All frames taken by the author with a Minolta SRT 101 Camera on January 8, 2020. Film developed by the author using Tetenal Colortec C-41 process and scanned with an Epson Film Scanner. Kodak Codacolor 200 film.
India Trip: Blog 4: January 8, 2020. Amazing Commerce in Old Delhi
6:00 Evening. It gets dark fast. We are not on daylight savings time here.
It was a pretty good day, except that the roll of film in the Minolta camera slipped. But no big loss. I took it out and shot a roll of Kodak 200 color film in there.
I even found a guy in old Delhi selling Kodak Film but mostly Samsun Cameras. I asked him about 35 mm film, and he had it. So those who say that film is not available in India are wrong. It was quite okay today. I shot two rolls of film, one roll of color in the Minolta and one black and white in the Leica. It was a good day for pushing black and white film to ISO 1600.
I am not very picky about rickshaw prices since I am not going to be here very long. I didn’t find any place to change money today. But can do it tomorrow at the airport.
I left the hotel in late morning. I first went to that Madras Coffee House and had coffee. A guy was there taking down the Christmas and New Year decorations. I have about 4500 Rupees left now, a little more than sixty dollars. I avoid the touts that hang around the hotel. It is easy to get a sticky person that wants to follow one around and keep bugging you to take you somewhere that you have no desire to go to. I understand their desire to make some money, but I really am not responsible for their income. Whether increasing it or decreasing it. I know what I want to do. Almost everyone asks what hotel you are staying in. Why? They may come around or send a friend to hang around. So I never tell them what hotel I am staying in. One better not.
I know that I pay them more than normal to take me somewhere all across old Delhi. What is five or six dollars to me? I don’t really care at all. So I just let them make a little extra money. That’s okay with me.
So I just went out on the street and got a rickshaw. The guy said rupees five hundred. I knew that it was too much. I said four hundred. That is also too much, but I don’t care. The traffic is horrendous and it was raining lightly too. Earlier it had been raining quite heavily. I ended up giving the rickshaw wallah five hundred anyway.
I wanted him to leave me at the old Delhi Station, but where he left me, I could not get across that big road with all the traffic. There was an underpass, but I gave it up. It was an area that I had not seen before so I just shot some black and white film there.
I went into a quite small lane. There were rows and rows of electronic shops. An amazing area with amazing commerce there. When I finished that black and white film, I needed to sit down. I found a place that had tea under a roof. Next to it, the guy had chhola batora and puris. So I sat down there.
I took out my Minolta. I started taking pictures with that, I thought, but actually, the film had slipped off the take up spool. I finally wound it back, but the end of the roll went into the film spool. I need to recover it in the dark to reload it.
I switched back to the Leica. Then I came to a place where they were selling all these bright colored lights. I thought that I can’t miss this, but needed color film. So I got my old Minolta and loaded a roll of Kodak 200 color film in it. I finished that roll, but not right there.
I did talk to a few guys along the way and had tea with them. They took my picture with them with a cell phone. Everybody has a camera in their phone now, which is good. I also took their picture, but unfortunately, the film was not advancing.
Well, people pretty much know what is going on, if one spells it out for them and cut through the bullshit. Most of them think that America is great, but I tell them that most people are getting poorer. It is a good thing that a lot of people here know English.
By that time, it was starting to get darker. It was pretty dark all day, but there were lights in the market. I walked up through part of Chandni Chowk and got a rickshaw.
Before this, one of the two guys who talked to me kept bugging me to take me to the spice market or to a masjid (mosque). I told him that I was not interested.
The other side of the street that goes up toward the Jama Masjid was so crowded. I knew that I had to walk up through there to get a rickshaw. But this bug stuck to me and kept bugging me. Man! They can really be sticky. I was taking a picture now and then on the street. Finally I just had to tell him: “Please, I am not interested.” Man! I finished that roll of color film and walked up the street looking for a rickshaw.
I found one, but this one has two facing seats. I didn’t know it at the time, but this kind cannot go into Connaught Circus. So I had to shift to a different kind of auto rickshaw. The traffic was horrible and surely dangerous. By this time it was dark. I took a video on the way with my cell phone. For some reason, the guy did not want me to do it. Probably because he was not supposed to be going that close to Connaught Circus. He stopped the rickshaw and asked me to stop taking the video. It didn’t matter, as I had taken all I wanted to.
I recognized the road and the old monument, a red stone gate, that I had photographed last year coming from the Red Fort. At the road stops, there are beggars and sellers. He seemed to be telling me to hold onto my bag tight. I had it right in front of me with both my cameras in it. It could be dangerous, I know. I didn’t see any other tourists around there. I guess they would not be likely to be where I was, anyway.
Finally, we got to a place on the street where other rickshaws were parked. He had to put me in a different rickshaw. I got it quickly why. He could not take me all the way in that rickshaw. So I had to pay again. A young Sikh guy took me. But he had to ask several times about P-Block. They do not know the names of the blocks of Connaught Circus. I always tell them, next to Regal Building. Most of them know Regal building.
Finally I recognized the Regal Building. It still says “Regal Building.” I saw it today, but the rickshaw wallah did not know it. So I had him leave me at the corner and paid him. He was happy. That’s all.
I ate something twice, when I needed to change my film. That’s about the only way. Otherwise, there is no place to sit down. The first time was rupees 40 and the second time again rupees 40. About 60 cents. It was so cheap and actually seemingly good. The second time, it was two potato pakoras and they were actually very good. I hope that they agree with my digestion.
Anyway, I was glad to be back to the Madras Coffee House. Again, I had a coffee and then to the hotel.
It takes quite a lot to write all that up, but anyway, a good day.
Why is the US going into this war with Iran? It is truly madness. Just madness. What a mad, mad, country. People here know that it is mad!
What can one do? Two days are gone already of this trip. But I have shot two and a half rolls of film. I don’t know what I will get tomorrow. Maybe it is going to rain again, but there is no wind like in Istanbul. I will be off to Lucknow.
Blog 2: Settling into Connaught Circus (January 7, 2020)
The next thing was how these guys tried to trick me. Man! Something like that always happens. Dodgy Delhi again!
I saw these guys come up to me just outside the airport door. They showed me the prepaid taxi booth. It was no longer inside the airport. So I went there and paid my Rupees 400. Between five and six dollars. But they took me to a place a little farther. These are the police prepaid taxis. There were small yellow and black taxis lined up there. But they took me back and started calling on their phone for a car to come. Then I knew their game.
I told them that they were trying to fuck me over. I asked what all these small vehicles were there, because I took one of those last year.
This taxi mafia in Delhi is hard to crack. Finally, a guy agreed to take me in one of those. That’s the way it is supposed to work. They thought I would not know this.
When we got to Connaught Circus, the driver could not find Alka Hotel, even though I had the exact address and phone number. All these places look the same to me around Connaught Circus. But then, I recognized that old Madras Coffee House and then we found the Hotel, which is just a little farther.
I am a little cold in the room right now. It is 11:20, morning.
3:20 Afternoon. I went out with my Leica and finished the black and white roll that was in the camera. I first went to that old Madras Coffee House. I made a couple of photos in front and then went inside. These people around the hotel are bugging me a lot. And the rickshaw wallas bug one to say what hotel you are staying in. Some of them already know.
Anyway, I went into that coffee house and had a coffee. All the food that they serve there is South Indian. Dosa, idli and things like that. They asked me what I wanted. I ordered a coffee. They wanted me to order some food. I said that it is all South Indian, “but I am Punjabi” making a joke. I ordered something, but I guess they did not understand, because it did not come.
I had the coffee, real coffee, and a very different flavor that I have not tasted before. It was Rupees 80, but I just gave them a one-hundred note.
I asked, but they did not want me to make pictures inside. But I made a couple when they were not looking.
They still had their Christmas decorations up, with a tree and colored lights.
I went out and tried to take some pictures around the hotel. The auto rickshaw guys bug you and some beggar kids also hang around.
6:50. Took a nap. Three hours or so. I had made a few pictures out in front but those kids and rickshaw wallas kept bugging me. So I walked over to the Pind Baluchi restaurant near Regal Building acrosss the street. I ordered a chicken dish and a beer. What they call light Kingfisher is 4.7 percent. So even that is strong enough.
The room here is quite cold continuously, so I may be getting a sore throat.
I had some of the spicy sauce with a nan. That was delicious, but I did not care for the chicken. And anyway, it was three times more than I could possibly eat. I left most of it and drank the beer. I guess that it helped me to sleep. I did need to sleep. That’s for sure.
After that, I went around the corner where the old Kwality Restaurant is and finished that roll of film. Pushed to ISO 1600 in the Leica.
I woke up a little after 6:00 in the evening. It was a cloudy day. Some light rain.
There has been fighting between the ABVP and other students at Jawaharlal Nehru University and it is still going on. That is the Akhil Bharati Vidyarthi Parashad or all India Students Organization. This is a Hindu fascist outfit, linked to the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party). It is like a communal riot, except between groups of Hindus, mainly the BJP fascists, and those who are not Modi supporters.
Man! I am a bank teller machine. Everybody seems to want some money from you. I understand it. There are a lot of poor people. Very mixed. Right here in central Delhi, most people walking on the street look like they are making it fairly well. That’s what I see. But there was one place this morning, where people were just sleeping on the pavement. I think that it is hard to survive like that.
The traffic is really terrible on the streets in the morning.
I will try to change some more money tomorrow. Maybe go to Paharganj for that. I don’t know.
I turned on the TV. Lots of channels are there, but only a few operate. Only one was in English, and one was from the Northeast, Assam.
I was just thinking about how the political scientists got it so wrong about Indian politics. They thought the country would become more and more secular, but now has been taken over by the Hindu Nationalist BJP. Now they claim that that is normalisation of Indian politics and the NED (National Endowment for Democracy) in the USA is supporting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to control politics. One has to approach these opinions very skeptically.
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.
Jet Airways from Kolkata to Delhi (India Blog 28)
What did I enjoy in Calcutta (Kolkata)? I cannot say that I enjoyed the people very much because I was not around the type that one could actually make friends with. I enjoyed the beer. That was delicious after hard pounding the streets with my cameras for several hours.
I enjoyed seeing the Howrah Bridge and walking across it and back.
I enjoyed taking pictures and using my Leica M6 and old Minolta SRT 101.
I enjoyed walking, even with all the obstacles.
I enjoyed seeing and riding in those old Hindustan Ambassador taxis, like something out of the 1950s. Those old, quite solid, cars are fun.
I enjoyed the food generally, not eating meat, I think, hardly at all. The taste and spices in Calcutta are somewhat different than in the north.
I enjoyed seeing some of the historical record of the British in India here, like St. John’s Church, and of course South Park Street Cemetery.
At 5:07 in the morning the first call to prayer is going down from a mosque.
I enjoyed the visit to the Victoria Memorial and the people there were not harassing one for money. They were just friendly and wanted to make their pictures with you. That was nice, and I felt friendly toward them. I enjoyed taking photographs there.
In Delhi, I enjoyed seeing more of the old areas that I had seem before, like Pahar Ganj and Chandni Chowk.
I enjoyed seeing the old places in Connaught Circus like that old Kwality Restaurant and the old corner where the old Bobby’s was.
I enjoyed seeing the Red Fort again and getting some pictures of it from different angles.
And, I generally enjoyed the flights, except for having a hurting butt and the pushy crowds and sometimes rude people.
So I have to say that there have been many things in the trip that I have enjoyed.
I was happy that the telephone connections to Turkey worked quite well so it was easy to communicate.
6:20 Got a Shower, Shave, Shit.
I will get out of here before long.
I have to be organized, organisized. Get my organs sized. That makes travel a lot easier for sure, and helps make it go smoother.
I will be getting out about 6:45.
2:50 Afternoon. New Delhi. The plane was late. And then the traffic in Delhi was terrible all the way to Connaught Place.
I will rest up a little and go eat. I will use up the rest of my film tomorrow. I am happy to be out of Cal and back in Delhi.
I got out of the hotel in Calcutta a little before seven o’clock. Ali got a taxi for me to the airport. A young driver brought me to the airport. It was a more modern car than those old Hindustan Ambassadors.
On the way, I saw some things that I had not seen before. Man! It would take a long time to see all the interesting sights in Calcutta. There were some interesting things that I wish I had known about earlier. I wish I had seen these areas.
First was the chicken market that we came through. Hundreds of chickens in coops and being made into meat. A little farther up on the same street, it became the fish market. I could not see much of it, but they had the fish laid out in the ground on a cloth of some kind. There was no ice or anything like that. A little farther were the coconuts market. There were piles of them all down the street. I think it was a sort of wholesale place for them.
I wish that I had seen these places earlier as they were great for photography. I missed these markets totally!
After a lot of dodging traffic, we finally came to the airport. It is farther than I remembered when I landed here. And the driver took a totally different route.
I had to go through the airport security again. They make me take off my shoes every time. That makes me think that the shoes I am wearing are very good shoes. Perhaps they have some metal in them. But I need them for pounding the streets.
The flight to Delhi was okay, but it was crowded. The airline was putting some pressure on passengers to upgrade to business class. They wanted 100 US dollars for it. It is not very small money. They said it was an eighty percent discount. I don’t believe that. I would probably feel too much like a bourgeois babu sitting up there with all the lemons. So I thought that it was not worth it. I saved my one hundred dollars. But they made me pay for it in a way.
The seats are quite small. This young dunce of a guy came next to me. I had the window seat on the starboard side of the plane. I was just three rows back from business class.
It was the second time that I got a crude asshole like that next to me on Jet Airways. I couldn’t get lucky enough to have a decent person in the next seat.
I am not asking for a pretty girl, just a decent person. Should not be too much to ask for.
After we took off, this guy went to sleep and started snoring quite loudly. And this made it more crowded, since he would not take off his jacket. The guy snored. Slept and snored loudly. What a bore!
Then the food came and we got a snack. And some chai. That was good. But this guy kept snoring.
After the food was finished, this guy woke up and opened up his own food from a bag that he brought on board. It was smelling to high heaven. It was a sort of egg sandwich, it seems, but then he broke out another one full of achar, a real strong smell of achar (Indian pickles). It surprised me that the airline allowed someone to do that. And the flight back to Delhi was longer, since there was no tail wind. Anyway, I got through okay and got my bag.
But while coming out of the plane, I told one of the stewardesses about that incident. I said that I didn’t think that it was a good idea to let people bring their own food onto the plane. I asked if this was Punjab Roadways.
5:10. I went and had some food at that Punjabi Restaurant, Pind Baluch. That place is doing very well. It is full in the late afternoon.
Back to the plane. The stewardess said that people could bring some food onto the plane, like a sandwich.
The taxi was okay, but the traffic was so heavy that it took more than an hour to get to the hotel. Glad to be back in Delhi. Quite a bit cooler here than in Kolkata. It surprised me. Everybody here was wearing jackets or sweaters. It is a big difference from Kolkata. I just went out with a shirt and felt cold.
10:00 Evening. Took a nap. Felt a little cool in the room. The room seems to be right on top of some discotheque and more noisy than the one I had before.
I will finish up taking pictures tomorrow. Need sleep tonight.
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!
A River of Shit (India Blog 8)
I guess that it must have been Punjab that ruined me.
After that two years, I could never really feel at home in the USA again. I just wanted to get the fuck out every time that I got a chance.
Somehow it gave me a feeling of freedom. Freedom from so-called American freedom.
Finally, I had had enough and left for good. That was in 1992. Some 27 years ago. I have never been sorry that I did for a single day. One of the best decisions I ever made in my entire lifetime.
It saved my ass.
Sometimes people ask me if I miss anything. I tell them that the only thing I miss is the poverty. It is true. In the USA, I was always short of money. Once I left, I have never felt poor again. Not since the day I left.
“Life, liberty and poverty,” as one of my brilliant students wrote on his exam.
I also don’t have to feel guilty about contributing to the US imperialist war machine that has ripped up so much of the world. That has caused such a hell for so many people. Especially in the Middle East. The US makes trouble everywhere. Political security, my ass! The US destabilizes every place it hits, under the name of political stabilization. Once “stabilized,” American capital can come in and clean up in the country. Make a killing. Get the oil. Cheap labor in Vietnam. That’s the rest of the story that Americans never hear.
Global security, national security and so on.
If one just reads a little of Chomsky and one should understand it very well. But most Americans do not read that kind of thing.
I don’t know if they would understand it, the way they have been brainwashed by the system. So I cannot say how many would really get it. It is not easy to break down systematic ideological indoctrination. This is the especially true in the case of a country so religious. The religious factor is exceptionally strong in the United States of America. It can easily block rational thought.
That is another boon of living abroad. One largely escapes the constant brainwashing. Turn off the TV. Give your brain a break. Shoot the mother, like Edward Abbey did. Free yourself. Free yourself from that river of shit.
You won’t regret it.
Get off shit-face book.
Talk about the swamp in Washington? More like a cesspool, actually. The corporate media floods the country with a river of shit every single day. They call it the news cycle.
My book, USA and the New Middle East, would also be quite educational. If read. It is in some libraries in the USA and a lot of libraries in the Middle East and Europe.
All that work to write a book and no one reads it. Face-book will pretty much ensure that.
Back to Delhi.
When I got to the Regal building, I went into that restaurant in the old Bobbys corner. Pind Baluch Restaurant. At first, I thought it meant Baluch Village, but the waiter, from Utterkhand, said that Baluch just means “place.” Then I realized it must be a Punjabi restaurant, since they started playing Punjabi music.
I had chicken tika and nan. And a big Kingfisher beer. It was not as expensive as Kwality. A great restaurant! The food is better! I was hungry and the food was delicious.
After the meal, I told the guy at the door that I had known the place since it was a discotheque back in 1968, when I first came to India. It was a sports bar when I was there ten years ago in 2008. They were amazed that I knew that about the place and I don’t think either of these guys were even born at that time. It was the infamous Bobby’s. Unbelievable!
Well, I am off for Cal (Calcutta) tomorrow. Now Kolkata. I read that Jet Airways is strapped for cash and the company has not even paid their employees and pilots what they are owed. I don’t know what kind of outfit it is. Maybe it needs to merge with another airline. But the piece said that they were getting a cash infusion soon. They were asking the passengers for it the next day in the airport.
It was not good news to read before taking a flight on the airline.
This is the end of Delhi for this time. Three days, only, this time. That Chandni Chowk is the real India. That is it, undiluted.
I think that I had pulled the wool over my eyes about India. But I think that the scales have fallen now. No need to sugar coat it. The people in these cities, like Delhi, are struggling to survive and are being brutalized there in that mess. Only the very young women are sometimes very beautiful. There are some beauties, but what is their future?
Most will be hit with the tragedy of marriage.
The Red Fort (Lal Qila) (India Blog 7)
After my photo shoot in the Moslem section, I found a pedal rickshaw and asked a guy to take me to the Lal Qila (Red Fort). He said 100 rupees. A guy nearby said: “No, only forty rupees. Not more than 50 rupees.”
I said, it is not very important, whether it is a dollar or half a dollar!
I was not going to fall, famished on the street, for fifty fucking cents.
Anyway, I got in. An old pedal rickshaw. I do not like to take them and have someone pedalling me under their own muscle power, but one has to take them in a pinch. They also have a hard seat. But the poor guy has to work hard to pedal one. I felt bad about it.
When we got to the fort, which was not very far, I realized that I only had the 500 rupee note. The guy said that he did not have the 400 change. He said that he only had 100 rupees change. So I just gave him the 500 note. I am sure that the guy needed it more than me. It was a lucky day for him.
Having enough small change with one in India is a problem and I am always in need of small bills. Rupees 20 and under and pretty useless and I generally just hand them out to beggars on the street. But they run out quickly too.
It must have been a terrible problem when the Indian Government demonitized the whole money system.
I realized that I had to put a new roll of film in the Minolta. So I needed a place to sit down to do that. I was at the entrance to the Red Fort and it was difficult to find a place. It was not like Turkey, where there would have been chai places and food places and perhaps benches to sit down and do it.
While I was looking for a place, the hawkers started to come to sell me post cards and other things. I was starting to get a little irritated and they were very persistent in harassing me.
I had to tell them, in a rather harsh way, that I was not interested and to please leave me the hell alone. I was busy doing something else. They are like small children, or a TV, howling for attention.
Then I found a low wall near the fence, where I could sit down and change the film. Some two or three school boys stood around watching me change the film.
Then a young guy came selling some kind of rice cakes. He was coming right up to me and harassing me. I said: “Well, I am doing something else right now. So I am not going to eat anything.” It was starting to get on my nerves that they would not leave me alone. It was like I was fresh meat to pounce on.
Finally, I finished changing the film and got up to go inside. I was surprised to see that there was no charge for the Red Fort there. At least, not for the outside of it. A couple of more guys came at me with post cards. These hawkers really ruin tourism in the country, the way they pester tourists. I was starting to get more irritated with them. My objective was to take some pictures and not to fool around buying post cards from them.
I have bought those cheap postcards so many times in the past, I can’t remember how many times. So I was not in the market for them at this point.
I walked inside the gate, which is outside, the perimeter of the fort and started taking pictures with my 28 mm lens on the Minolta. The view is magnificent. I had never realized how big the fort was in the past, with the massive walls and the moat.
I know that there are several special buildings inside the fort, but I did not have time for all that today. It would take a whole day to tour inside the fort. That would have to be another trip to Delhi. So I just walked around the outside of it and made pictures.
They are also still doing the Sound and Light show inside the fort that I had seen twice in the past. The first time was in 1970 and the second time was probably in 1989. It is worth seeing, if one has not seen it before.
Finally, I came around to the gate to the east. Some guys had asked me to make pictures with them along the way. They were taking selfies with their cell phones. I was surprised that so many people wanted to take their pictures with me, a complete stranger. I am not so photogenic and that time, I was actually not in a very good mood, after having to ward off so many pesty hawkers. But I was glad to meet people that were not interested in selling me something.
(India Blog 6)
Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi
6:45. Evening. A good day. Good pictures, I hope. Shot about three and a half rolls of film. More than a hundred frames. The last color one is still in the Minolta. It is a good thing that I had that 28 mm lens. I needed it. I had never realized just how massive the Red Fort is. The Lal Qila.
I spent almost the whole day in Chandni Chowk. I didn’t eat or drink there. And I didn’t carry any water as I had the cameras.
Anyway, it is very different from Paharganj. A big Gurdwara there, but I was on the wrong side of the road to photograph it fully.
After that, I wandered back into another area that was totally Moslem. There were at least two big mosques there. One has to get out of the most crowded areas to get decent photos. That is, to even start to frame them anywhere decently.
I sat down on a cement stairway next to a shop to change my film. I realized that it was a good place to take street shots and no one was bothering me there. It was right on the street. So I just kept sitting there. It was right across from a huge mosque. As far as I can tell, I didn’t have anyone trying to steal my bag today.
I still have 1400 rupees out of that first one-hundred dollars that I changed, and it is probably enough to get me to Calcutta. And probably to the Hotel Lytton too. But I would like to change money at the airport if I can. I will be packed up and ready to go tomorrow. The flight is at 6:40, morning. I need to be there two hours before the flight. So I will leave the hotel at a little after four in the morning.
Today was generally quite good. I had to get rid of a couple of hawkers at the Red Fort. They come at you in a very aggressive way with those post cards and other things. Sometimes one has to be quite hard to get them to stop harassing one.
In the morning, it was farther to the Chandni Chowk area than I expected. And there was a lot of traffic. I got down to that big main street. There were families of monkeys walking along the buildings on the opposite side of the street. There was massive traffic, and the middle of the street was all dug out. They were apparently putting in a pipeline. I made some pictures there, but it was too crowded to do any proper framing. The streets were jam packed with rickshaws, cars, small vans and trucks. Even a few bullock carts.
I went into a side street. The sun was coming at an interesting angle, making it rather difficult to shoot black and white film. The electrical wiring was unbelievable, the way the cables were wound up and tangled together. I spent some time trying to photograph that. It was just amazing and quite easy to photograph, really. No one put up any resistance to my photography.
I went inside a smaller lane. This was really better for framing the shots.
When I came out on another street, it had shifted to an Islamic area. I was in front of a large mosque. There were some interesting characters on the street and I began to photograph them. At first, I was just walking, doing what I could. I sat down on a side street, near a stairs, to change the film in the Minolta.
But them, I started shooting black and white film with the Leica M6.
I shot almost a whole roll of 36 frames right there in the same spot. I was sort of back from the street rather out of site. I realized that it was a good place from which to shoot the street. The light was good for black and white, out of the direct sunlight. People had no idea that I was taking pictures of them. It was also a help that there were so many things going on and much confusion. I was not being noticed. There was a constant parade of people walking on the street, where there were no sidewalks.
After a while, an old Moslem guy came with a cart and set up a peanut stand just to the right of me. And he asked me to make his picture. But after that, he acted like he wanted a tip. Unfortunately at the time, I didn’t have any change, and the smallest thing I has was a 500 rupee note. I made a couple more pictures of him while he was selling peanuts.
Young children were coming from a school, packed into rickshaws. There must have been ten or more packed into each rickshaw. That was their school bus. Many people were just walking on the street in rather local colorful outfits, so it was a good place to get local pictures.
Finally, I figured that it was enough in that spot. I walked on and was rather hungry and thirsty by that time. I thought about where I should go. I thought of that Moti Mahal Restaurant that I had made a note of. I knew that it was not too far from there, near the Red Fort.
But first to the Red Fort.
India 2: Early Morning Reflections (India Blog 5)
6 December. 3:30 AM. Thursday. This guy in the next room is snoring incredibly loud. I have been hearing it since I woke up around 2:30. It even disturbs me here in my room. The walls must be pretty thin, for sure.
Yesterday, I was accosted by a woman on the street claiming that she wanted help for children in Bangladesh. Sure enough, she presented a petition of sorts. She claimed that several foreigners had signed it. I saw names and “USA” beside the names. But I didn’t examine it closely.
First, she said: “No Money. Just sign.”
I said: “How will my signature help?” I said that I don’t have any information about it. I didn’t sign and just started walking away. Then she asked for some money. I am sure that if I had signed it, she would have hooked me for some money for sure. Bangladesh, my ass. How would I know if this is anything legitimate? Probably a scam. Why not? Is Bangladesh more needy than India? Where are the signatures of Indians? Anyway, I have no way of knowing, so it would be foolish to give money. If you just walk away, they will not follow you.
She was operating in Paharganj, where a lot of foreigners hang out.
Then I went a little way out of the main street. There were vegetable markets there. A old guy with a white beard came holding a round metal container in one hand. He asked me for money. I thought, Okay. I will give him twenty rupees. But he wouldn’t take it. “One-hundred rupees,” he said. It was like he was bargaining about how much I would give. Then I heard him say: “Five-hundred rupees.” And “why the hell should I give you five-hundred rupees when I know nothing about you and have never seen you before?” I thought.
Another guy wanted to shine my shoes. I had just had them shined, so I was not interested. He said: “Oh, just brush them for twenty rupees.” I said: “They don’t need it, but here is twenty rupees, anyway.” And I walked away. There was no need to waste my time with that. Some kids there just call to you: “Money.” It seems that the foreigners have got them trained in that part of Delhi. They have trained a new generation of beggars.
It is hardly different from “Go Fund Me” on the internet, I must say. That is just high-tech begging. The Western form. Welcome to corporate capitalism. So-called neoliberalism. A new form, when today’s capitalist economies will not provide jobs for many people. At least not the kind that they can tolerate.
So everybody is out for something. But it is unfortunate because after a while, one starts to see everyone who approaches you as wanting something from you. Their friendliness is just feigned to put a hook into you and get something out of you. It is not always that way, but one starts to get that impression. It is because they have actually been spoiled by the foreigners that stay down there in Pahargunj.
I didn’t find the beggars as bad as in Hyderabad, but maybe it was because I was with some American women there. And here, they see that I am busy taking pictures and don’t want to be bothered. It is an institution. Giving will just perpetuate and strengthen it. Probably, there is no solution that the government or anyone can reach. Not under the current system. Sometimes, one feels that Indira Gandhi had the right idea. Mass Sterilizations. There is something to be said for corporatism in such a dire situation. Probably that is what it would take. And it would necessarily be cruel. Some way to control the population. Over population. It is actually not a myth, as one realizes in India. It cannot be said that it is not a problem here.
Most people are forced to deal with it by just looking the other way. It is the only way to cope with it.
I think some type of corporatist rule from the top would be the only way to approach it. Not what they call “democracy” now. I hate to say that, but perhaps it is true. Where are they going? Where have they gone? Everybody with their own car or auto rickshaw or even bicycle just clogs up all the roads.
The mass production of sub-standard individuals who have little or no education. Even the rats have to struggle less than the people to survive here. They are exporting labor. The cheap kind and some of the expensive kind, in the form of doctors and professors.
There must be some limit. Escaping to the USA is not the right thing, either.
I admit that it is bad to come to the country and take pictures for two weeks, like in a zoo, and then get out. Maybe it is wrong. I don’t know. But I didn’t create the situation. Actually, I spent two years of my life thinking that I might do something worth while in this country.
It was all illusion. Nonsense. I don’t know if anyone really believed in that. The so-called “Peace Corps.” I don’t know. The Peace Corps officials were just getting a job and a chance to travel and live abroad. A good deal while it lasted. Nehru knew that it was a joke but did not want to displease Jack Kennedy and his brother in law, Shriver. He had upper class manners and played along.
With all the recent economic growth in India, people, masses of them, are now just eking out a tiny living. The economy goes up. Everything else seems to go south.
Except in rich, elite, families. The only decent-looking young women and girls are those not yet hit by the tragedy of marriage.
But it is still a hell of an interesting society.
I read a few things in the Hindustan Times, and old newspaper. The government is now setting up cow shelters. Well, one generally does not see them on the streets here, like in Varanasi. It seems like the Modi Government is doing more for cows than for people. What a society! It has just happened in some village not far from Delhi. Clearly, one is better off being a cow.
God! Gott! What a fanatacism over cows. The cows are better off than the vast majority of women.
10:30 Morning. I am about to head out for Chandni Chowk, Kashmiri Gate. At four o’clock, I was not sleeping, so I took a pill and slept until after eight.
Tomorrow to Cal! Calcutta! Here I come.