Sunday, February 26, 2006

Indian Railways v/s Extempore

Indian Railways does not wish me to take photographs of my journey or, for that matter, even have a decent one. Five years and too many trips have worn this statement into the sleepers and a heartbreaking, empirical truth. I am going to, however, leave aside the whining about my co-passengers and perorate on the "photographys" instead.

Photography is difficult usually, but at an average speed of 60 kmph, I think it's a kiss from impossible - especially if you are a rookie. By the time you've composed your frame and adjusted the light settings, the subject is so long gone that you wonder if you dreamed it.

Should you have, by some act of God and foresight, managed to get your shot in focus, framed and adjusted, it's a certainty that you are going to be fighting off the compartment door, which has nothing - I repeat, NOTHING - to hold it in place. So while you may have a perfect shot, you'll also be dead. Like while I was taking this shot, the door came swinging shut, blithe as you please.

The Seven Lakes
There I was - holding onto the railing with one hand and my camera with the other, praying for dear life. A kindly old gent, on his way back from the bathroom, grabbed hold of me and held the door open. He had disturbing, ickily wet hands but I don't think I'm in a postition to complain, yes? :-)

Few things match the unmitigated championship of the tap on my shoulder mid-frame from the extra-loud and hearty man who asks if I am taking photographys. No, but I'll let you into the secret - am scuba diving; please don't tell the fish.

Shady Afternoons
He well could have ruined this shot. Two farmers/labourers sitting down to what could be either a late lunch or just a moment's reprieve from the unforgiving sun, relentless humidity and back-breaking field work.

As with every train journey I take, it never fails to astonish me what a beautiful country we live in. And this has been my reaction for as long as I can remember. Sheer joy physically bubbles inwardly and makes me want to break into an altogether off-key and solely un-listenable-to rendition of "The Sound Of Music."

Landscape-wise, passing through Andhra Pradesh is so different from my ride through Kerala a few years ago. Kerala is like a watery, green explosion. Everywhere you look, there's a verdance so lush and plentiful. And yes, numberless bridges over lakes, ponds and the backwaters to cross. It also has what I think of as a darksome energy - something roiling, hiding in that luxuriance. I am not sure if it is negative or not, but exist it does.

Andhra Pradesh is all rock, plain, and undulating field. It is all predominant yellows and browns with afterthought green and does make for difficult photography. Andhra Pradesh has a hardier landscape - one that is unforgiving and severe. There seems to me a transparency I do not associate with Kerala. This is not a comment on the people, you understand, as much as the "physical environs" of these states. I am not sure if this even makes sense.

I've not been to very many places in India, but in my meagre travels, the unmitigated beauty of terrain like the image below always, quite simply and tritely, takes my breath away. No matter what state it is.

Fields of Gold - Too!
It also makes me want to kick myself for not being a travel writer or doing something that pays me to travel. Because at this point, I can't think of anything else I'd rather do with my life. Wouldn't you too?

Since I was at the train door afternoon onward, the chances of my getting a sunset shot were decent, I'd say. And indubitably, as the wind turned and the sun began to sink, the crazy compartment door or the annoying co-passengers didn't matter. There was just me and my frame in a moment that can only be described as delicious. I hope you like this. :-)

By the Light of the Setting Sun

Postscript: Should you want to see some more of the train ride, here you go.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I am back - again!

And right ashamed I am too, seeing how I have whimpered into silence. I've been meaning to give this post a wee bit of time but a wicked, wicked reviewer (yes my dear, this means you!) and my own prodigious sloth have contrived to delay this post. But no more, yes?

Before all else about Hyderabad, I should like it to be noted that on neither of my train rides were there encounters of the bizarre kind with my tribe. Nope, non, de nada! No Gujarati people - men, women, or children - giving me any grief about being a disgrace to the name Gujarati.

However, both experiences leave me with the lurking suspicion that the source of my trauma may just have shifted from my community to the Telugu. But I am going to hold the jury out on that one - just until my next trip.

Hyderabad was... as I remembered it in the winter. Dry and swinging desperately from hazy, searing days to crisp, frozen nights. The main roads stretching out into curves, trees and the distinct realization that Hyderabad was, for the first time in five years, a distant home. I don't know if it was something taken away, or something I've had to leave behind or mayhap... a bit of both.

But this trip was about more - so much more.

It was about...
... copious quantities of beef biryani, bangles, and girlie conversations.
... stupefying encounters in the University Admin block and the Department of English.
... indulgent smiles at the Charminar and the unmitigated beauty of the University campus.
... as the elder sibling liked to tell me, "becoming an adult" and my unbearable lightness of being.
... and lastly but most importantly, an astonishing four rolls of film!

As always, many stories to tell and even more post-promises to keep. See you at my next, yes? :-)

Friday, February 03, 2006

Sub: Leave of Absence

Dear Reader,

I would like to request leave of absence for a week - from the 4th of February till the 12th of February 2006. I know I promised you there would be no more dereliction of duty (and interest) but circumstances conspire to make me journey to Hyderabad.

My Masters' application package needs documents which can only be provided by the Department of English, University of Hyderabad. These, of course, could be procured in absentia but being the government institution that the university is, I must personally ensure that my application does not need to fear the Ides of March.

I also have some other matters that require my urgent attention. I must admit that I am apprehensive about this trip. And yet hopeful of resolving everything and returning with a lighter sense of being than the past few months. Please hope things work out.

In conclusion, I promise to come back in one piece, without falling into the lake on campus at sunset, trying to get a good angle. Or get myself killed in the Old City, photographing the Charminar or Laad Bazaar. With your permission, I will not, at this moment, explain what these places are. I should like those images to speak for themselves and request your patience. I also promise to miss you with every mouthful of biryani.

Thank you for approving my leave,