Monday, April 27, 2009

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hands and feet

Both photographs taken at Sukhothai, Thailand.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Vietnam Snapshots

Yellow hued lantern seller. Hoi An.

Boat conversations. Tam Coc.

Hello, Goodbye. Hoa Lu.

A touch of French. Hanoi.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A green door, what else?*

Hanoi, Vietnam

For BM and Veena, who came back from a jealousy inducing Silk Road trip bearing gifts of lovely green doors**. Spacebar, who shared a picture of a rather special door, albeit a blue one. ?!!, who is already claiming a 5% commission on any book on green doors/ windows I come out with. And for everyone else also, of course. I took many pictures of green doors and windows in Hanoi - they were everywhere, but this is my favourite. It even has a green bicycle. And those red flags, a very apt reminder of the (semi) red country it was taken in.

* Technically, a green window. But since I have already identified myself as a green door fetishist, I'll go on with that terminology.
** And also the image of Daniel Day Lewis in terracotta warrior headgear. Very hot.

Friday, April 17, 2009

At prayer

This was one of my favourite pictures, out of all those I took at Edirne last year. This was during the afternoon prayers, and I felt slightly shameless taking photographs and stopped soon after I clicked this one. I kept meaning to upload it here, but never did, but over the last few days it's the one image I seem to have kept going back to, even though I have thousands of new ones from South East Asia to upload. They can wait.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Monks. Painting.

Luang Prabang, Laos

Monks are calming, are they not? I think it's the robes.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My grandmother passed away four days ago. It was almost around the time I was boarding the flight back to Delhi, though my father didn't tell us about it then and I only found out on the way from the airport back home. It was possibly the most traumatic homecoming possible – I reached home at 3.30 in the morning, by 7.30 everyone was up getting ready for the cremation. My grandmom turned 85 in February and almost the whole family had come down for her birthday – the last photos of her are with a bouquet of eighty five yellow roses. When I spoke to her then she said she was waiting for me to come back and spend time at home over summer. Whenever I would come back to Delhi I would usually go straight from the airport to meet her and then go home...even as I was packing up before I flew I kept thinking, well I'll be reaching so late at night I'll only be able to meet dadi the next day. 

I didn't speak to her after I got through to Oxford, and I don't know why because I spoke to most of my other family members. Perhaps because I knew I would be home in a few days, perhaps because I knew my father was with her and would have told her, but the fact that I didn't has been killing me. My father's book which is out next month was dedicated to her and she never knew.

The whole family is here, together in grief as it were, and I don't think the absence has, therefore, hit us yet. Though it does rear its head – it's impossible to think of the house without her, to see her chair empty or to not have her phoning up everyday. She was a most extraordinary woman. Always graceful, always active, always kind. She was always so absorbed in things, so busy that it was impossible to believe that she could tire or even slow down. She published eleven poetry books amongst others. A few days after her death her publisher called to say her new book, a children's book, was about to published soon.

When I came back from a trip to Switzerland a few years ago and was showing her the photos from the trip, she remarked about how things used to be when she was there in the seventies. It was a surprise to imagine her traveling around alone, but then again I guess, in all our egotism I don't think we ever really imagine our grand parents as being anything other than grand parents, of having a life other than the one we have seen them living. 

A few years ago I learnt about how she was jailed for a short while during Quit India, where she was on that stroke of midnight in 1947 – my great grandfather was the first Indian District Magistrate of Balia and she was at the official celebrations, the next day she left for her first teaching job in Dehradun. My grandmother taught political science at the Benares Hindu University for almost twenty five years, a Fulbright scholar she taught in the U.S for a while before moving to Delhi University, from where she retired.

In many ways, I always thought of her as a grand matriarch. My grandfather passed away when I was very young and it was always her at the head of the family. A couple of days ago my cousin remarked that she had always been such a feminist idol for her and I think that's true – she never changed her name after marriage and always lived completely on her own terms and for large stretches of her life, alone. In our family we are all grand daughters (and two great grand daughters) and for us she was a wonderful example. We all went to Haridwar for the immersion of the ashes and at one point the pandit asked where are the grandsons? My uncle simply said, there are none, we specialize in girls. It's true and she took a lot of pride in us (so many of her books are dedicated to us) and the fact that we are all so well educated – we are often referred to by our professions: the MBA, the journalist, the lawyer, the PhD student, the (soon to be) M.Phil student and the youngest one (who is still in school but meant for great things). Over the past few days that is what I have heard the most – from the most far flung relatives, people I haven't met in eons – just how proud she was of all of us, how she always talked about us the most. I know she was and in a small way that makes me proud.

About a year ago she was extremely unwell and in hospital for almost a month. She came out fighting, but ever since had been extremely weak. My mother said she had become like a wisp of cotton and had to be protected from even the slightest wind. She passed away quietly and gracefully in her sleep – when I saw her afterwards, I almost expected her to awake from her slumber any minute - and while the vacuum will always be there I am glad the end was peaceful.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Roadside Roses

This sight in Hanoi reminded me of this particular photo, one I really like, by Twilight Fairy. The unmanned roses in the midst of the chaos of the old town were a lovely and surreal sight.