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.


./w said...

I loved all of them, all. I want to go to Kerala.


Ash said...

When I was a kid, we used to make a 3-day train journey from Goa to Bhabaneshwar, in the heat of summer. The journeys were inexorably long and tiring, but they ha dtheir little charms - the villages rolling by, the people, the place, the animals, the lights, the bridges ...

I haven't travelled by train in ages .. low-cost airlines zindabaad ! But I'd like to do it sometime again ..though not for 3 days :P

Parth said...

Wow! Excellent stuff. Indian railways is the best way to get a ringside view of the desi terrain. Please accept my congraultaions on a job well done.

Anonymous said...

after you spoke of the hardihood of Andhra landscape, it occurred to me that you're absolutely right. and right about kerala too.
however, i would tend to disagree (albeit very mildly) that the same is not true of the people. our "physical environs" does shape us, i believe, at least partially... adapt and survive? Dune, by herbert comes to mind.

i confess that you are a natural when it comes to travel writing.

Parth said...

And while on the topic of photos ... Rock beach photos please (unless you posted some and I missed them)

Manan said...

Listen to Isis's divine advice... more importantly, listen to the travelblogger whimpering for release... and should the leap across the pond fall short (God forbid!), do go gentle into that good night...

SaidBack said...

On your next train ride, how about a video clip of the characters you come across?

Sounds like a good trip. Travelling really is a lot of fun.

Casablanca said...

Not only do you take beautiful photos, you weave them with such lovely words, that I remain mesmerised. I wish you would post more frequently :)

Srikar said...

Hey! Cool pics.

Some would have looked great with more image manipulation...

And Welcome back !

K said...

Well, I never bother digitising them but some of my fave pics were taken from a train - two particular trips come to mind one from Delhi to Bangalore on a college trip, the second from Delhi to Goa via the Konkan Rail. The latter has some great pic opps. One thing you can do is to sit by the door and keep on shooting, I used my trusty old 35mm auto, but used 400ASA, as 100ASA shots tend to be a bit too blurry. I keep on taking shots hanging out of a train in this city, thats always great fun.

Extempore said...

@./W: Thank you - it means a lot and you know that. Someday perhaps, I can con you into going to Kerala with me. :-)

@Ash: 3 day journey? Sweet Christ, that's enough to test a saint. But yes, 24 hrs in a train, 3 AC, and a good friend - that's really good fun!

@Parth: Thank you, my dear. You are too kind! :-)*infinity! A couple of Rock Beach photos have happened but none that were really good. Next time, I go - you have my word.

@Isis: I agree but with a few reservations. Will take this up in a separate post - it will need that much space to ramble! And thanks for the travel writing compliment. Inshallah, I'll do something about it soon. :-)

@Manan: Listening, listening. Just waiting for the right time to leap because I do not intend to fall or go gentle into that good night. :-) What would I do without you.

@Peppper: Video? I don't know - one of those Gujju dudes may come up with some new championship! :-)

@Casa: My dear, sweet Casa! That was such a kind and lovely thing to say! I wish I posted more often too! Actually, am just waiting to clear up some stuff and then I should be ready to post more regularly. :-)

@Srikar: Thanks! Yup, I know but I am not for too much manipulation. That's why I bought a film SLR! :-)

@K: I can only digitize - printing is too expensive when you print 5 rolls at a time. :-) And let's not get started on how I am the only 26 year old who can say that I haven't been to Goa in over 20 years! Waaah!

@Everybody who is kind enough to read me: Guys, forgive me some more irregularity. I have a lot of really, really, important stuff to get done by first the 12th and then the 17th of this month. I am going to be a little here and there and everywhere. I am sorry - really!

Roshan said...

it's my first visit here. i like the way you write. lovely pictures too (even more so, the ones of bombay in the earlier post). i usually find the best approach when taking pictures from a moving vehicle is to just point and shoot, like a cowboy drawing his gun. it works better than you'd think.

so why dont you go off and be a travel writer? seriously...why not?

./w said...

You won't have to 'Con' me into going to Kerala with you! I would come of my own accord.


Extempore said...

@Roshan: Thanks very much - very kind of you to say. Taking pics from a moving vehicle is an art I haven't mastered yet or aquired even much of a liking for, really. I quite enjoy the stillness in photography. :-)

@./W: Warms the cockles of heart to hear you say that, my dear! :)