Let’s Go Shopping! It’s Market Day!

Haggling

Haggling

The quirks and character of a culture truly come alive in the marketplace. Nowhere is this more evident than in the markets of India. As a serious shopper, I  adore outdoor markets where I can observe the locals shop for whatever their interests and needs require. Sometimes I discover an unusual fruit that I have never tasted before or notice an item that never warranted my attention before and occasionally I even capture it in a photograph. Come on, let’s go shopping!

Sword Shopping

Sword Shopping

I must have walked by this sword dealer numerous times but it wasn’t until I saw this group of beautifully turbaned men shopping, that I actually noticed these swords.

So Many Choices

So Many Choices

Although I love to shop and cook, it is the people in these markets that grab my attention.

The Lull

The Lull

When there is an interlude between sales, this merchant catches up with the news.

Flower Seller

Flower Seller

This woman sits patiently by the side of the road waiting for a customer.

 School Girls Shopping


School Girls Shopping

Shopping is a universal experience that nearly every one enjoys, regardless of your age or background. So much is revealed at the marketplace. And what a delight it is to be there!

 

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Family Ties

3 Smiles

3 Smiles

There is no deeper connection than blood. In India it is especially binding and often has the potential to restrict and inhibit one’s choices for young adults with its strict codes and expectations. Young children, however, are worshiped and indulged by their elders and older siblings.

Here is a series of photographs that explores the range of family ties across India.

 

Dad and Daughter

Dad and Daughter

Family Pride

Family Pride

Potter and Son

Potter and Son

Watchful Father and Daughters

Watchful Father and Daughters

At the Clinic

At the Clinic

Sisters and Brother

Sisters and Brother

The Aunties

The Aunties

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Conveyances and Contraptions on the Streets of India

Brahmin on a Bicycle

Brahmin on a Bicycle

Whether you are in urban India or out in her villages, one is immediately struck by the sheer volume of traffic one encounters everywhere. And unlike in the West, this traffic isn’t all powered by engines! All the varieties of conveyances is mind-boggling and a tribute to India’s ingenuity.  Naturally, as India advances into developed country status these forms of transportation will and are diminishing but for now they are still omnipresent and for me, contribute to India’s many charms.

The following series of photographs were shot all over India: from the very north to the southern most tip.

In Motion

In Motion

Sometimes it looks as if everyone is in motion.

Bicycle Goods Carrier

Bicycle Goods Carrier

There are so many ingenious forms of bicycle derivative combinations; many are quite an arresting contraption too.

Love God

Love God

An opportunity to display one’s spiritual devotion is seldom ignored and is visible on vehicles all over India. Because India imports so much of her fuel, the high cost for the vast majority is beyond their reach. Man power is cheap and bicycle technology is within the reach of nearly everyone.

Bullock Cart

Bullock Cart

Animal powered conveyances are a good method for transporting heavy goods that are  beyond the capacity of a pair of legs.

Camel Cart

Camel Car

It wasn’t too long ago that one could see camel carts all over Rajasthan delivering gas tanks but those days are gone. The auto-rickshaw is a popular, low-cost fuel powered vehicle that takes on many forms, much like its relative, the bicycle.

Auto Rickshaw

Auto Rickshaw

Auto Rickshaw Moment

Auto Rickshaw Moment

Motorcycle and Bus

Motorcycle and Bus

Along side bicycles and auto-rickshaws are motorcycles, scooters and of course, cars and buses as the modern age intrudes. There is almost a carnival quality to the ambiance on the streets of India and the assorted conveyances are a major contributing factor. It is all in the eyes of the beholder and this beholder is enchanted!

 

 

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My Fruit Vendor: a Juicy Dynamic

My Fruit Vendor

My Fruit Vendor

I love to eat fruit, especially when I am in India or Mexico, where the choices are so varied and delicious. My favorite breakfast is a luscious, juicy, sweet, individually sized papaya with a splash of lime. When possible, I’ll eat one every morning. I always travel with a bowl, plate, spoon, knife and small coffee pot. Although it adds weight and bulk to my load, for me, it is worth it. I also tend to stay in one place for long periods so it is a convenience too. When I am in a situation where there is no hot water, I have the option to warm some up in my coffee pot!

I’ve been buying fruit from the woman in the photograph for many years. I am a very thrifty person. I don’t like spending more than I have to and I will steer clear of anyone that I suspect overcharges or cheats. This woman usually charges a good 15% more than everyone else. I happily pay her price because no matter what item I select, it is always perfect. Whenever tempted  by a salesman with low-priced papayas, they are never as good and often are insipid.

My vendor personally selects my papaya. She knows the size that I prefer and doesn’t try to push a bigger one on me. She gently squeezes it and sniffs it and deems it just right for me. She wraps it up with care in newspaper and hands it to me. Often, she tries to tempt me with an out of season Alphonso mango. Every now and then I give in. She introduced me to a fruit that I have never eaten or seen before that are only available briefly in winter. She calls them gooseberries. I suspect that they may have another name. I don’t have a photo of them but I adore this fruit.

She honors my loyalty with her personal attention and reliability.  When I asked her if I could take her photograph, she wasn’t enthusiastic but agreed. After about four shots, she waved me off. She’s a business-woman with no time for such frivolities as photography!

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Dancing to a Different Drum

Packed and Ready to Go

Packed and Ready to Go

By the side of the road Hindu pilgrims wait to leave Puri. With their bags packed, they wait patiently for their bus to take them back to West Bengal. In India, timely efficiency is almost a foreign concept so these travelers catch a quick nap before the long and bumpy bus ride home. They do not fret or agonize over the delay. Of course, anything is possible. This is, after all, India!

What's Happening?

What’s Happening?

In the distance the sound of drums rattle the pilgrims, like the early warnings of a brewing storm, spreading waves of concern and curiosity. They sit up and stand at attention looking down the street. Is there a problem with the bus, they wonder.

Interest Is Sparked

Interest Is Sparked

An odd assemblage of drummers, dressed in typical Orissa ikat tunics with red-head bands tied around their foreheads and with long feathers tucked inside bob gaily as they parade down the lane. Leading them, standing on top of a pushcart is a wild haired man stomping forcefully. To an outsider, it doesn’t add up until I see what looks like a woman dressed in a magenta sari dancing.

A Lot of Noise

A Lot of Noise

The Hijra Twirls

The Dancer Twirls

After catching a glimpse of the dancer, I have a better notion of what is going on. The dancer is a eunuch. In India, these eunuchs form communities and virtually function as  one of India’s many castes. They are known as hijra. Their very existence embody all the paradoxes that is India. They instill fear yet are welcomed. They keep tabs on their neighborhoods. They always know when someone has given birth to a new baby or is about to wed. They appear. They dance. They demand money. Their presence is auspicious. Payment is made and gratefully, they vanish.

So when I identified the hijra, I knew that this event was probably in honor of a pending marriage.

Getting Down

Getting Down

The Circle Tightens

The Circle Tightens

A Eunuch Dances

A Eunuch Dance

Just as suddenly as this little parade appeared, it disappeared, the crowd dispersed and the bus rolled in for the pilgrims. Life returned to whatever is normal for India!

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In Their Hands – Artisans of India

Frame Maker

Frame Maker

After having spent many years of my life designing hand-woven fabrics in Mexico, Guatemala and India and having worked directly with the weavers, the artisans of the world hold a very special and dear place in my heart. It is with tremendous sadness that I watch all the crafts of the world gradually vanish to become mere demonstrations in specialized museums around the globe.

In India, craftsmen (and women) still eek out a living and in some areas are still part of the everyday lives of the villages that they inhabit. Mexico, on the other hand, is another story, especially for the textile arts. Hand made ceramics, glassware and jewelry still are managing to survive but for how much longer is questionable as Mexico nears entry into the category of  developed nation status. How tragic for all of us that the demise of crafts as a living art form equates with entry into the developed world.

On my tours to India, I always include visiting artisans and their workshops whenever possible. I shot many of the photographs below on just such tours. Wherever you live and visit, please support the local craftsmen before it is too late.

Stringing Beads

Stringing Beads

Naturally as India vies for 21st century status, especially with Modi at the helm, things are changing rapidly. Not so very long ago, Indian homes possessed very little furniture and almost every activity took place near to the floor. There were few, if any tables, chairs or bureaus in the typical home. They did everything on the floor and got very creative incorporating the use of their feet into their methods of production as seen in the photograph above.

Bracelet Weaver

Bracelet Weaver

The Jeweler

The Jeweler

Weaver

Weaver

Fabric Printer with Wooden Block

Fabric Printer with Wooden Block

This block printer is creating a border on fabric.

Wood Block Carver

Wood Block Carver

Nothing can replace the human touch in our everyday objects; whether it is the cup we drink out of, the cloth that caresses and adorns us or the jewelry that encircles our throats and wrists. Mass production has its place but there must be a balance and this lack of balance today threatens our very humanity.

 

 

 

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Ladies of the Parking Lot

Together

Together

While wandering around aimlessly in South India with my camera in tow, on the look out for my next subject, I walked through a parking lot where many Hindu pilgrims had settled. They travel in large groups with lots of baggage. Usually they are very excited and happy. Maybe it is their religious fervor or just being on a holiday that gives them this air of enormous pleasure.

From afar I spotted the woman with the bold white mark of Shiva on her forehead. I was instantly drawn to her. Smiling, I walked toward her. It’s very likely that she never had an interaction with a foreigner and she, too, smiled back.  Using sign language, I asked if I could take her photograph. Before I knew it, her female entourage surrounded me. All of them eagerly allowed me to photograph them.

In the Parking Lot

In the Parking Lot

Penetrating Gaze

Penetrating Gaze

Two Women

Two Women

A Believer

A Believer

The people of India are very friendly and almost never mind being photographed by me. I do struggle with the dilemma of being photographed by them! Today, everyone has a cell phone with a camera and is click-crazy. I resent their intrusion into my quietude and the manner in which the picture is “stolen.” I am rarely consulted. Sometimes it feels like a hunted animal with a gun pointing at me instead of a camera, usually in the case of groups of young men. Have you ever experienced this sort of taunting? How do you handle it? Naturally, I walk away and forget about it as best I can but it leaves a bitter after taste.

For the most part, a smile works wonders. It has the power to break down barriers and create instant friendships. Smiling feels good too.

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