder at each other. If you’re short on time, powder can be purchased from many street vendors along the way (like the one above).

This past March, my wife and I visited India during Holi Fest. We didn’t just “swing by” as the timing would allow, but we made an effort to get to the absolute epicienter of Holi Fest in India — Vrindavan.

Vrindavan is said to be the city where Lord Krishna was born, and the next town over is where he studied. Men, women and children all come out to participate in the festival of colors. Entire families are throwing colored power at each other in the streets.

As far as trips go, it was the one adventure testing my wife and my patience and travel abilities. We found out later a lot of locals — who don’t normally consume alcohol — go waaaaaaay overboard on the stuff during the fest. It explained a lot of things along the way, but it still doesn’t explain why India was left off the list of 50 Places to See Before You Die (well, the Taj Mahal made the list, but Delhi or Holi Fest is nowhere to be found). If you’re interested, below is the list. I’ve put an asterisk behind the locations I’ve visited:

1. The Grand Canyon*

2. Great Barrier Reef

3. Florida*

4. South Island

5. Cape Town*

6. Golden Temple

7. Las Vegas*

8. Sydney

9. New York*

10 .Taj Mahal*

11. Canadian Rockies

12. Uluru

13. Chichen Itza, Mexico

14. Machu Picchu, Peru

15. Niagara Falls

16. Petra, Jordan*

17. The Pyramids, Egypt*

18. Venice

19. Maldives

20. Great Wall of China*

21. Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

22. Hong Kong*

23. Yosemite National Park

24. Hawaii

25. Auckland, New Zealand

26. Iguassu Falls

27. Paris

28. Alaska*

29. Angkor Wat, Cambodia*

30. Himalayas, Nepal*

31. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil*

32. Masai Mara, Kenya

33. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador*

34. Luxor, Egypt*

35. Rome*

36. San Francisco*

37. Barcelona

38. Dubai*

39. Singapore

40. La Digue, Seychelles

41. Sri Lanka

42. Bangkok*

43. Barbados

44. Iceland

45. Terracotta Army, China*

46. Zermatt, Switzerland

47. Angel Falls, Venezuela

48. Abu Simbel, Egypt*

49. Bali*

50. French Polynesia

 

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Taj Mahal and Reflecting Pool

My wife and I arrived at the Taj Mahal in Agra, India shortly before sunrise, and were surprised by the large number of people already waiting in line to get in. We took our places in the separate men’s and women’s lines, and met inside the walls of the symbol of eternal love. From the time we arrived, to the time we left, the amount of tourists on the grounds seemed to exponatially grow.

By the time we return for sunset along the Yamuna River, the crowd had swelled to an incredible size. The line was terribly long and terribly slow moving. From our vantage point on the river, we could see people snake around back of the Taj Mahal and slowly make its way inside.

All of the guide books say “Get there early!” I guess I just didn’t realize how serious they were.

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Selling Vegetables at the Market

As a kid, remember the game of “jump rope?” Two friends would grab either end up a rope and twirl it around while a person steadily watched the rhythm of the rope, and when it felt right, jumped in.

I feel like taking pictures in another country is kind of the same thing.

Every time I go to a new country, I always hesitate pulling my camera out at first. I was never sure why, but it usually took half a day of exploring before I finally felt brave enough to start shooting. I finally figured out why I wait so long, and it goes back to jump rope.

In jump rope, for the person about to hop in the middle, before they dive in, they want to study the twirling rope, get a feel for the rhythm, and then give it a go. Once their in the middle they really can’t stop and turn back, and taking pictures in another country is the same thing.

I want to study the culture, get a feel for safety and the surroundings and then, when the timing feels right, pull out my camera. From that moment on I make a commitment: My camera bag doesn’t leave my sight and my memory cards are frequently changed and vehemently protected.

My time in India is a good example of this.

It took me a solid day to finally get comfortable enough to pull out my camera. Maybe part of it was not wanting to have a super-fancy camera amid all of the poverty. Perhaps it was having my super-fancy camera stolen amid all of the poverty. Maybe it was just that I’m a little girl and needed to man up. Either way, I’m really glad I started shooting (to my wife’s credit, she really was the one to tell me to “grow some balls”). By the end of the trip, I came home with 1,300 pictures from India. Many of them are full of color and life, but none would exist if I didn’t jump in and start shooting.

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Mother and Baby Monkey

When we travel, the two things my wife and I can’t get enough of are “junk shops” and “monkey temples.”

“Junk shops” are the unaffectionate name we’ve given to those shops and stalls in the various markets around the world selling souvenirs. It’s usually the same things in every stall marked at the same price. For some reason, me more than her, I’m drawn to these shops and need to wander through them. Normally I don’t buy anything, but I just look at what’s for sale and what is the big tourist item.

The latter thing we cannot get enough of are “monkey temples.”

Perhaps it’s because they’re our ancestors, or perhaps they’re just adorable, but whenever we travel and find out there is a monkey temple nearby, we usually jump in a taxi and make our way to it. In Bali, Indonesia we had an amazing experience where various monkeys got into a fight and one was mortally wounded. The other monkeys laid him gently on the steps of the temple and quietly paid their respects.

So in Jaipur, India, when we caught wind of a nearby temple over-run by monkeys, off we went.

Traffic in India is brutal. Absolutely brutal. We slowly made our way through town, fighting with (what seemed like) every other car on the planet. The only reason we were truly antsy is because we were in a race with the sun to reach the temple before it was too dark. We succeeded in our quest, and were not disappointed.

The Galta Monkey Temple, near Jaipur, India is located high in the hills outside of the city. It’s one of those places where the taxi drives higher and higher into the hills, then stops at a random place and tells you “I’ll wait here.” We exited the car and slowly made our way in the direction our driver was looking.

On approach, we paid a strange man the “park entry fee,” and then turned down his offer for snacks for the monkeys. Wherever we’ve gone, we’ve never fed the animals for a variety of reasons. Walking through a labyrinth of local huts and buildings, each person tried to convince us theirs was the location of the monkey temple. It’s a strange sales pitch considering we could see an ancient-looking temple several hundred yards in front of us on the path.

Upon arrival, our first monkey-friend was sitting on the steps to the temple’s entrance enjoying a banana. In the distance, we could hear locals pray in song, and the echoes of various monkeys resonated off of the walls of the small canyon.

As we slowly walked up the steps, my wife and I saw the side of the canyon slowly come alive with (easily) a hundred monkeys on the move. As we climbed the steps, the sun dipped below the sky and it was just a few locals chanting in the distance as a number of monkeys went about their business. It was as awesome as it was terrifying. As we reached the first plateau of the temple, we laughed as a baby monkey began to feverishly chase his tale. Round and round he spun until he’d get too dizzy and fall over. Slightly above him, a mother monkey sat on the ledge protecting her baby monkey. Being relatively docile animals in an environment full of tourists giving snacks, we were able to get fairly close.

I like the above picture a lot, because it is a somewhat strange photograph. The monkey is protecting her child, at the same time, the background gives a bit of mysteriousness. The architecture of the buildings in the distance are extremely old and lend an enchanting twist to the photograph.

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Carrots

The markets in India are a fascinating place. From the major cities like Delhi and Agra to the smaller towns and villages, there is so much to see and experience. I prefer the food and vegetable markets because the shopkeepers will smile and wave, occasionally practice their English, but by-and-large let my wife and I wander around and explore without issue. The markets selling clothes and souvenirs are a bit different, however.

The shopkeepers selling wares will physically block our path trying to get us to look in their store. Sometimes they’ll grab as we walk by, but mostly they’ll nearly BEG us to stop in their market stall. I’m not a big buyer of clothes in the markets, and in places like India I tend to shut down a bit when getting inundated with people trying to hawk their wares (especially when nearly everything looks the same from shop to shop to shop).

So that’s why I enjoyed the walk through Delhi‘s smaller food and vegetable markets. Foods are always more colorful, and even if I can’t simply buy one and bite into it, the watermelons, tomatoes and carrots all look amazing and mouth-watering. And, as the shop-keepers prepare the foods, like picture above, they don’t mind have a photograph snapped of them along the way.

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Touring the Taj Mahal

As mentioned in this space before, my wife and I woke up early to visit the Taj Mahal. We arrived before sunset and stood in (separate) line(s) before clearing security and heading to the world’s greatest monument to love. Touring the Taj, every guide book said arrive early and beat the crowds.

I was amazed at the amount of people in line to get in at sunrise, but was even more stunned at the amount of people in line later in the day. In late-afternoon, the line wrapped around the fringes of the building before winding its way for a peak inside.

The foreign tourists were allowed to wander directly in and take the “shortcut” into the Taj. The “Nationals” had to go through heavier security and take the “long way” in. I’m not sure of the reason why, but it was nice to see so many locals coming to Agra, India to tour the site none-the-less.

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Haircuts and Chicken

The markets India are a fascinating place. (Actually, I think markets of any country can be a fascinating place.) Walking around and people watching is a timeless activity, but so is exploring the various items sold in said markets. In Delhi, my wife and I explored every nook-and-cranny we could find and were constantly entertained.

The above picture is a good example of unique things one can find in the markets of Delhi, India. A man cutting hair and a man selling live chickens share a storefront.

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Ferried Across the Yamuna River

While in Agra, India my wife and I walked around back of the Taj Mahal to see what we could find. We knew the Yamuna River was back there and had heard it was a pretty view as the sun dipped low in the sky, but our hotel had also suggested it was also a great place to see the Taj Mahal without paying the entry fee.

After walking along a road running parallel to the world’s most well-known symbol of love, we arrive at the riverbank. About an hour before sunset, there were a few security guards roaming about, a handful of local men and my wife and I. In the river was a small boat ferrying customers back-and-forth across the river. On the other side of the river was a large beach with a few kids playing, but for the most part, quite empty. Every-now-and-then someone would walk up and stand along the water’s edge. This was the signal for the boatman to come and pick him up.

Watching the boatman glide across the river a few times perked our interest. I can’t recall the exact price, but I’m pretty sure it was 200 Rupees (less than $4) for the two of us to hitch and ride back and forth. We picked up a passenger on the far side and the three of us quietly rode back enjoying the stillness of the water while watching the hordes of tourists inside the Taj Mahal. As the sun started to set, a few more tourists came over to our area, but by and large we had the place to ourselves.

It’s experiences like that which really make me appreciate travel. We really didn’t know where we were going, but we had heard it was a pretty view from behind the Taj Mahal. The boat ride across was a nice perk and a pleasurable experience, but overall, just seeing and experiencing is what makes me keep on traveling.

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Bulk Spices at the Market

Walking through Jaipur, India, I took far less pictures than in Delhi or Agra. My best guess is in Delhi my wife and I saw so many things at the market and in the various stalls that I wasn’t moved as much by the much smaller city.

These bulk spices, however, delightfully caught my eye. I wish, for the life of me, I could remember what they were. The man in the stall explained what they were, let us smell and sample some and was generally pleasant (versus most of the other stall owners who would nearly stalk us down the street as we walked along.) In going with the “less is more” approach, my wife and I purchased some spices from this stall because we appreciated his lack of force with his sales pitch.

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Resting Rickhaw

While walking around the streets of Delhi, India, it took me quite a while to get my camera out. I had heard and read so many stories of crime and I couldn’t bear to lose everything so early in the trip. By the second day however, I built up some courage and pulled my camera out.

And never put it away.

The colors and life of India are absolutely fascinating. For everything I didn’t like about the country, I loved the people who were friendly and didn’t mind having their pictures taken.

Yes, a few gave me the “wave off” as I raised my camera to take a photograph, but even the most hardened of teenage kids seemed to like having their pictures taken.

Obviously the rickshaw driver from New Delhi, India pictured above didn’t seem overly concerned about having his photo taken. Of course, I didn’t bother waking up to ask, either.

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Enjoying a Snack Overlooking the Taj Mahal

No trip to India is complete without a stop in Agra to see the Taj Mahal.

Before heading to bed for an early sunrise trip to the world’s most profound symbol of love, my wife and I stopped for a beer at a rooftop restaurant to grab a drink while watching the sun set over the rooftops of Agra, India.

The actual trip to the Taj Mahal didn’t impress me much. What did impress me was the way life functions every day around one of the world’s most famous structures, but with a “ho hum” type of attitude.

Just beyond the walls of the Taj Mahal are people living in squalor huts getting by on whatever they can; a few days ago I posted an entry about a gentlemen slowing rowing paying customers back-and-forth across the river; a young boy peddled next to my wife and I practicing his English before waving goodbye and peddling away (no, he didn’t try to sell us anything or encourage us to get a “free” map).

It’s interesting to me that, no matter how far away from home a person can get, that location is still “home” for somebody else. The guy dropping off beers at our table at the restaurant pictured above has one of the greatest “corner office views” in the world, and yet to him, its just a job.

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Slowly Rowing Across the Yamuna River

In Agra, my wife and I stayed near the Taj Mahal and made every effort to see the symbol of love as much as we could (sunrise, sunset and at night under the full moon).

One of the days as the sun was getting low in the sky, we walked to the backside of the Taj Mahal to watch the sunset. While we were waiting, we watched as a man in a boat slowly took passengers across the river to the beach on the opposite side. He’d let some off, and new passengers would hop on. It took a bit of time, but no one was upset it took awhile, and he just quietly kept rowing.

For US$4 the man agreed to take the two of us across the river and back again. It was a peaceful ride and one of my favorite experiences from India.

Upon reaching the opposite side of the river, there was a child playing along the banks and a man waiting to hitch a ride across. He jumped in the boat, paid his money and stood at the bow while chatting with the man doing all the work at the stern.

It was a fantastic slice of local life in India and the view was spectacular as well.

Random fun fact: My favorite image taken in India was captured on this boat ride. It’s the first image in the India Gallery of the Taj Mahal reflecting in the water. 

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Monkey Enjoying a Banana

When we travel, if there is a “monkey temple” nearby, we’ll make our way to it.  So hearing of one near Jaipur, India, my wife and I hired a car and took off in an attempt to explore the ancient temple before the sun set too low.

The journey to Galta Temple involved a lot of twists-and-turns on the narrow roadway, then our driver stopping and motioning for us to walk the rest of the way.  We hiked through the small temples in the (what I can only describe as) tiny village. The village reminded me a lot of Petra, Jordan with it’s high pink rock walls and two story buildings built right up against the cliffs (in Petra, however, the temples are built *into* the rock wall).

As we walked through the village and approached the temple, I took the above picture of the first little monkey we saw.  He was enjoying a couple of bananas, presumably leftover from a previous tourist.

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Cricket on the Sidewalk

While wandering around India, my wife and I realized just how popular cricket is there. Sure, I’ve heard many stories of cricket frenzied fans but never realized how frenzied it really was.

On our way back to the hotel, we were walking along the street and passed a park with droves of kids playing cricket.  Some were in jeans and T-shirts, some were in tattered clothes, and some were in traditional religious wear. It was fascinating to watch, but after a short while, they boys took quite an interest in my wife.

Everywhere in India we went my wife was quite popular. We weren’t sure of the exact reasoning, and it was further complicated when a older gentleman briefly chatted with us and mentioned she looks eerily similar to a famous Bollywood actress.

While we were watching the boys play cricket, one eventually came over with his camera phone to snap a picture of us. (And by “us,” I mean he motioned for me to slide out of the picture.)

Since turnabout is fair play, we continued to watch the boys play cricket, but before we left I took a few photos of them.

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