Sunday, January 23, 2011

Landscape as watercolor - for my cousin, Donna

6:30 a.m., a freezing morning, a game park in India. This image presents itself. The mist rising on a pond. My cousin, Donna, paints watercolors that look like this. Nothing stirring, silent. It's all about to happen. I often feel this way about landscapes. They are filled with anticipation. This morning was so beautiful. I made the driver stop here for a long time, though he was hardly reluctant to do so. He too loved this place. Birds were everywhere. Brilliant green bee-eaters, turquoise and orange kingfisher, the incredible turquoise and black roller bird. Spotted deer grazed nearby. No signs of tigers. Just this peaceful moment in the morning before everything begins again in the world.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Tiger, tiger...

Apparently you don't go looking for a tiger. You look for signs of a tiger. It took five days, six safaris,two game parks some beginning in the freeezing dawn, but I got to see this beautiful beast. I had excellent guides. One I liked in particular, Ajay. He never said much. All he seemed to do really was listen for things I was never able to hear. The alarm calls of other animals, movements in the bush, pugmarks on the ground. I'd hear something and he'd just say, "No, that's just a juvenile spotted deer, calling its mother." It can take days to spot a tiger. It can never happen. I had just about given up hope when she appeared. On my last safari. As my guide said, rather eloquently I thought, "You saw her because you can to see everything. People who just come looking for tigers, they see nothing." For those wondering I am perhaps 40feet away in an open jeep when I got this shot. Part of it was just luck. I caught her just as she was about to disappear into the bush. More pictures to follow, but this is my favorite of her. And now I gotta get some sleep...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Portrait of a Woman

In a village in central India I visited this indigenous tribal people - the Baagha. They are forest people. Their belief system is animism. They worship the rain, the trees, and the tiger. They have no running water, no electricity. They draw water from their wells. They forage for food. Some among them capture rats and mice in the fields that they roast as delicacies. This woman was willing to pose for me in her doorway which acted as a perfect frame.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Crossing the Street in Mumbai

Since arriving in India in early January I've been trying to cross the street. The first night in Delhi at my b&b I told my host I was hungry and she said that there was a good restaurant just across the road. She offered to show me the way so she walked me to the road and pointed. "It's just there," she said and left me.

For twenty minutes I stood frozen. No one stopped for the red light. No one stopped for the "walk" sign. Basically no one stopped. I watched a few locals weave their way in and out of cars, trucks, taxis, rickshaws, but it seems I am made of lesser stock. Finally I gave up, returned to the b&b and with tears in my eyes ordered in.

I can't say that things have improved. In Varanasi a fellow hotel guest told me that someone told her to cross the road as if you are a sacred cow. That is, just walk into traffic and hope for the best. In Calcutta I never even tried.

But now I am Mumbai and more or less on my own. This morning I decided to take a walk. I would be brave. Look both ways and venture out. Again I failed. I paused for so long at one corner that two rickshaws stopped to see if I wanted a ride.

Then a red street dog came and stood next to me. I watched as the dog looked both ways, ventured out, dodged a few vehicles, ignored one or two screeching brakes and made it across. If a dog can do this, well, then I can, right?

So I looked but the wrong way. A rickshaw almost ran me down. I tried again, stuck out my hand like a native, cars weaved around me, but at last I have made it to a bagel shop with WiFi where I am writing this from the other side.

Monday, January 17, 2011

On the road...still

So I survived the night train to Varanasi, tribal men, roaches, a woman sleeping in my berth, watched women bathe in the Ganges and a boy light his father's pyre, saw a python taken out of a sack, had my hands hennaed, learned that jars of pickles are not allowed on airplanes. People speak to me in Hindi and Bengali and expect me to understand. Women in saffron and orange saris, carrying their laundry to the river. In India...will post more soon.