16-21 january 2011, another post

silk weaver

this is another photo from varanasi. it was monday morning, and my auto-rickshaw driver offered to take me on a tour of the muslim quarter where approximately 20,000 silk workers live and work. he dropped me with one of the local residents who naturally turned out to own a shop that sold silk cloth; after showing me some of the workrooms (where the men had to work by natural light as the power goes out in the mornings), he tried to sell me scarves and saree material.  my driver then offered to take me on a tour of the spice market, so i turned him down.

16-21 january 2011

from sunday to friday i was in varanasi, the holy hindu city on the ganges. i went up there to take photos of the ghats (palaces overlooking the river that various kings and princes built over the centuries) for five days.  i will write more about the experience later, but as i took nearly 2,000 photographs – many of them destined for the trash bin – it will take me a while to sort through my thoughts.

a sadhu, or hindu holy man

varanasi is an ancient city with narrow winding alleys and busy markets, but most of the activity centers on the ganges where pilgrims come from across india to bathe in the waters. the place is also crawling with tourists and “seekers of alternative lifestyles,” let’s say – i.e., latter-day hippies. it made for interesting people-watching.

corpse being bathed with water from the ganges prior to cremation

the highlight of the trip was the hour i spent photographing the cremations on the banks of the ganges at the manikarnika ghat. most of the photos you’ll see on the internet of the manikarnika ghat are taken from the river or from a distance, because photography is strictly off limits inside the ghat – unless you’re willing to give the headman 6.000 rupees, which is what i did.  more photos to come.

january 15, 2011

advertisement for adoption

it may seem like everything i do lately is tied in with blue cross.  it’s not true – i’m also learning yoga and having long lunches with other spouses – but today, i did go down to the shelter to prepare some postcard-sized shots of dogs available for adoption. this is one of them.  who wouldn’t want to come home to this face?

january 9, 2011

chennai open

last night was the final of the men’s atp chennai open. capping off a week of world-class tennis, stanislaus wawrinka of switzerland won the singles competition; leander paes and mahesh bhupathi of india won the doubles competition.

padma lakshmi was there, making her my first paparazzi shot.

january 7, 2011

this poor guy
(taken with my cell phone camera)

i’ve been volunteering at the blue cross animal shelter for just over a week now. most of the time i end up playing with the puppies since there isn’t always something immediate for volunteers to do. each time it’s different: in addition to the work i did on december 30, i’ve cleaned up cow poo, i’ve held a rope to immobilize a cow that was having a broken leg treated, and i’ve helped wash dogs with mange. (they fought being tied to the tree, but they didn’t seem to mind the shampooing itself; and none of them were upset enough to bite, a risk that only struck me after i’d begun the washing.) today i gave water to the puppies and marginally helped clean up the puppy yard. part of the problem is that many of the staff don’t speak english, and my tamil is incredibly limited, so when i’m plunked into a situation the staff eventually decide that it’s easier to do the work themselves than to play charades.

as i moved about the yard, picking up various dogs and playing with them, i kept finding puppies that were so dehydrated – and possibly suffering from other diseases – that they couldn’t move. i’d bring them to the vet where they’d get a shot, and then i’d feed them water and milk through a syringe.  (i also picked up a dead puppy that some other puppies were using as a bolster, so it could be taken away. this is less awful than it sounds, but only by a small amount.)  finally, i decided to do something about this dog, who with a skin disease that i can’t even find on the internet. the vet gave him a shot and then instructed me to put skin cream on him whenever i come to the shelter. this may be his was of saying “quit bothering me, go do it yourself”, or he may just realize that if i’m going to bring him puppies anyway, he might as well put me to work. at any rate, i have to believe the dog is grateful for the medical attention.