Travelling in India means crossing all types of terrain: from hard-scrabble, dusty, hot and dry desert, to lush, moist, hot and humid jungle, to everything in between. Wherever I find myself, I can also find an animal around the corner, or in front of my tuk-tuk, or peering down from above. Since I love taking photos of animals, you can see that this is yet another reason I love travelling in India!
Granted, it’s possible to see unhealthy specimens — feral dogs and alley cats come to mind immediately — and animals that just have to fend for themselves. But I’ve seen those in Canada and Japan as well, so that’s not just an Indian problem. So I tend to look for the fun or photogenic specimens instead.
You don’t have to travel far. I’ve found some great animal shots just sitting on a park bench, or while taking an evening stroll. And you don’t have to look hard for the exotic; there tends to be something big and interesting around every corner.
Anyone who’s read an entry or two in this site knows I’m pretty passionate about India. Over the years I’ve peered into the sub-continent (both India and Nepal) six or seven times, and managed to gather a few good shots (“India Travel Photography”) and a few good stories (“Failing to Trek” or “Two Weeks in India”).
I’m sure every India traveler gets asked “why?” particularly by people who have never been there themselves. I can’t easily answer that in a single blog, or in a single image or sentiment. It’s the people, the land, the animals, the atmosphere,… pretty much everything.
So I’m going to start off this little series with some people shots. In the eyes and expressions and demeanor of a few select Indians, I hope you see some of the things that I see. These people are (one reason) why I love India.
To say it was eye-opening is an understatement. To comment on the weird, ugly, gross, dirty aspects of India is really easy because those things are everyday, in your face, and memorable, but it also does a disservice to the country and people, which have so much more of what is good and great. I’m trying to come to terms with ”how” to describe something — anything — in a pithy way that doesn’t just come out ”the place smelled like human excrement, but the people were always smiling.” Saying it that way gives the impression of a lone Indian squatting on the tracks beside the train taking his morning dump in front of God, Shiva, and everyone, and smiling like a fool as a trainload of passengers rolls by.
Come to think of it, that’s exactly what you might see on any given morning. So I think about specific places and what I experienced there, and how to balance the beautiful with the bizarre in the retelling. At Jaipur, for example, also known as The Pink City because of the ordinance that all exterior walls of all buildings (within the old city) must be painted pink, we saw 400-year old palaces (pink ones!), we saw the world’s largest sundial, built 300 years ago by a Raj genius and keeping time to the minute even today, and we saw a dead dog in the middle of a busy backroad lay untouched and swelling in the Indian heat for two full days while cars continued to drive around it, people stepped around it, children played around it.
There was a lot of that, and it’ll take some time for me to learn how to tell the stories. I think I have to go back.