For the Love of Krishna

Rajasthani Pilgrims in Vrindavan

Rajasthani Pilgrims in Vrindavan

The twin towns of Mathura and Vrindavan, not far from Delhi, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India are extremely important places of pilgrimage for devotees of Krishna and his consort, Radha. Krishna was born in Mathura and spent his childhood in nearby Vrindavan. Devotees come from all over India to exult in the ecstatic nature associated with the worship of Krishna.

As a child, Krishna was playful and even naughty. As he grew he became quite the lady’s man, seducing them with the sound of his flute and his charming and flirtatious manner.

Witnessing for myself, the devotees pleasure at being in the land of Krishna was magical. In this photograph, taken in Vrindavan, the excitement and pleasure of these Rajasthani village women is palpable. Instinctively and without inhibition, they grab hands and share the love. Oh, the beauty, power and joy of true faith!

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Roadside Scholar

The Scholar

The Scholar

I noticed this man sitting quietly by the side of the road while walking down a busy street in Rajasthan. He was clearly lost in thought, engaged with what he was writing in his notebook. He didn’t notice me studying him either. I very much wanted to take his photograph but didn’t want to intrude or “steal” the shot. After walking by him and some deliberation, I turned back and asked him if I could. He smiled in agreement, did not change his posture and this is the result. It was a very easy exchange and it made my day.

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Make Shift Kitchens, Indian Style

Indians love to travel. They are visible all over India: going to weddings, making a pilgrimage to a holy destination and on school holidays, just to name a few. For the most part, they travel in groups and aren’t familiar with the concept of traveling light.

While in south India I was taking a short cut through the bus station and came upon two parked buses that caught my attention.  They were colorfully painted but beside them you could see entire kitchens set up right there in the station with the tantalizing aroma of delicious meals filling the air.

Open Air Kitchen

Open Air Kitchen

Bus Station Kitchen

Bus Station Kitchen

You can see that these groups are traveling with their own canisters of gas and huge cauldrons. In the south in particular, strict vegetarians are common.  Their dietary requirements are very important to them so they bring a cook along and everything else necessary.  Make shift kitchens go up wherever possible, not just in the bus station.

A Few Chiles?

A Few Chiles?

No meal in India is complete without lots of dried, red chiles…and piles of tomatoes and onions…and a big smile.

Steaming Cauldrons

Steaming Cauldrons and Smiles

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Chillum Smoker with Camels

Camel Camp

Camel Camp

While traveling through rural Rajasthan by car during one of my tours, we stopped to admire this group of camel keepers. They travel around the state and make camp where tourists (mostly domestic in this case) congregate, offering them a chance to ride a camel. Here they are seen at leisure.

Chillum Smoker

Chillum Smoker

They are gregarious and not at all camera-shy.

Masculinity takes various form around the globe. Here, smoking a chillum epitomizes  the Rajasthani idea of macho. A chillum is a clay cylinder shaped pipe that is open at both ends. At the narrower end a stone stopper prevents the burning contents from falling out of the bottom of the cylinder. A damp cloth placed over the openingt acts as a filter and helps to prevent any cinders from burning the smoker. The chillum is usually filled with a combination of tobacco and hashish.

Ah!

Ah!

Parked Camels

Parked Camels in Rajasthan

A Big Puff

A Big Puff

Though exceedingly colorful and charming, these men are professional showmen and they smell money. After a few friendly photographs and smiles, we leave them in their intoxicated haze but we are the ones giggling with delight.

 

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A Democratic Toilet

Originally posted on Ninagrandiose's Blog:

When I first started blogging I had no idea what I wanted to blog about or even much idea about what a blog was. My first posts had no photos and rambled on about this and that. This is one of them. I’ve added this photo and thought you might find this entertaining.

I can’t afford to be squeamish here in India when I go to the ladies room. Even that term doesn’t exist. If you ask for the ladies room no one will know what you want unless they’re U.S. ” returned” as it’s referred to  here. They speak plainly, much of their usage a remnant from the past. They don’t even use the word bathroom. For them, that is where one takes a bath. Here one asks for the toilet, no euphemisms please. I like this no nonsense approach. However, the range of toilets vary greatly.

Last night I…

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Full Power

If you occasionally drop by here or follow this blog then I am sure that you can understand the need to take a break from everything. What a luxury it is especially if you are in India.  The confines of traveling light make it difficult for me to blog now but I have lots of great tales and photos to share soon. Please be patient, something that really comes in handy in India.

I love the expression that you hear frequently all over India, “Full Power.” Many people with limited English vocabulary use it as a short cut to express multiple things. Mystics and salesmen use it too. The gods have the most power and whenever anyone says it, I think of these gods churning up the ocean, raising mountains like an umbrella and changing their sex at whim. When Shiva demonstrates his Full Power, the universe trembles in fear.

As each year begins, I look for a theme to contemplate during the coming year. This is my theme for 2015, Full Power!

Thank you all for being there, reading, liking, following and commenting. Without you there is no full power. Naturally, I wish you all Full Power too in 2015!

Ninagrandiose

 

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The Essential Street Entrepreneurs of India

Waiting for Customers

Waiting for Customers

With a population now bursting at just over 1.2 billion people, the competition for jobs and just about anything else is fierce in India. There aren’t enough jobs for every one who wants one nor are there enough schools and universities for every one who desires an education. It is simply a question of supply and demand. The demand is there; the supply is inadequate. What is that expression? Necessity is the father of invention, or something like that. India certainly exemplifies that, especially when it comes to earning a living.

Coming from a long line of entrepreneurs myself, my admiration and respect for this group of hard-working souls is boundless. What this small series has in common is that each entrepreneur photographed here has little more than the item(s) they are selling. To my mind, this is the essence of the retail business in its purest state, unaided and unadorned. You want it, I have it. Please buy it. Here is the price. Take it. Finish.

In the photograph above, the man seated reading the paper is selling small packets of a tobacco laced stimulant known as gutka or pan masala which is extraordinarily popular. He sits in the doorway of an unoccupied building with just his wooden box for display and a canvas tote bag with his back-up inventory. How much simpler can it get? He comes nearly every day; I look out for him with interest. I doubt that he earns very much though he certainly doesn’t look worried about it.

 

 

Itinerant Duster Vendor

Itinerant Duster Vendor

The subject in this photograph, the Duster Vendor, has no display equipment or visible back-up inventory. He carries his dusters wherever he goes. He has chosen an outdoor market to drum up some sales. I suspect that his primary audience are the formal shops that border the edge of the market. He sells a very specialized duster, used for distant and high up places like dusting the top of a ceiling fan or a high shelf because the duster has such a very long handle. A shopkeeper might just find this tool handy.

 

 

Sikh Bracelet Merchant

Sikh Bracelet Merchant

This smiling Sikh merchant has nothing more than his supply of steel kara bracelets and a white cloth for display. He seems pleased that I want to take his photograph. You may notice that behind him is yet another vendor, the sugar cane vendor. At every turn entrepreneurs engage in small-scale business out on the street.

Flower Seller

Flower Seller

While exploring the flower market in Madurai, I came across this gorgeous display of roses. This vendor actually purchased her goods at the very market where she is selling them! She was gracious and allowed me to take a few photographs and even offered to put some roses in my hair for free. I didn’t have any hair pins so another woman took a pin out of her hair and helped to arrange the flowers for me.

 

Cloth Merchant

Cloth Merchant

This Muslim cloth merchant still falls into this category but is burdened by the weight of such a bulky and heavy item, cloth. But he comes to his selling spot with nothing more than a plastic tarp that he spreads on the ground where he neatly piles his selection of fabrics. He also has a mark that indicates a meter and can measure the cloth that way but mostly he uses a particular arm length for his measuring system.

Book Seller

Book Seller

 

Last but certainly not least is the book seller. He, too, has a heavy product that he packs into cartons and spreads on a plastic cloth right on the pavement.  I have often shopped these stalls and chatted with the vendors.  They truly epitomize the clever, wily entrepreneur. More often than not, they are not serious readers. They know what sells, what the public wants and carry all the popular titles but most of them have never read any of the books that they sell. I’ve tried discussing some of the books with them and they openly admit this.

For me, one of the many delights of spending time in India are all the wonderful books available in English everywhere at reasonable rates when compared to the west.

These imaginative and creative entrepreneurs can easily be overlooked as they are so omnipresent and an essential part of the landscape but like so many things that strike you at first, like the cows, they eventually fade into the background and you stop noticing them.

Ironically, their survival is under threat by India’s very own progress. With their rudimentary methods of merchandising, marketing and selling, these people represent the essential entrepreneur of India; I call them the street-preneurs.

 

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