Startled, my eyes pop open. I am not in India, in fact the train home from Innsbruck has crossed the border and I am back in Italy. Outside the window everything is white. Large, flowerlike pedals of snow drift lazily down like a Christmas scene inside one of those snowflake balls.
I pull out my ticket to hand to the conductor and then settle back into my seat. As the door to the passenger cabin closes behind him, the train slows and we pull into a station.
There is no garbage, there are not thousands of people rushing forward to board the train, vendors do not appear at the windows and most notably of all, it is nearly silent. In Europe the platforms are orderly, relatively empty, and without a mélange of horns, sirens and screeches to wake both people and livestock that may be napping on the tracks ahead. Two minutes after stopping we are off.
A comment from an Indian we met in Jaipur comes to mind. Describing his first and only visit to Europe, he explained that what he felt outside of India was, “loneliness amongst the people and order”. I wonder if what he meant was that he felt isolation.
My world has drastically changed. Twelve hours before, I was sitting inside a Boeing 747 at a departure gate in Bombay. Janine was returning to California and had departed earlier. The airport’s computers were, of course, not functioning. This prevented flights from taking off for a time, three hours to be exact. Had they allowed us to sit inside the airport we would have been far more comfortable, and given that we boarded the plane at 3 a.m., maybe we could have slept.
Inside the airplane temperatures were approaching 90 degrees with no air systems turned on. Having no computers meant seat assignments could not be generated for many people, so the decision was made to let the passengers just have at it, sit where you please. The chaos that ensued forced airline staff to direct traffic and break up the many territorial disputes that were rising throughout economy . For whatever reason, while doing so they kept the doors to the plane wide open, letting in more hot, stale, humid and polluted air. The added bonus was that it also allowed the cabin to fill with mosquitoes.
I knew then that this was a Blog in the works. With my sweaty brow resting against the window, soaking in sweat, and exhausted, I closed my eyes and valiantly fought to fend off the stomach spasms I was also enjoying. It felt as if I had swallowed a handful of razorblades, but I knew it was only a small slice of cucumber I had ignored on a sandwich at lunch. I was paying the price and hoped and prayed that at least the airplane bathrooms were functioning and unlocked.
Of course the question kept repeating in my head, “Why do I come back here?”
To quote several reliable sources, “Arriving to India is an amazing experience, but leaving India is even better”. I propose to take this one step further and say that looking back on the experience is better yet.
Finally home and scrolling through our images, it all comes flooding back. The remarkable scenes one happens upon, the unique beauty, and of course the energy. I edit 4000 images down to a few hundred for stock, then down to the best 30 for portfolio. The sum is India for the masses; edited, cleaned up, cropped and neatly presented for those curious.
It strikes me that this is much the same as the travel ads one sees for India. You know the ones, the canned tourism phrases to sell the destination; Come experience the magic and romance of India. Explore majestic and colorful temples, shop the bazaars, sample spices and exotic dishes, stroll through ancient cities and imagine yourself in a time long passed. Etc.
In a sense, this is much the same as our 30 best images. Yes, India edited. The reality is quite different. While all of those descriptions, and our 30 best images, are of course true – there are so many other little details that one only finds when actually going to India. These details are best left out of tourism ads.
Yet, it is these details that are the reason why we go, why we laugh, why we have countless stories and for us what makes India, well, India.
For the photographer who enjoys shooting this sort of thing, India is the Motherload. Everywhere you look… images, little scenes ripe for composition. When you view your own results, your efforts are measured in how fast you were, how bold, how much you anticipated something and of course the quantity of patience you shelled out. And all the images you saw but missed are the bait to lure you back.
Our images represent how we see India. On this page, both the lighter side and a few of the less glamorous scenes, like it or not, the real India.
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