hints, allegations and things left unsaid...
I wish everyone a Happy and Bright Deepawali!
Before you burst that cracker spare a thought for our already choking environment.
(This picture is of an abloom bottle-brush plant - called so because of the way its flowering branches look. Nothing quite as spectacular as the last time, but still).
At Vittala temple complex
One temple after another passed in a flash. After stopping at just two or three temple complexes people had now completely lost interest. Perhaps the rains had dampened everyone’s spirits. The guide was quick to take notice of this. Places where we would have spent at least good 10 minutes, were now simply mentioned in passing - that too as our bus would pass by them. Before I knew it, it was time for lunch.
Our final destination in Hampi was to be the Vittala temple complex. A bus usually enters the complex area through a stone gateway which is a tad too narrow for a bus to pass. You have to enter the gateway dead-straight and once you do, there is no room for maneuvering. Our driver, in consistence with the conscientiousness he had demonstrated so far, entered at an angle to the stone gateway's left wall. As he drove on - oblivious to the yelling by the persons on the last seats, the glass panes of the last window seat rubbed against the stone and came crashing inwards with a report. The poor girl sitting at the window had to make a dash for it. Startled, I started and stared in disbelief.
I didn't enter the complex this time and roamed outside instead. I eventually struck up a conversation with the guard checking the tickets at the temple gate. I am usually very reticent in asking people to pose for me. It so happened that most people I did request for being my subject (the guard at the Krishna Temple Complex for instance) were equally reticent. The end result is a bit like the episode from Hunchback of Notre Dame where Quasimodo - who is deaf, finds himself being judged by an equally deaf magistrate during his trial. The man here was different. He not only shared tips with me about Saturday and Sunday nights being a good time to visit the temple for it is lit-up during those nights, but also posed for me - even if it involved momentary dereliction of his duties.
Marred by rains
When we started our drive to Hampi, it was drizzling. A look at skies clearly told me that it would only get worse. I am no stranger to Hampi, and as we neared our first stop - the large Ganesha monolith, I could surmise that the route followed by us would be identical to one we had taken the last time. Whatever doubts I had were cleared in next few minutes when we were introduced to our tour guide - he too was the same person who had guided us during our last trip! The good part about all this was that I did not need to pay attention to what the rest of the entourage was doing. I could simply soak in things at my own pace. As I stood looking at the Hampi Bazaar from the pillared portico of the large Ganesha temple, memories of just months ago rushed me by. I tried to take pictures, but the wind was so strong the it blew raindrops straight into my lens. The stony floor was dangerously slippery. It would have taken but one bluster to send me tripping down. The camera was thus promptly packed back in. While I was lost in my thoughts, others had moved to the Virupaksha temple. I carefully tip-toed behind them.
This picture was taken as I waited at the Virupaksha temple's courtyard for everyone to return.
[Update]: After some deliberation (and considerable Paint Shop Pro tomfoolery) I decided to post the touched up version of the picture that I had originally posted.
Another visit to Hampi
The pleasure I had derived from my trip to Hampi in January had left me asking for more. Sure, I underwent an appendectomy soon afterwards but I don’t think the two were related. In any case, I didn’t have more appendices to risk a statistical correlation between the two; why worry? With the trusted KSTDC packaged North Karnataka tour ticket in my pockets, I started counting the days.
A good part of my journey seemed like a misadventure; though hindsight has cured me of such ill feelings.
If you’ve bothered to read this far, you’re probably wondering what is this narrative doing next to a picture of flowers (or probably not, you are really not the curious sorts. Or you are simply too nonchalant - Hell it’s his blog, how does it matter?). In any case, read on. The not so subtle answer is not so subtly hidden in the words that follow:
The journey to North Karnataka began on Thursday. After a dinner with friends, and after having almost thrown a fit at how late I was going to be, I reached the KSTDC boarding point sharp at 8:30. We were to start at 9:00, but there was no sign of the bus yet. It arrived a good 45 minutes late. It was drizzling and I was somewhat drenched by the time I got in. I was expecting that there would be a luggage compartment – a boot or something at the bus’s rear. There was no such thing. I lugged the suitcase in and fortunately found room behind my seat where I could dump my suitcase.
Things started looking bleak this moment on. Firstly, when I reached my pre-destined seat – no. 36 – I found, to my utter disappointment, that it was not a window seat but one next to it. (In hindsight I was glad it was so, but more on it a little later). The girl sitting on seat no. 35 was told by her mother to ask me to sit somewhere else - seat no. 34 may be. I would have gladly obliged but the two seats next to me (33, 34) were occupied by two ladies from Hungary who, quite rightly, refused to swap just one of their seats. The mother eventually told her younger daughter (a 4th perhaps 5th grader) to swap seats with her elder sibling. I was wet, upset over this game of musical chairs which did not end in my getting a window chair, and offended because I consider what the mother did, disparaging – what a way to start a journey I looked forward to so eagerly.
Soon the engine was revved up and the bus trudged away to its destination. It was raining outside even heavily and thus all the windows of the bus were shut. The lights in the bus were soon switched off as well. Once the sensory organ of sight was rendered useless, the sensory organ of smell became over enthusiastic and tried to fill in. What it recorded was a mishmash of smells - of cut fruits, specimens of strongly perfumed hair oils and that of chameli flowers that a lot of ladies’ hairs were braided with. Each one of those scents - on its own individual standing is not bad – but their collaboration can only be termed repugnant.
We soon hit the national highway and this is where things started to get really bad. A good part of the highway is under construction. There are diversions every few kilometers. To make matters worse, there are hurriedly created speed-breakers before each of them to force people to slow down and take notice of the diversion. The driver – allow me to be a little romantic here; I rephrase – Our protagonist drove the bus through the dark, moonless, rainy night with the alacrity of a samurai driving a sword through his opponent’s chest. The romantic version would have served me very well indeed - had I been outside. To be inside the bus and to be sitting in the very last row and to be bumped around at 80 kmph over speed breakers that the driver did not see, means that it is you who are the victim of the Samurai’s fury. There was an instance – and I do not exaggerate here one bit – when we were hurled up like; sticking to the oriental theme of this paragraph – Schezwan noodles being toss-sautéd by a Chinese cook in his frying pan. On my way down, I bruised my back badly, others – if I am to go by groans of various intensities that I heard – fared no better. On the whole, by the time we got down at our first stop – Thumkur (at this time the camera was pulled out of the bag and examined for any damages; fortunately there were none) I couldn’t help but wonder why I took this trip.
I slept fitfully through rest of the journey. My back was hurting, I was holding to my camera bag like a mother monkey fearing an attack by the alpha male clutches to its child, and no amount of music on my portable player was helping my cause. Each time I would detect even feeblest of changes in the speed of the bus, my body would stiffen up in unpleasant anticipation and my hand would involuntarily tighten its grip on the plastic handle that dangled from the backrest of the seat in front of me by just one screw; knowing very well, that a bump of the same intensity as last one, would hurl both the handle and me into the air.
Dawn came. The light now revealed the beautiful terrain that we were being driven through. There were hills crowned with dark clouds, lush green fields and an occasional hut or two selling chai on either side of us. Then almost magically, a river appeared to our left side. The moments of comfort that visibility outside had brought about, turned to consternation. Our samurai might have done well while driving lorries carrying coal (or swords through foes’ hearts) but the living cargo of 50 odd people wasn’t to be entrusted to this skills (or lack of them). One wrong turn and the bus would keel into the river. For next few minutes I tried to ignore the river and prayed that the driver wasn’t doing the same. Then suddenly, the terrain changed. The river vanished as suddenly as it had appeared. We were now passing through a verdant hilly road. In hindsight it wasn’t really a road for most parts; just a muddy, slushy pathway masquerading as one. It was apparent from tens of trucks carrying truckloads of a red, dusty cargo that a lot of mining was being done in these hills. The red dust I remember well from my visit to Bellary and Hospet just a few months ago, was now; thanks to the incessant rains, red mud. It no longer settled on things; in its new rain induced avatar, it obstinately clung to them.
The picturesque (despite mining; nature - wonderful dark skies and lush hills - having made up for man’s follies) drive shortly led us into the main town. Our bus halted in front of a drab, grey (in keeping with the prevalent weather) 2-storey building – Hotel Malligi. Grudgingly, I hauled my suitcase from the bus and stood at the reception - like a dog anxiously waiting for his share of bones at a butcher's shop, for my room to be allocated. Each family (usually comprising of two parents and a child or one parent with two children) got a double room. Lone travelers, total strangers till moments ago, were paired up with lone travelers and given a double room. Friends traveling in multiples of two got the appropriate number of double rooms. I, perhaps out of some consideration for my family of an ungainly suitcase, an unwieldy camera bag and my tiny backpack (which in all likelihood was mistaken for a protruding hump), got a double room. On first sight the room conveyed a degree of slovenliness which I later discovered to be somewhat deceptive. The bed sheets after all were passably clean, the pillow covers were not the most edifying example of the color white but they weren't, what you would call, dirty either, and most importantly the bathroom did not have any leaky faucets and did not stink. Yes, the bucket was bent out of shape and looked every bit a specimen from an archeological site nearby, but that, given the filthy guesthouses I have seen in past, was a minor anomaly I will happily overlook. The room was shabby, without being dirty. It was small, without being claustrophobic. I locked my family in the room and rushed for a quick bite at the Hotel's restaurant. When I returned after my breakfast there was only one thing that I desired more badly than a bath - sleep. There was more than an hour to our reporting time of 9:30. I am not sure if the inventors of cellphone ever envisaged this, but it's usefulness as an alarm clock sometimes far surpasses it's utility as a communication device. I set an alarm for 9:15, and dozed off.
As is my wont, I woke up a good 20 minutes before the alarm went off (actually the alarm did not go off because I switched it off when I woke up – a detail you could have certainly done without). After washing my face and checking in the mirror to ensure that I was not looking like a seedy sidekick of a charming scoundrel from a B-Grade horror flick, I walked down to grab a tea at the hotel’s restaurant. As a minor digression from this paragraph’s core intent, don’t you think that it is rife with details you could have certainly done without (along with repetitive usage of the phrase “you could have certainly done without” that I am sure we could have certainly done without)? But let me assert that this paragraph does have a reason for its existence. After the tea, as I sauntered outside the restaurant, my eyes caught these beautiful flowers drenched in last night’s rain.
Mystery solved. An account of my escapades in Hampi to follow later this week :-).
When I take a picture, I usually go through a set of predictable phases.
“What a shot!” is the first congratulatory phase, which usually is the result of previewing the picture on the tiny LCD screen on the camera. Oblivious of the shot’s obvious shortcomings, I administer myself several pats on the back (of an entirely metaphorical sort only).
Then comes the shot’s first test – it is downloaded and viewed on a bigger 12” laptop LCD. “Hmmm… so what’s the big deal here” is what this phase is called. It lasts several minutes, during which about 40% of the unfortunate shots are deleted.
As days progress by, my respect for a few more shots falls below that critical threshold which allows them their lease of space on my hard disk. The phase comes in several sub-varieties such as “What a terrible shot”, “What a horrible composition”, “Can’t you hold the camera straight”, “What’s that tree doing in your frame”, “Steady dude! Steady! Hold it steady!!!!” The ones that survive now either have modicum of merit or demonstrate potential for digital resuscitation.
And at last follows the “I hate myself” phase – which although lasts for a few moments, yet takes the heaviest toll. At the end of it fewer than 20% of the original pictures survive.
On browsing some months later, I often think that I had been too lenient with ones I didn’t delete.
Now the shot posted here is over three months old and is precisely the kind that makes me wonder – “What was I thinking?” However, this one still escaped being axed because I thought that it was a decent “balanced” composition. Yes, there are things about this shot that make me cringe, and yet for some reasons I have now posted it.
Photo Friday: Conspicuous
No, I haven’t divined the theme for tomorrow’s PhotoFriday; I’ve just been tardy in submitting my entry to the one posted last week.
We sometimes tend to slot people into good or bad. Often, an entire class of people is painted in black or white. We forget those subtle shades of grey in between. Case in point being the humble Auto drivers in Bangalore (or for that matter anywhere) - they are hardly ever spoken of in kind terms. We forget that driving an auto in Bangalore is not an easy job. The traffic snarl-ups that are so regular is so many parts of Bangalore might be an irritant for those of us who have a job that pays us each month, but for an auto driver to be struck in one simply means tangible loss of earnings. Then there is the case of roads where autos are now prohibited altogether! Like one-way lanes, they are only going to increase. Each such road is one lesser opportunity of finding commuters. (Yes, yes I hear you - they wouldn’t ever go where you want them to, but let’s be kind to them for the duration of this paragraph). Add to this mix those long queues for fuel (CNG) and stressed out, edgy traffic cops – voila! we have the perfect recipe for frazzled nerves.
This gentleman hails from Mysore. He is driving an Auto in Bangalore because he couldn’t obtain regular employment back home. This will sound like a touristy remark but the vermilion that he wore on his forehead, which stood in such vivid contrast to his dark complexion, was what prompted me to click him. It was just days before Dusara. I asked him if he was going home to celebrate – after all Dusara is big in Mysore. He was not. The look in his eyes seemed to tell me that it was out of compulsion to earn. If you’ve ever spent an important festival away from your family, you probably know what the feeling is. He looked so vulnerable.
I thanked him for agreeing to be my subject, passed him a sympathetic smile, paid the fare, gave him directions to MG Road and got down.
There is something about this brief encounter that has made me a little kinder, a bit more considerate. Each time an auto refuses to go somewhere or insists on overcharging, I just smile and move on. A smile after all costs nothing.
Update: What you see is a better version of the picture that was posted originally. It (the original) can still be seen here.
Bangalore (from the 13th floor)
This one was taken on the Independence Day from the balcony of Ebony restaurant at the 13th floor of Barton center. I had recently come across a set of old photos of Bangalore from the 1950s and 60s and that has prompted me to post this one. I was very tempted to give it dubious antiquity by sepia tinting it, but then thought better of it.
I recently attempted getting to the wrong side of the flowers. I say “wrong side” because honey-bees, butterflies, humming birds (and even photographers in general) don’t bother themselves with this side; making personages such as me a statistical minority.
And does it not look like that the flower farther away (one in sharp focus) is moving away from one that is near? They are even waving good-byes to each other!
Photo Friday: Five
This one was shot in a pitch-dark room with an exposure time of 25s. I used a pen torch to illuminate only those things that I wanted the camera to see. The glowing 5s are caused by waving the torch to trace a 5 in the air.
I wouldn’t rate the picture very high on originality. I got this idea first from the recent issue of Time magazine, where they had published the picture of a scientist tracing an Omega trough air with a torchlight. Then I saw an entry by Dylon, that uses a similar technique, in this week’s photofriday noteworthy and decided to give it a shot (pun unintentional) myself.
More on the African Tulip Tree
Here some more pieces of information that I’ve collected on this tree. The tree is also known as Scarlet-Bell tree, Fountain tree, Squirt tree and African Torch or Flame tree. ‘Tulip tree’ is merely an allusion to the resemblance of the flowers of this tree with Tulips and this is where the tenuous commonality ends. It is a native to equatorial Africa but is now widely grown all over the world in the tropics.
I am no authority on Indian names of this tree, but this is what the index of Indic names at in my Atlas of Major Flowering Trees in India (from where I’ve gleaned most of the information I present here) informs me:
In Hindi it’s called Rugtoora, in Kannada by several names - Nirukavi, Nirkai, Ucche Kai, Lujjekaye, Neerukaye, in Tamizh it’s Patadi while in Telugu it is called Patadi Patadiya
You know you have been living in a city for too long when you tell the months not by looking at the calendar but by looking at the flowering cycles of the trees around you. The African Tulip tree (Spathodea campanulata) is in full bloom, so surely it must be September/October. I finished another year at Bangalore on the 3rd. It’s seems like yesterday, while it has actually been a year since my last post about this tree!
I have always wanted to click a definitive African Tulip shot. While that joy has so far eluded me, I’ll soon share another picture that came quite close to it.
Never before had I seen these flowers at a distance that would allow me to smell them. They were being cultivated at; what we might call, a “lotus nursery” at Lal Bagh. The setup was comprised of several huge cauldrons full of murky water kept in the open. I was under an impression that I was clicking a lotus here, till Sajith came along and politely corrected this city-bred lad's misconception. I’ll do Monet proud - for this is a water lily (albeit minus a picturesque landscape which I request you to seek within the flower itself).
(I now love lotuses and water lilies for a photographic reason too. These flowers are so big that I can fill the entire frame without requiring a macro lens!)
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