The magical land
India is a mystery, shrouded in an enigma ...
Around the hilly town of Coonoor in Southern India, there are some surreally beautiful tea-gardens that are wrapped in fog for long times in a year. I happened to be there at the "Dolphin's Nose" near Coonoor couple of weeks back, and the beauty of the place after a fresh rain shower, and the fog wafting in from the valley below, was too overwhelming to be captured in camera. I tried, but you really need to be there to soak it all in, literally. The road to this place is difficult in places, but its all worth it once you get there.
On the highway around Mysore in Southern India, I came across this procession of people on the way to celebrate an wedding some place. What struck me about them are their faces ... a micro-cosm of life depicted on them.
Take a closer look: the curious innocence on the faces of the young ones, the dare-do confident look on the youth, the untrusting, skeptical look on the middle aged, and the almost inscrutable, empty look on the old man's face. Its all there ... faces are mirrors to the lives people live.
In the middle of the hustle and bustle that is India, you can run away to find that moment of solitude, if you so want. You will need to turn off the background, but once you do, its lovely.
In the middle of Ooty lake in Southern India, the gentle bobbing of this boat reminded me of the serenity and solitude that exists for you to experience, only if you choose to find it.
Life, death and taxes are certain; but so are tea-stalls if you happen to be in India. In your travels in India, there is one thing for sure: you will find a tea-stall in the strangest of places. This particular one, while was not in such a strange place after all, was a strange one nevertheless. A bright blue tea stall? Catches my eye surely.
This particular tea-stall was found just off the highway to Ooty, some twenty kilometers from the town. It was foggy cold morning, and the prospect of hot "masala tea" or the famous "one meter Madras coffee" is surely tantalizing.
When in India, there is something you cann't get away from: curious onlookers. They are everywhere; in the bus-stand, in the market, in the road, in the touristy places (of course), and in otherwise apparently very empty places. A friend of me told this story: he was on a mobike ride across Kerala. In an otherwise deserted road among paddy fields as far as eyes could see, he stopped the mobike and got down to answer nature's call. Barely has he stopped the engine and stepped down, and heads started popping up from all across the otherwise "empty" paddy field: pop, pop, pop! He just jumped back on the mobike and drove to the closest town :-)
This picture of curious onlookers, who occupied this vantage perch for over twenty minutes, is from Ooty Botanical garden, a beautiful, though touristy, place in Southern India. These guys, there were more of them at times, stood there looking at other people below.... and perhaps being the subject of photographs, like mine here. They do not mean any harm, they are just curious :-)
When you leave the rat-race of the cities behind, you come face to face with another India that has not changed over centuries. Far away from the high tech empire of Bangalore, I came across this lady by the Kabini river. She was busy at her daily work, and with what a sense of peace!
She is poor, I assume, but with such a complete sense of peace at work that I will possibly never have.
India remains wild at heart. Places like these are still around, especially in the Western Ghat region of India. It could be a challenge getting there, but may be thats the allure of such places.
During my visit around Coonoor in Southern India, I saw abundant rain, mist and fog and clouds. All that made the place magical. The look of clouds lifting up from the deep valley below is always breathtaking. Dont take my word for it. Get out there and see it for yourself!
Lots of bizarre things to see everywhere in India. Here is one of my favourites.
A statue in the main town square of Ooty in Southern India is wrapped up in blue and green tarp and all tied up. I asked a few people around, no one knew whose statue, why it is wrapped up, and for how long it has been like this. Wonder whether it has to do with local politics, and the person whose statue it is has fallen out of favour.
What continues to amaze me is how the poor in India has infinite capacity to be happy. Life is difficult for most. But they have learned to take it in their stride, and learned to be happy even in the middle of all the struggle in daily life. It must be the solid bond of family and friends that permeates every stratum of social life in India. What gives them strength is to know that they are never alone.
This lady here is part of the family that was sitting by the highway selling tender coconuts to those that would stop, like me. Wish I had a polaroid camera so I could give them a mirror to their happiness.
Sitting in the veranda in my house in Vadodara, India, I was really touched to see this very intimate facet of human life unfolding in front of me, like it perhaps has done for many thousands of years in India. The old in India are not alone, neither are the young; in fact no one is. Thats one thing you never feel in India: loneliness. There is a strong sense of family and support system at every level of the society, that always gives you a sense of belonging.
The lady to the left supplies milk from house to house in my neighborhood in Vadodara, and the lady to the right is her mother. Poor, yes, but very very human, like we are all meant to be.
Barely 150 kilometers from the bustling city of Bangalore, with its high tech industry and mushrooming malls, (and nightmare traffic), it would seem that we are in a different world. A procession of people on the way to a wedding in their very colorful clothes is a snapshot in time of how India remains deeply rooted in its tradition.
This is the India I hope never changes, for, if it did, would it be the same?
No matter where you are, there is always a home to come back to.
And it does not matter what your home is like, its still your home.