aftermath of cyclone thane

for the past two days, we have received increasingly frantic warnings about cyclone thane, which at first was heading straight for chennai: charge our phones, fill our gas tanks, stock up on milk and water, and so on. yesterday morning, however, the cyclone veered south, straight for pondicherry; bad news for pondicherry, but this downgraded our expectations to just heavy winds and rains.

this morning, we looked outside and saw that there indeed had been heavy winds overnight (leaves and branches down), but no real damage. i took the dog down to marina beach, despite the driving rain, to shoot the impact of the storm with a holga plastic camera and a roll of 120 mm film. it was a lot of fun, and even cooper, who hates getting bathed, was happy to run around in the rain.

the holga is a clumsy camera, but sometimes it gives you exactly what you want.

last stop – mumbai

there is a lot more i could have said about kerala, particularly kochi (cochin), where we spent the first night – it’s a lovely town on the water, it has a colonial feel, it was a center of early jewish life in india (there is still a “jewtown” with an old but still functioning synagogue that has just six members left); we also had a relaxing evening on a houseboat, which is what one does in kerala; but abby and i will probably go back there later, so i will do more of a photographic study then.

we ended our trip in mumbai, where we visited the famous elephanta caves, which are enormous caves on an island off mumbai.  the caves were carved with statues of gods and demons between the 5th and 8th centuries A.D. the hindus used them for worship; however, the portuguese, upon their arrival in the 1400s, used them as target practice. many of the statues are missing limbs and faces as a result. the light was not good, so i didn’t take many photos.

the final highlights of mumbai were the slum tour and the visit to dhobi ghat. first, in the morning, we visited a slum area of mumbai that houses a huge number of workshops and recycling facilities – textile block printing, plastic bottle shredding, oil can cleaning, paper collecting, animal hide tanning, and so on. the area is so important economically that people commute to the slum from other parts of the city. there also is a residential section composed of two- and three-storey houses that open onto narrow, dark alleys full of possibly less-than-clean water. it’s quite remarkable. unfortunately, the ngo that operates the slum tour doesn’t allow cameras in, “to preserve the slum-dwellers’ dignity”, they say, while i think it’s to protect their photography monopoly. this gets to an embarrassing aspect of a photographer’s mindset, at least for me: the “is it worth going to if i can’t photograph it” syndrome.

in the afternoon, we saw dhobi ghat, one of the great central open-air laundries in mumbai, where workers (dhobis) wash clothes and sheets from hospitals and hotels all over the city. i wasn’t able to go down into the ghat, so i could only shoot from the overpass. again, this was pretty frustrating, but it gives me a reason to go back to mumbai.

elephanta caves: two representations of shiva: one in which he slays andhaka, his son, in a myth that is highly reminiscent of the oedipus story; and one as the trimurti, a 20-foot high sculpture showing the three aspects of shiva (brahma, vishnu and shiva – creator, preserver, and destroyer).
dhobi ghat, from a distance.

kathakali in kerala

first of all, i have had it with google’s blogger/blogspot service, which causes my computer to crash when i try to upload photos. i’m now on wordpress, which is not as easily customized – at least, not for free – but i have hopes that it won’t keep causing me frustration. and now …

after our time in rajasthan, we flew down to kerala. the highlight for me was the kathakali performance. kathakali is a highly stylized classical dance form that incorporates make-up, elaborate costumes, and very precise facial expressions and body movements. the dancers reenact stories from the mahabharata and other myths. the performances usually last 3-4 hours, but the performance we attended was just a half-hour sample. we also were able to watch the make-up session and look into the dressing room.

actor being made up before the performance; in the dressing room.
a demonstration of the various facial expressions and body movements, with their meanings.
scenes from the performance, in which a demon tries to slay krishna by disguising himself as a comely young woman. in the last photo, the demon has revealed himself in his true form, and krishna is about to slay him.

next: mumbai. you can get the older posts by going to


two village women.

between jodhpur and udaipur, we stayed in the village of nimaj, in a tented camp overlooking a lake and a bird sanctuary. it was very relaxing after the bustle of the cities. the food was rustic, the rooms were comfortable, they had dogs – what else does one need?

the one full day we spent there began with a tour of the village itself, and then in the evening we took a walk through the bird sanctuary. the village was pretty quiet; the highlight of the visit was the school and then the pottery demonstration. apparently, there once were three potters in the village; now there is only one, and none of his five children plan on taking over the business once he retires. with the cheap availability of plastic and metal containers, there’s not a lot of need for earthenware water pots. i suppose one can find something philosophical or nostalgic to say about this, but is it better to have local potters or engineers? it depends on whether you’re the one who has to be the potter or not.

kids at morning prayers; and kids in the classroom.
the potter at work.

in the evening, we took a walk through the bird sanctuary, led by the camp owner and his dogs. normally, i’m not big on nature photography, but it was rewarding when the birds stayed still long enough to be captured.

this last one is not a bird.