All you who sleep tonight…

 

The message on my phone, blandly said,” To date we have distributed : Non perishable bi weekly and monthly rations to 25,761 people. Ready to eat hot meals : 57,901. Vegetables purchased from farmers for distribution : 11,550 kgs”.

I had been initially at the periphery and later, a little more involved in a couple of areas of the entire operation and I knew that the figures were quite impressive.

I don’t think many agencies that had gamely stepped in to help the affected had much experience in this sort of an activity. How many in the metros would have had the experience to provide relief while a crisis is actually unfolding around you ? Real time. Heck…forget an Indian metro, not many agencies anywhere in the world would have much experience in this.

However, forget pride, there was not even a remote level of satisfaction that I felt.

The last 35 -40 days had passed like a blur. It was towards the end of March…or was it early April, that I had gone on my first distribution trip. Delivering around 14 bags of monthly rations at two different locations.

It has been a perplexing mix of an emotional journey – a little bit of shame and guilt about my lack of awareness of their troubles… their existence in many ways, a growing sense of despair at their situation and soon a mounting mixture of indignation and anger at the powers that be, who never factored in the situation of millions of such people, in their game plan.

*****

I was curious.

How will the process work ? Who will we be distributing these rations to ? How do we identify them ? Where will we be meeting them ?

In many ways, it was an underwhelming night. In both locations, the process lasted just a few minutes. We reach the location, we call the main contact, we  hand over the bags and we leave.

If I was expecting any deep insight, or a  life altering experience, I couldn’t have been more off the mark. It was a very ordinary event. 

But one small conversation stuck.  

My companion, had chatted warmly with the group that arrived to pick up their supplies. Asked them where they were from, what they did. Coincidentally,  one of them, he must have been in his late teens, was from the same district and it could have been just that indescribable comfort at finding someone from the same vicinity as his home, that made the kid, almost break down while narrating his story.

He was a carpenter and had landed in Bangalore just a couple of days before the lockdown. Most of the money he had, had run out during the journey itself. He and his mates were housed along with others from the same area but life was brutal – bhookh se mar rahe hain, sir ( We are dying of hunger, sir ). 

Even now, I wonder, how a kid, from a small town would have felt, thousands of miles  from a small village,  that was home, in a truly big, strange, intimidating city. Away from family. Without a job. Without money. Without food. And no idea of, forget the future, but how even the coming week looked like. How he will survive. 

Terrifying thought.

*****

Setting up such an operation wouldn’t have been easy.

Deciding what should be supplied. What is essential ? What can be nutritious ?

For how long ? A fortnight ? A month ?

Where to buy these supplies from ?

Who will set up the packing operations ? Where ? A reasonably large space will be needed.

How will the supplies be transported ?

Getting passes from the authorities to roam around during the lockdown.

Getting the cops to accompany if the distribution is to a large group to manage the crowd.

And, of course…getting the funds to run the operation.

I wasn’t there for any of the initial period of setting up the operations but the learning curve, I am sure, would have been a steep one. Operational issues are relatively easy to get a grip on.

There are far tougher questions out there.

*****

As we handed over the bags to him and were walking towards our car, two other elderly men hesitantly walked up to us. They hadn’t been earning ever since the lockdown and asked us if we have a few bags to spare. Their families were struggling.

We didn’t.

How do you tell a person, who has clearly struggled to overcome his reluctance to approach us, subdue  his pride and ask for help, that we could not help them ?

But, even if we had stocks to spare how do we know if the ask was genuine ? Were they being covered by other groups helping out but are looking at stocking up a bit more not knowing how long these uncertain times will last ? Moreover…can you blame anyone for doing that ?

At the same time,  if a family stocks up for the future at the cost of another that is going hungry  

It felt a bit like playing God.

*****

Recces.

If we do proper recces, identify clearly the people who are in need, who are not being covered by any other agency, we could hone in more accurately on those who are truly in need.

Go to a location. Meet the people. Get an estimate of the number of families, people, the number of houses / rooms. Mark the location on Maps. Get a Point of Contact for future communication. Send the data to a central team that would check if anyone else has covered the community in the recent past.

Over to them.

Different settlements were identified on the map. The details were cross verified. They were  marked as red and green. If red, it meant not covered and meant a yes for distribution.

Tokens were given. Made it easier during the  actual distribution. At least, the bags will definitely be given to those who have been identified as needing it. The same team that did the recce will try to go for the distribution. Easier to identify the right people.

But.

Not easy.

*****

In many ways it was a textbook distribution.

There were 30 bags to distribute. The PoC was a very efficient lady and had a clear plan in place. We were asked to put down 10 bags at a time. She had arranged for ten people to come at a time and the entire process went off extremely smoothly. 

However, a truck coming in to a locality attracts attention. Especially, during lockdown time when no one has much to do and are usually sitting outside their homes.

 A small crowd assembled.

A young man begged for at least a single bag to be given to him. Another lady, pleaded for help for her tenants. She had been helping out with her own rations but naturally that was not enough. There were families with infants. They need help. A third man demanded to know our basis for distribution. Why was he being ignored ?

This was the first drop of the trip. There were three more drops to finish. Everyone could see the bags still in the truck. While we were trying to explain why we could not spare any for them. Taking their contact numbers and promising them that we will return. Its not easy to see the disappointment in their eyes. Or the scepticism. 

We have to leave as they were crowding around us.

Because – social distancing.

*****

Its been just a little over two months back that a horrible new word crept insidiously into our daily vocabulary.

Social distancing.

There were real risks for anyone going out. It multiplies many times over if you are going into densely populated localities and a crowd gathers.

Strict rules were laid out. Protocols were established.

All volunteers MUST be wearing gloves and masks. Carry a sanitizer with you. Clean all touchpoints when you return to your car – the gear shift, the steering wheel. Get back into your house and head straight for a bath. Clothes go in a heap into a bucket of hot water and then for a wash. Wallets. Glasses. Phone. Everything gets a brush with the sanitizer.

Every time.

Every single time.

And, if a crowd gathers. If they don’t listen. Leave. Even if the distribution is not complete. You can return to complete it later.

But. Do. Not. Put. Yourself. At. Risk.

Also, while distributing,  all the recipients have to queue up maintaining social distancing.

Which always makes me wonder.

*****

There was a row of five or six rooms. Possibly around 10’ x 10’ or at the most 12’ x 12’. Not too tall. Cemented over. No paint was wasted on the walls. 

Towards the right, a little distance away, stood a smaller row of smaller cubicles. The toilets. The bathing area was in the open to the left. Common area and where they usually bathe in groups. 

“ How many of you stay in a room ? “

“ 5 or 6 of us”.

5 people in a 100 sft room. Social distancing ? 

When we say there is a complete lockdown, most of us talk from the perspective of the main roads. Take one of the side lanes and you will usually see a different world. People sitting together. Having a smoke. Standing outside the small fish stall. Or just sitting on the verandah of a cluster of shops and chatting. And these are areas where there are proper buildings. If you go to the settlements , its even more densely packed. 

Social distancing ?

Impractical. Illogical. Impossible.

*****

Amidst all the gloom, there definitely are innumerable instances that make you hopeful. How help will come up. Suddenly. Almost every time you need it.

The school that opened its doors and its auditorium to store all the stocks and for packing the bags. And, ensured that its canteen made tea and lunch for the workers.

The people at the FCI godown who ensured that our trucks didn’t have to wait in the queue – NGO ke log hain, jaldi kaam kar lo inka ( These are NGO folks, lets finish their loading quickly )

The guy who turned up to help out with the entire operations of ordering the supplies, getting the labour, arranging for the trucks.

The cops who would arrive at short notice to help out with the distribution if the number is rather high and the crowds need managing.

The guy who turned up with high quality masks and gloves and PPE kits for all the workers involved in the packing and for the volunteers. And got chicken biriyani for the workers who were putting in some tremendous work.

The families who heard that the workers were working the night shift and we had forgotten to arrange for dinner and immediately cooked up a delicious meal for 10-15 people and sent it over.

And, of course, the scores of volunteers, always eager to jump in. To put in long hours in the field. To take up any work that needs to be done, to attend to any issue that needs attention. Day after day.

But, its easy to be lost in the gloom.

*****

“ Sir, can you help me ? “

“Bolo”. ( Tell me )

“ Can you help us get back home ? “ 

We had just distributed supplies to around 50 people who were contract workers for a rather well known company. Supplies that will last them for at least two weeks. 

“ Why would you want to go home ? You have got this support which will last you for the next two weeks. Things will open up soon, work will start. Isn’t it better to stay back? “

“Nahi sir, bahut ho gaya. Bas ghar jaana hai ( No, sir, we have had enoughwe just want to go back home.)

Many of them had worked for four five years in the same company. They hadn’t got their salaries for the last month. However, what seemed to hurt them was the fact that no one had called them to check on them. No one was taking their calls. They were simply left to be on their own. Forgotten.

“ We will do farming at home. We will be with our own people. We will manage. Just help us get back home.” 

They had been going to the nearby police station. Had filled in the online forms, had submitted physical forms on top of it. A few of them had gone to the police station once again that morning to check on the status. And got caned. One of them showed me his injuries. He had applied a bluish white paste on them. After a while, I asked him what ointment it was. It was toothpaste. They could only apply what they had. 

I am usually reluctant to promise help unless I am sure I can deliver. I couldn’t do that this time.  I told them I will try.

And we all did. In multiple ways. Reaching out to multiple people. Cops. Bureaucrats. Politicians. However, nothing seemed to work.

Then we heard that there were 200,000 applicants. There never will be trains for that many applicants. And we hadn’t reached out to THE person who mattered.

He kept calling me. Four, five times a day. Always hopeful that I will have some good news for him. Telling me why he wanted to go home. Hopeful. I could only listen.

This morning, I conceded defeat. I told him that we have been unable to get any support from anywhere.

He had called me from outside the police station. He was once again waiting there. Despite getting caned. Despite being treated badly. Despite everything.

Because he wanted to go home. Another kid from another small village from deep inside the country. 

He hasn’t called me since.

*****

All you who sleep tonight
Far from the ones you love,
No hands to left or right,
And emptiness above…

ALL YOU WHO SLEEP TONIGHT – Vikram Seth

The Top 10 from 2019

Goa.

Allahabad for the Kumbh Mela.

Jhalana at Jaipur.

Bhadra in Karnataka.

Bandhavgarh in MP.

Pantanal in Brazil.

Masai Mara.

2019 definitely was the sort of the year that  had never existed even in my wildest dreams.

First visits to places that have long been in my list and then two ‘blow-your-mind’ trips to the Pantanal and the Mara.

Total. Absolute. Heaven.

2019 also was the year where I travelled the most in my journey in photography. Where I finally put into use a lot of what I had read earlier but which I usually forgot in the heat of the moment and later, in my last trip of the year, to the Mara learnt a lot, lot more than I had imagined I would.

To make the list of the top 10 images in any year with so much travel would always be a challenging task, but that task becomes even more daunting when you have become a much better photographer by the end of the year than you were at the start.

So. On what basis do you make the list ? On the basis of the quality of the images as you see them ? On the basis of the experience you had while taking the pic ? On the basis of the level of difficulty that existed at the place ?

Sigh. Decisions. Decisions.

Finally, I decided that it will be a mix of all. Also look for those that show a lovely piece of animal interaction, play of light, indicates a lot of action in a still image. I also accepted the fact that if I look at my pics a week later, the choice and the ranking might be different.

But, all things considered, this was a tough job.  So many of those stunningly beautiful birds of Brazil lose out. And those cheetah images. Terrible, really.

And, if shortlisting ten images wasn’t bad enough…ranking them. Phew.

Anyway, here goes :).

*****

10.

We spent a lovely afternoon with Siligi and her six cubs. From the time we saw her resting on the hillock, our hope was that if she and the cubs stayed there till sunset we could get some brilliant silhouettes.

We did. Out of all those lovely silhouettes, this is what I loved. The unconditional love that any kid would have for the mother  gets captured here. The kids were playing all around and then Siligi decides it was time to get a move, gets up, stretches and then as she moves away, two cubs come running up to her and one jumps up to give her a nice hug and a kiss. Well, not actually a hug and a kiss, but isn’t that how this looks ?

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Location : Masai Mara, Dec 2019

9. 

We clambered down a small, bushy slope, a bulky 400 lens atop a tripod and cautiously tiptoed into a small clearing. There, on a branch with no twigs, no leaves coming in the way, with no clutter in the background, sat a Female White Rumped Shama. I stopped in my tracks and started clicking. My guide, Ramesh of Nature’s Nest, ventured a little further ahead and gestured to me to join him.

And, there she was. Perfectly perched with a little bit of sunshine falling beautifully on her face and playing games in the background. Such a dreamy background.

This was also my first image that I printed and framed, so, yes, there is that bit too that influenced its choice 🙂

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Location : Goa, Jan 2019

8.

One of the sub adult cubs was in the small pool of water. We knew where the other two cubs were. Near the half eaten kill. The mother and two of the cubs were enjoying a siesta and Zian from Baghtola had suggested we position ourselves such that if any of the sleeping cubs come for a dip in the pool, their path will give us direct head on images. It was June. It was hot. They had to come.

One of them did. Exactly as expected by Zian. Being a sub adult, it was still a little wary of all the jeeps and I loved the sense of action in this image. Alert. Wary. Looking straight into the camera. Dark undergrowth in the background and the setting sun making the dry grass look a wonderful golden colour matching the lovely tawny skin of the tiger. What. A. Magnificent. Creation.

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Location : Bandhavgarh. June 2019

7.

As a rule I don’t like animals crowding the entire frame. We, or to be more accurate Antony Tira of Matira Lodge, had seen two jackals alert peering into the bushes and we went to investigate. There deep in the bushes was Bahati the leopard. Resting. In no mood to get out.

We waited. And then suddenly she stepped out. With a 600 mm in my hand, I didn’t have much of an opportunity to take anything else other than a close up. What a lovely creature she is ! Those eyes ! Limpid pools and all that. I loved the way I got the right Depth of Field and got the eyes and the head tack sharp with the rest of the body dissolving into fuzziness. Of course, it took Rahul Sachdev’s eye to suggest that I look at a black and white instead of colour. Lovely. The fact that its my desktop image on my work PC helps this image !

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Location : Masai Mara Dec 2019

6.

A cat emerges out of the water. Or is sitting in the rain. The chances that it will shake off the water are absolutely certain. We had been trailing this jaguar for hours. A jaguar loves the water and we were waiting on the opposite side, beautifully positioned thanks to Fabiano from BioDiverse Tours, to get some straight head-on pics. I had completely forgotten the fundamental nature of the jaguar when it emerges from the river. It has to shake off the water. My response was a rather frantic one. Fortunately, I got a couple of lovely ones. The neck twisted powerfully, the water droplets formed a glittering necklace around it, aided by the dark background. And in black and white, it just looked so brilliant !

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Location : Pantanal, Brazil. August 2019

5.

This time I was ready.

Our first game drive. It was pouring. There were two male lions sitting rather stoically in the rain. Drenched. It had to happen. That shake. And, with that mane and that amount of rain, I could get a memorable image. The only concern was the awkward position I was sitting in, peering through a tiny gap in the windows as the lens poked outside. Being patient was tough.

I think it paid off.

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4.

Its getting tougher to make those choices now.

The toucanet is a striking bird. Such colours and such an interesting shape. This bird was rather comfortable with the place. I was wondering if I should exchange my 600 mm for a 200-500. Supreet from Tropical Tours felt I shouldn’t and I didn’t really need much encouragement. However, if you have a 600mm lens and don’t have much place to back off, you cannot get anything much other than an image that crowds the entire frame. Which is kinda boring.

Then the blessed thing turned around and peered down. Perfect opportunity to get an interesting pose. With a lot of space. In the direction of the gaze. Lovely Depth of Field. All boxes ticked 🙂 On top of everything, to get that eye so nicely. Bliss.

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Location : Trilha dos Tucanos, Brazil. August 2019

3.

Its the Jabiru stork  at #3. It was early morning and we were, as usual, on the river,  busy trying to get photographs of a frisky family of otters. A shout from Fabiano,” Jabiru landing !” and a few precious seconds to squeeze off a few shots. Shooting into the sun, with the sunlight reflecting brilliantly off the water ,the wings spread gloriously making it look translucent, the slight splash of the water as the feet land…beautiful.

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Location: Pantanal, Brazil. August 2019

2.

Mardadi.

What an imposing name. Try saying it. The ‘D’ isn’t a hard one…say it softly. Ahh…just sounds so imperial.

Mardadi and the lioness were resting between their mating. Lions usually have a go every 10-15 minutes but maybe the duo were just too exhausted cos they just ignored each other completely throughout the time we were there. While we were disappointed that we are missing the chance of a lifetime to take some mating shots against the setting sun, it was still a lot of fun to take silhouette shots of a luxuriously maned, handsome male. We kept experimenting. Exposure compensation at -1, then -2 and then even -3. Just then the setting sun, peeped out of the clouds for that brief second, bathing the entire scene with the most beautiful golden colour.

Click !

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Location : Masai Mara, December 2019

1. 

I might have agonised over which images would make it to the top ten. I might have agonised over the ranking of most of the images. However, I never had any doubt about which would be the numero uno.

I don’t think any of us will ever forget this day with Selenkei and her single cub. We met them just after they realised that the other cub was missing. The duo spent hours wandering around, searching for the unfortunate cub. Hours. They kept staring desolately into the thicket where it had got lost – presumably, the unfortunate cub became the meal of a pack of hyenas. As the sun was sinking behind the horizon with an exhausted sigh, the mother walked upto the surviving cub and gave it a kiss. To me it seemed like a nuzzle as reassuring to the mother as it would be to the cub. It was simply heartbreaking. Golden yellow skies. Grass on gentle fire. Soft light. Slight rim lit…precious.

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Location : Masai Mara, December 2019

Phew.

That was fun. Let me know your feedback. It matters. The last time I made a list, the #1 hasn’t even made it to this list…I got so influenced 🙂

Ciao !!

A dip at the Kumbh Mela

The term Kumbh comes from a mythical pot of nectar, but it is also the Hindi name for Aquarius, the sign of the zodiac in which Jupiter resides during the Haridwar Mela. But, of course, there is always a story behind everything and this is the story behind the Kumbh.

It is said that once Sage Durvasa passed Lord Indra and being in a rather cheerful mood      ( which in itself was unusual since he was rather infamous for his bad temper ), gave a garland from his own neck to Lord Indra.

 Lord Indra, lost in his own thoughts, and not being entirely mindful of what he was doing, and more importantly, to whom, carelessly passed the garland onto the elephant he was riding on instead of showing his gratitude to the great sage.

The elephant took the garland given to it, threw it on the ground and proceeded to playfully  crush it with its legs. 

Enraged by this complete lack of respect, Sage Durvasa  cursed Lord Indra to lose all his      ( and by extension the Devas’ ) material comforts and strengths which the sage believed gave Lord Indra the arrogance that he had just shown. The Asuras ( the demons ), with whom the Devas were constantly at war, immediately defeated the Devas and took control of the Universe.

The devas, devastated by this loss of position and security, rushed to Lord Vishnu for help, who told them that only the nectar, which resided at the bottom of the celestial ocean of milk can make them strong again, after drinking which they would become immortal.

However, there was a catch.

The ocean would need to be churned in order for the nectar to surface, and the Devas wouldn’t be able to do this alone (remember, they had lost their strength thru the curse ?). They would need to seek the help of the Asuras for this and the possibility of getting the nectar and hence immortality, would be the reason for the Asuras to agree to help.

Finally, and many sub plots and fascinating stories later, the nectar surfaced and the Devas and the Asuras started fighting for the first right to drink it. For twelve days and twelve nights, both of them fought for it. ( Each day for the Gods is equal to a year for the humans and hence the relevance of the 12 years with the Kumbh ) and during this fight the precious nectar fell at four places – Nashik, Ujjain, Hardwar and Allahabad. 

There is another version which says that Garuda flew away with the pot of nectar to save it from the Asuras and while he was flying, the drops fell at these four places.

During this auspicious period of the Kumbh, wherever its celebrated that year, the waters are said to become the equivalent of the nectar and those who take a dip in these waters, cleanse themselves of all their sins.

Millions of people descend on the banks of the rivers when the Kumbh is on. To take a dip. To cleanse themselves of all sins. To listen to the discourse of all the sadhus present there.

*****

To be honest, I didn’t have much of a clue about the Kumbh.

I had a rather remote idea about it as a place where hundreds of thousands of people come for a dip. A crowded place, if ever, there was one and an impossibly messy one at that.

Then, a few years back a good friend had gone to the Kumbh and came back with some very good photos and a lot of words of appreciation about the place and the experience. A tiny idea was born then, that maybe it would be good to visit the Kumbh once. It stayed as an idea at the very back of my head for a very long time.

News came about the Kumbh at Allahabad this year. I stayed unaffected. The Kumbh started and I started reading a little bit about it, came to know of friends who had visited and idly wondered why I had not planned to visit it.

Maybe next time.

And then in early Feb I heard that the last day of the Kumbh is on March 4.

Hmmm. Is there still time to plan a visit ?

Fortunately for me, I happened to voice my thought to a friend and before I knew it, the idea had gained momentum and our plans were frozen.

We were going to the Kumbh . During the weekend before the last day – the Maha Shivratri when the Kumbh for this year comes to a closure.

*****

Just one last lil bit of info.

The schedule of the Kumbh. There seems to be surprisingly quite a few widely varying info about it when I was trying to understand the Kumbh better in the days before our trip.

But broadly, this is what I found :

  • The Maha Kumbh occurs after 12 Purna Kumbh Melas i.e. every 144 years.
  • The Kumbh Mela (sometimes specifically called Purna Kumbh or “full Kumbha”), occurs every 12 years at a given site.
  • Ardh Kumbh (“Half Kumbh”) Mela occurs every 6 years between the two Purna Kumbha Melas at Allahabad and Haridwar.

In summary, Kumbh Mela, is celebrated four times over the course of 12 years, the site of the observance rotating between four pilgrimage places on four sacred rivers—at Haridwar on the Ganga, at Ujjain on the Shipra, at Nashik on the Godavari, and at  Allahabad at the confluence of the Ganges, the Yamuna, and the mythical Sarasvati. Each site’s celebration is based on a distinct set of astrological positions of the Sun, the Moon, and Jupiter, the holiest time occurring at the exact moment when these positions are fully occupied.

*****

The entire experience of being at the Kumbh was simply wonderful.

By the time we reached, almost all the Sadhus’ and the Naga babas’ akharas had wound up and left Allahabad. Apparently, after Basant Panchami, they usually leave. That was a bit of a disappointment when the very first night we arrived, we went for a walk around the place where the Kumbh was taking place.

But whatever disappointment we had, whatever apprehensions we had about having arrived too late soon dissipated the next morning. The banks were overflowing with people. People who had come from near and far, people from all sorts of backgrounds, old and the young, rich and the poor, assembled on the banks preparing to take the ritualistic dip.

We spent quite a few hours simply walking around the entire place. I have rarely done street photography and was quite uncomfortable initially to take pics of people around me. I soon got over my discomfort. I asked permission when I could, but on many occasions I kept shooting and no one got offended. We Indians, I think, generally are very comfortable about and possibly eager to get photographed. Some gave me their contact numbers asking me to send them their pics thru the ubiquitous WhatsApp. ( I did )

By the way, the arrangements were simply outstanding. Security, the overall level of cleanliness, the arrangements for toilets and water….everything was simply top class. I read somewhere that more than 20 crore ( 200 million ! ) people came this year. And the arrangements withstood that onslaught of humanity. Awesome.

The most common question after I returned ?

“ How was the experience ?”

All of us struggled to find out the exact word that described the atmosphere. To me, the feeling I could sense was one of simple happiness. A liberated, carefree mood. I won’t call the overall atmosphere to be overly devout and religious. It was just happy.

There were hundreds of thousands of people but still you didn’t get the sense of a huge, unmanageable crowd. No one was pushing, no one was overly anxious to get in for a dip before the next person, there were no exhibitions of bad temper or irritation.

And…oh, what colours !! Such rich, brilliant loud colours !! Brilliant yellow, saffron and white mingled with the rich brown of the skin….was such a delight photographing the abundance of sights around.

I thought, instead of even attempting to put the entire experience in words ( which I was confident, I will thoroughly fail at ), possibly the pics alone might help in communicating the experience that is the Kumbh.

So here goes 🙂

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The Kumbh !!! We were delighted to see the crowds the first morning allaying our fears of having reached a bit too late !
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It was still early. The vendors were just getting ready for the customers
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One of my first photos…I was a bit unsure about the way to ask permission and this tall, sturdy gent was striding purposefully towards the waters. He glanced at me, noted my enquiring look, nodded imperceptibly and paused mid stride to allow me to take a quick shot. Nice of him 🙂
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You could find all sorts of people and you will get all sorts of looks as you wandered around with your camera
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The bemused look
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The intense look – even if he was clearly posing and has a hint of a smile in acknowledgment
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And see all sorts of people…the thoughtful ones
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The pensive ones…
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The serious ones…
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And the gentle ones…this lady was protectively helping her husband to get ready for his dip
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The only ash smeared sadhu I saw…he was lying on a bed of thorns and had another prickly set kept on him !!!
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Soon it was time for us to take our dip…we go off on a boat led by a slightly unusual cavalcade
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They timed their flight perfectly at the last minute..
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And soon we had reached the spot where we could take our dip…we had got ourselves a slightly separate spot. I think those coming by boats get  separate enclosures
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Not that it was less crowded ! A view of the line of boats that were waiting for their passengers to finish their dip and then head back
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The slightly separate spot for us to take our dip…
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This is how it was for those on the banks and not coming on the boats
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Many boats had everything ready for doing a small pooja
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Where people could do their pooja before taking their dip
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While some others did their own stuff
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While their kids of course,  were having a blast
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This couple got a few moments for a private chat in the middle of the thousands of people
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Knowing that their passengers will take some time to start their return journey, these two friends decide to have a quick bite
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While another boatman preferred to lounge under the warm sun  waiting for his group to return
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All around us, the scenes were similar
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All sorts of people were around us…grandfathers with grandkids
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Sons helping their aged fathers
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Ladies of a family with the children
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And, of course, the single devotees…this lady was amazing to observe. She was so focused on her prayers and the process …completely immersed in, oblivious to everyone around her
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Another devotee praying to the rising sun in between her dips..the guy is simply shivering from the shock of the first dip into the cold water !
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And, of course, every occasion is a good occasion for a family photo !!
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And, if not the family pic, definitely the solo selfie ! He observed me taking this pic and wanted a copy to be ‘Whatsapped’ to him …its now his profile pic 🙂
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And then there was this cute little girl with a brilliant laugh looking longingly at my camera and wanting to be photographed. I said, ‘Chalo, let me take a pic”, she looked at her father for permission. Granted with a smile and he too joined in…the protective father behind his daughter. Loved the smile on her face !
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The packing of the important holy Ganga water for everyone back at home
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The Kumbh is rightly called a Kumbh Mela (fair)…it had all the elements of a fair. Need a head shave before your dip ? No problem !
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Beads, necklaces, bangles ? Name it….and such colours !!
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A flower girl selling her flowers to people just as they were about to enter the waters…she was rather shy and told me…only one photo !
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This young man was waiting for the next set of customers
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She was selling more pooja stuff near the bank. ” May we take your photo ?” my friend asked. ” “But why would you want to ?” ” Because you have a lovely smile”. Blush. Click. Perfect
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The arrangements were outstanding. An old man sips from a free cup of tea that was being given to anyone who was around.
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Safety….everyone who was on a boat had to wear a life jacket.
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Security. There were cops all around. Friendly. Helpful. Firm.
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This gent epitomises the riot of colour that the Kumbh is !