Goztepe in Izmir, Turkey
More Photography in Delhi (India Blog 29)
15 December, Saturday. 7:00 morning. Oh Man! Good sleep last night. I needed that. I was wise to stay one extra day here in Delhi. Otherwise, I would not have caught up on my sleep before the trip to Turkey.
I had some dreams, but do not remember any of them. That music stopped around eleven o’clock and it was okay after that. I thought it might go on later. One does not have the street noise here that one has in Kolkata. People just shout loudly on the street there.
I am going to try the area around the Jama Masjid this morning. First the mosque and then I will explore the area. I will use up all of the film that I have left.
So it will be back to Old Delhi today. I guess that I just cannot get enough of it. Actually, I think seeing Calcutta made me appreciate Delhi more.
5:00 Afternoon. That’s it. I made a day of it and I don’t think that I am going out again. I am on my last roll of film, the old expired colour film. I shot maybe half of that roll. I finished the black and white film in the Leica and two and a half rolls of colour in the Minolta. Altogether, I shot twenty-two and a half rolls. I am tired after going around all day.
Delhi is easier than Kolkata. Far less brutalizing, for sure.
In the morning, I took a rickshaw to Jama Masjid. I made pictures and walked from there. There are plenty of things to photograph besides the mosque.
A lot of the shops around the mosque are selling auto parts and even whole engines.
Finally, I went down into the bazaar which is actually part of Chandni Chowk. Saw several foreigners. Several couples were walking there. But most were travelling around in rickshaws. I suppose that it would be fascinating for them, but for good pictures, one really needs to be on their feet.
Back in those old ally ways, there are many old houses that were once upscale. Some have beautiful old doors. But now they are neglected and crumbling, like in the Kadife Kale area in Izmir, Turkey.
I shot off the film pretty quickly and finished the two and a half rolls of colour film. Then I finished the rest of the black and white film in the Leica.
Some rickshaw wallas are a little persistent, but nothing like that outfit in Calcutta.
Some of the small back lanes are treacherous now due to all the people dashing through there on motor scooters. One has to be constantly on alert and keep ducking into recesses, or getting up flat against a wall in order to avoid them.
Well, I had good energy, plenty of energy today. So that was good.
After I finished the film, around one o’clock, I decided to get back to the Connaught Circus area and have a beer.
I knew that I would lose the sun pretty quickly as the days were so short. If I hurried, I could get to India Gate and use that last roll of old colour film.
First, I had to have some lunch at Pind Baluch. I took a taxi to Regal Building and got into the restaurant. Ordered a Kingfisher beer. I ordered channa (chick peas). It was delicious, after the exercise in the morning. They give pretty big portions.
After the lunch, I walked back to the hotel and put the last old roll of film in the Minolta. I got a rickshaw to India Gate.
When I got there, I didn’t quite remember the orientation of the buildings and monuments. The India Gate is at the east end of that street, Raj Path. Rashtrapati Bhavan and Parliament is to the west. Parliament is just a little to the north of Raj Path.
I walked to the east toward India Gate as the sun was sinking fast. But it was still high enough for good pictures. I was surprised to see such a big crowd there. I do not remember seeing those crowds there in the past. Also they did not have the vendors all up and down the street, of sweets and various things to eat. But now there are many of them. The place is full of people wandering there.
After taking pictures of India Gate and the crowds, I walked back to the west. It is something like three kilometers to the west end where the President’s house and Parliament is.
A rickshaw guy wanted to take me there. I took it because the sun was going down rapidly and there was not time to walk. One cannot go all the way as there is a police barrier. But one could take pictures of the buildings from a distance.
Then the guy took me closer to Parliament building. It is closed off, but one can take pictures from a distance, near a fountain. It is good enough, unless one could actually go inside. I am sure that they do not allow that any more after the attack on parliament. It was in 2002, as I recall. I went to a conference in Bhopal just after that. It was a big blow to the security.
Some guys came along from Gurgoan, near Delhi. They started making their pictures with cell phones in front of the Parliament building. Then they asked me to join in the photo. Why, I have no idea.
Finally, I asked the rickshaw wallah to take me back to Regal Building. It was clearly time to hang it up for the day. The sun was sinking quite rapidly.
It was the last full day of the trip to India. And I enjoyed being back in Delhi again.
This morning at the hotel desk, I asked the clerk to please have them not tuck all the edges of the blankets under the mattress on the bed. One has to pull it all out in order to sleep. Anyway, I told them that one would have to be dead to lay flat there on the bed like that.
I never understood why all hotels do that shit.
Apparently, they did not get my message, because the blankets all got tucked in the same way again. The room cleaners must have standing orders to do it the same way every time.
8:30 evening. I have sorted my things out for the trip tomorrow. It has been a pretty good trip so far. Tomorrow should be the easy part. I will be glad to be going back on Turkish airlines.
Two weeks is long enough for a trip for photography where one is out in the streets every day. One probably gets a little tired, more than one realizes. But I am thankful that I had perfect health all the way through. I watched my food quite carefully to avoid problems with Delhi Belly.
Walking on the Howrah Bridge in Kolkata II (India Blog 13)
I walked up the curved ramp toward the entrance to the bridge meeting a heavy stream of people just swarming across from the western side. They are not out for enjoyment. They are seriously headed for somewhere important. They are not on a lark like me, I want to say. I took some pictures but realized that I was going against the flow of human traffic. And the bridge vibrates. One feels it all the way across as one walks. The Hooghly is a big river, quite wide.
Just as one comes onto the bridge, there is a sign that asks people not to spit. Spitting is a problem. Right then, my film ran out. There was no place to sit down and change it. This was the Kodak color film in the old Minolta. So I had to change the film just standing there by a railing.
Some crazy person, perhaps religious, came and started putting on an act in front of me. He was trying to attract my attention. But I ignored him, working to change my film. Some small school boys were also watching me. I don’t think they have ever seen a film camera before.
I then marched across the bridge to the other side taking some pictures. One goes down a ramp and then down stairs on the other side. Then there is an underpass that goes over to the other side of the bridge. There was no need for me to go there, as I was going to walk back on the same side of the bridge, the north side.
However, I was glad that I went through there and took a couple of pictures. On the other side, there was a pisser, right out in the open. An array of men, maybe 12 or so wide, were standing and collectively pissing. Brotherhood of pissers. I just pretended to be taking a picture of the bridge, but moved the camera around to get a picture of them relieving themselves. The 28 mm lens made it easier.
Then, I walked back through the underpass to the other side and started across the bridge again.
There are signs that forbid doing vending on the bridge, but in several cases, they are being ignored. I took some pictures of people selling things on the bridge. Some guys were selling fruit. They cut up several types of fruit, papaya, banana, watermelon and so on, and make a bowl of fruit to sell. I would have liked to have one, but I was afraid that it would totally fuck up my stomach.
When I got to the other side, I walked down the steps to the famous flower market. I remembered a video I had seen of it on Youtube. It was not as interesting as I expected when I was actually there and saw it. Peons were carrying big bags of flowers on their heads over the bridge to the other side.
Most of the flowers are saffron color, which is the Hindu holy color. There is obviously a huge market for them.
All kinds of baggage and supplies were being carried across in both directions. I stayed on the bridge for a while to get some pictures of guys coming carrying things on their heads and on poles over their shoulders.
Back on the street, I ended up on a busy corner. It was practically impossible to get across the street with all the traffic. When the light changed, it was not long enough to beat the traffic.
I stayed on the corner for a long time, just taking pictures of those old broken down buses. They were stopping right in front of me. They have a conductor who stands in the door and calls out where the bus is going.
Man! One can see shades of that film of Satyajit Ray, The Apu Trilogy, on the street here. I remembered the young guy, Apu, on the streets of Calcutta. I love those three films and watch them over and over. They are reproduced by the Criterion Collection of films. Beautifully done. It is hard to watch them without crying. Powerful films done with primitive equipment in black and white. I love them. It was a real struggle to produce them in India.
I hope that I got some good pictures there.
I realized that the best way to get across the street was to join a group of people and cross with them. When the light would turn green for walking, the old buses were blocking the path. And the light was too short, in any event. It was an amazing scene.
Finally, I got across with others and walked for a long way with sore feet. My feet were getting sorer all the time. I decided that it was enough photos there and I got a taxi, an old Hindustan Ambassador to Sudder Street. Lytton Hotel. Funny, I told the driver, the Alka Hotel, I realized later. But we got to my place. The old taxis are life-savers.
After a rest, I went to Zaranc Restaurant and had some Chinese dumplings and draft beer. After that, felt fine. I went through the small streets back of the hotel, near Hogg Market, and shot the rest of a roll of black and white film. But I am now starting to get low on black and white film.
The temperature was 27 degrees C today. Man! I recovered with those Chinese dumplings and draft beer. It was light and very good for the evening.
Today when I was on the other side of the bridge, as I was about to come back, I saw some guys discover a dead body under the bridge. One of the guys ran to get someone to come and pick the guy up.
I don’t know how people can survive in some of these streets that are complete hell-holes, worse than shitholes, as Trump has it. And the brutality of these rickshaws here. These runner rickshaws! Man. It has to be outlawed. Those guys are literally dying in the harness. My goodness! Tonight I saw a whole family, man, wife, two children, climbing into one of these rickshaws. And the poor guy was going to run pulling them by foot. Can you imagine such a thing?
I don’t know how many miles a day that they have to run like a horse in the streets. This is something sort of hidden, unrevealed to the world. At least, people just do not think about it. How can one have such a torture of humans as in this country?
Indians will get angry if any Westerner points out that it is brutal. But really, that is the height of being a hypocrite. I tried getting a picture of that and several other scenes also. I hope they turn out OK. I will hang it up for tonight.
Kolkata is a wonderful city. But one needs more time.
India Part II: Calcutta (India Blog 9)
Midnight: (Thursday December 6)
12:00 Midnight. I could not sleep. So Fuck it. If I sleep some, that would be okay. If not, then I will have to catch up sometime. Now somebody has started beating a drum somewhere.
The empty drum rattles the loudest.
Now the two guys in the next room are talking. They were talking loudly in the hallway outside my door. The bathroom door just started vibrating, maybe from the drum beats. Now I have closed it! Sometimes I wish that I was making my own noise and disturbing others the same way they do me. A mutual exchange of disturbing noise. Some people would be too insensitive to get it, however.
I suspect that this new BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party or Indian People’s Party) generation is different from the old ones. More nationalistic. Loving Mother India and Cows. What a crock! What ever happened to old fashioned honest critique of traditional society? The Sangh Parivar.
Where are the Marxists? The opium of the masses has reached flood stage.
This country has so many well-meaning people, so many improvement schemes, and the only thing they cannot improve is the culture of Hinduism, caste prejudice, itself. That’s the way it seems to me.
Ambedkar was right.
I had made the plane reservation for the flight to Calcutta at noon. But now the flight has been moved back to 6:40 AM. There is nothing I can do about such an ungodly hour. Nothing! I wish these guys would get straightened out and go to bed!
Friday, December 7: Calcutta
I did crap out shortly after midnight last night. It is now noon here. I will take a little rest. I had to turn the electric punkas off in the rooms. I have a nice room. A two-room suite, actually. Wonderful! Glad that I did not go for that famous Fairlawn Hotel.
I got into the hotel and relaxed.
7:45 Evening. I have shot one roll of black and white film already today. My film is going pretty fast and I want to get some good pictures.
I had to get out of the hotel in Delhi pretty early this morning, but picked up maybe three and a half hours of sleep. I checked out shortly after four o’clock in the morning and headed for the airport. It was a quiet, eerie, foggy morning in Delhi. It seems like quite a long way to the airport, but the roads are good now. The fare was around 230 rupees. I just gave the guy 300 rupees.
The navigational system in the car tells them how to go, all in English. I have not seen that in the taxis in Turkey yet. Anyway, it would have to be in Turkish.
It was lucky that I could connect to the internet, because I had to show the time of the flight from the email that came with the changes in order to get into the airport. Everything has become too technological these days.
Even in India.
Got checked in. The airline was making offers to upgrade to first class for 120 US dollars. There was no way that I was going to do that. So maybe that is why they put me in a middle seat with a huge bear, a stuffed pig, next to me. I hate that. The guy tried to stuff his coat down between us. I made him move it, as it was taking up my space. I was glad that when he tried to leave the plane, he got it stuck in the arm rest. He refused to put it in the overhead.
The guy on the other side, next to the windows looked more decent.
The flight was fine. Smooth most of the way. So no complaints.
They served a small breakfast, a sort of pronta and curry along with a roll. Then tea too. The stewardess was from the east, maybe Manipur, a beautiful girl.
The guy next to the window started to get upset. He didn’t want the pronta and asked if there was anything else. Then when the tea came, he asked for lemon. The girl said that she would have to go and get it, since the only lemons were in business class. (That’s what the hundred dollar upgrade was for, presumably. If you don’t pay, no lemons.)
Back in the cattle class section, the passengers do not measure up to having lemons. I said to the guy: “There are only two classes: Business class and cattle class.” He liked that. But his tone was very authoritarian toward the stewardess. First, he had said to the stewardess: “I’ll ask you for tea later.”
Then, when he asked for a lemon, he said: “Make sure she squeezes it.” My goodness! Then when the tea came, he wanted to squeeze the lemon in the tea.
He said: “Bring me the lemon. I want to squeeze it.”
Well, I would have loved to squeeze some lemons, but not that kind. I am sure that her lemons would be lovely to squeeze.
Then the girl offered to bring him another tea. But by that time, it was too late. The plane was about to land. So he had to give it up. I couldn’t believe that he was making so much fuss over a fucking cup of tea!
The luggage came okay and I lined up for a prepaid taxi. There was quite a big line there, so it took some time. The rate was 250 rupees to the city. All the taxis seem to be run by the police association and they are all old Hindustan Ambassador autos. The streets are full of these old cars painted yellow, and I love it. It seems that they have disappeared from Delhi. I mean, what is an Indian city without Hindustan Ambassadors? Each receipt that one gets goes with a particular taxi and the system seems to be working very well now.
It is great that the taxi system is working very well in the Indian airports now. It used to be hell a few years ago.
There was a money change place and I had to change some money, even though the rate was not the best.
The old Hindustan Ambassador was beautifully old on the inside. I regretted that I did not have some film in my Leica as the driver had Hanuman and Ganesh on the dashboard. I had never seen that back in the late sixties. But with Saffronization it is now everywhere in India, it seems.
I was ready for Kolkata. Calcutta. Ready for heaven. Ready for hell!