I was lucky enough to spend a few weeks in India in February and March 2007. I’d always held an interest in photography but I think it was the first time I realised I had my own voice and could take shots other people might not see. The following is an excerpt from an email I sent home to my beloveds…
Well it has been a very strange week or so. It started in Delhi which was cold and wet. After two weeks I’m coming around to think of India as a cross between the Melbourne show – cow shit and crowds – and Mad Max. The mud in Delhi was an interesting mix of rubbish and cow shit, shoes, food and even the odd bit of dirt. After arriving in Mumbai two weeks ago we climbed on to the train and headed north for Mt Abu and the wilds (not really) of Rajasthan while we wound our way to the capitol. We left Delhi last Tuesday for Kathmandu. I got some great photos from the plane (I really did I promise) of Delhi and the surrounding area (so so green) and then of the mountains and the clouds coming into Kathmandu. Our first night in town was reasonably uneventful – except for the great Tibetan meal we had at a local restaurant in Thamel (the tourist area of Kathmandu). The weather closed in very quickly and the temperature dropped a lot after the sun went down.
Wednesday morning we headed out for a walk around the city with one of my travelling companion K’s old friend Ram. Within 20 minutes we were so cold and wet we could hardly walk. Of course the power is out most of the time here so there was no point dreaming of a hot shower back at the hotel. Instead we curled up around a hot cup of chai and hoped for the best. Around 1:30 – the air went still and pearly grey and the temperature dropped again (to a sultry 3 degrees) – it was snowing somewhere really closeby.
The next morning over breakfast we read about it in the paper – the first snowfall in Kathmandu for 62 years. It was a whole new kind of cold for me. This was not the first newsworthy event of our stay. On the day we arrived there had been a bit of a stir because the Maoist leader had come out of the jungle for the first time in 25 years. The Moaists are keen to form a democratic government and so are looking for positive exposure etc… there is an interim gov in power now and elections are expected by April.
Our third full day in Kathmandu a ‘general bunda’ was called. Which means general strike – usually enforced by a political group. The effect being that there is no transport for that day. The idea was to bring the city to a halt in order to remind them what they were working towards. We were told later that bunda was declared 19 days in a row at one point last year which caused huge shortages of food and fuel etc… with no electricity no food and no fuel and no ability to go get things got pretty sticky pretty quickly. We turned our attention to the weekend. Friday was also shiva rortri (sp?) – which has all sorts of spiritual meanings I’m sure but the interesting bit was that basically it was the day when hash is legal… fortunately the party hypes up later in the night and we were safely tucked up (freezing our bits off) in the village of Bistachaap 35/40kms out of Kathmandu.
So the first 4 days in Kathmandu were pretty interesting! On now to Bistachaap. K had volunteered with an orphanage in there 2 years ago and could not pass up the chance of coming so close to the kids as India and not call in. We spent Friday afternoon, Saturday, Sunday and half this morning at the orphanage. The kids are so great. So happy and playful.
The other new experience I haven’t really had before has been the lack of electricity. The worst part for me has been that I haven’t showered since last Thursday. Yum. Anyway… there have been cold showers and duck baths so it means the only neglected bit has been my hair cos it has been so cold. So it has been me and my beanie for the last week and yesterday I had had enough – so it was head down and elbows up at a small water tap in the middle of a field in Bistachaap. I can say for sure the pain was so worth it – and I do mean pain – ice cream headache on the outside of my head kinda pain… just to feel the wind in my hair again. I retired the beanie into a bin near my hotel on the way back into Kathmandu this morning and I’m emailing you all waiting for the evening hour of electricity at the hotel so I can once again have a hot shower.