<<  Madurai, 11-Jan-2013  >>

Back in India: enter Tamil Nadu

Temples, deities, pilgrims and flamboyant Hindu photo feast

The last view from the plane to India, before it plunged into clouds, was incredibly green, palms covered landscape of Sri Lanka washed by the Indian Ocean. The first view from the plane, when the plane emerged from the clouds, was arid, flat landscape of Tamil Nadu. The flight took less than an hour, but it brought me to a completely different climate –luckily for me, bit less hot and bit less humid, but as for esthetics, the dusty dry roads of Tamil Nadu in January can’t be compared with lush greenery of Sri Lanka.

Madurai is home to a huge and magnificent Hindu temple – Sri Meenakshi Temple, with 4 tall towers, each of them decorated with more than 1 500 statues of Hindu deities and their affiliates. Visitors of the temple, on any given moment, consist of at least 1 000 devoted Hindus and at most 3 tourists, so the atmosphere is fantastic and unspoilt. Many of the devotees are pilgrims (the plane from Colombo was filled mostly by Tamil pilgrims all dressed in black, with precisely trimmed beards and hairs) and this temple is very alive with its religious fundament (unlike European cathedrals which are filled mostly by tourists). I arrived there at 5:30 a.m. to be among the first visitors and witness the sunrise over its towers.

And almost all the people in the temple – when they saw me with my camera – wanted me to take their photo. They are like sharks – if you just slowly walk around they will likely let you be, but in the very moment you take a picture of the first person, tens of them rush to you and almost tear your body into pieces and they fight for their right to be photographed. It starts with one person who has the courage to ask, and then 3 of his friends join him and suddenly 20 people hurry into the scene and the group ends up to be too large for camera’s lens and so I have to take then by sub-groups. It is really a photographic feast in the temple and around it. And also in the town, everybody wanted to be photographed (this is one of Indian specifics which I noted already 4 years ago – people want to be photographed, especially whole families, they strike a pose and are happy that someone took their picture and no, of course they don’t give you e-mail address, where you could send them the photo, they just like to be photographed). “Taking photo” should be renamed to “giving photo” in India Funny that the “other Indians” – native Americans – do not want to be photographed, because they believe that the camera steals their soul (which, in little bit less literally meaning is actually true, because when tourists and their cameras arrive – including me of course – the soul of the place unavoidably slowly dies and resorts appear…).

But this is “the original India” and in these places not yet exploited by tourism so much, people LOVE to be photographed. The best moment was, when some young guy came to me, pointed at my camera and shyly asked “How much? Free?” :-DDDDD He thought that he had to pay to be photographed! So I told him with a BIG generous smile “YES, FOR FREE!!!!!, and his eyes shone like the eyes of a kid who found a puppy under the Christmas tree, he posed and I sprinkled whole lot of happiness onto him with the shutter button.

But there is no greater joy in this world than to take photos of Indian children and showing them the pictures on camera (luckily my Canon 5D Mark III camera has probably the best inbuilt display from all today’s cameras in the world, so the photos look wonderful even on the camera display). To avoid confusion, now I’m talking about happy kids, who ask me to be photographed, not about “crying and dirty Indian children” - yes, this was a message for you, Zuzka V. :-)
They ask you to make them a photo, they pose, and when you show them the photo, they seem like if it was the most exciting and joyous moment of their lives. I’m taking picture of everyone who asks to make them happy – luckily they will never find out, that soon after I delete most of those photos, because unless I decide to do a photo census of the Indian population, I really don’t know what to do with hundreds of those photos… On the 10 minutes bus ride from Rameshwaram bus station to the city center (where I took out my camera to make one picture of the bus filled with women in red saris) I had to take 54 photographs of all the people on the bus, otherwise I would be doomed for eternity by the busload of Hindus :-)

The world is on sale in India. I don’t know who produces all those things, and I know even less who’s gonna buy all that stuff, but I surely know who sell it: half of Indians. I somehow cannot imagine how this kind of supply is ever going to match with demand, but the trade goes on.

In Sri Lanka I lost my “freedom watch” – old, worn out, cheap, 80’s looking, digital watch, which I got for free for some employee-bonus-points when I quit from Accenture, which was so uncool, that I only wore it on my travels far away from Europe, which eventually ended up in personification of my travels and feeling of freedom in that watch, and that’s why I loved it – and so I decided to buy a new one. As I deeply feel that the watch should be gentlemen’s pride and jewel on crown of his elegance, I decided not to buy q cheap, street-sold ROLIX and FERRANI watch for 3 EUR, but I went to a real watch store, and bought a premium Indian watch brand – Sonata – which belongs to TATA holding (on the back of the watch it proudly says “a TATA product”) and which cost me impressive 490 rupees, which is ALMOST 7 EUR! Now I can finally sit, shoulder to shoulder (and wrist to wrist) with all those Breitling wearing top managers, royalty and urban deities.

The watch is marked as “waterproof”. I bet that the first time I test them, will be last time I’ll its hands turning.

By the way this reminds me of one statistics I forgot to post.
At home I left: 7 business suits, 38 shirts and 39 ties. So long bitches, I’m not gonna miss you!!!

Hmm, and I thought that this would be a short post.

And now, look at this brand new Like button below, which I just added, and click it :-) Thanks!

Click for photo gallery

     MARCEL STRBAK | www.strbak.com | www.facebook.com/marcel.strbak