Sunday, 24 November 2013

Holga, Jaipur and Kolkata

A few days ago I finally got around to scanning in the remaining Holga photos which I shot in India on the recent trip. A selection of these is now up on the Holga page. [Click here to view]

I also created two new sets in the Travelogue section, one with shots from Jaipur and one with photos from Kolkata. The Kolkata section features shots taken in more unusual circumstances. For one, I was there for the last night of a religious festival, the Durga Pujas  So a number of the photos show the Durga altars that were set up for the festival, and which would be taken down the next day and sunk into the river. What made the night different was that at the same time the fringes of the cyclone Phailin, which struck the Bay of Bengal that day, raged through Kolkata. So while normal you'd have to queue for an hour to get into the makeshift temples to see the altars, now here was hardly a crowd (of course it also meant that you were soaking wet at the end of the night). 

Additionally, there are some photos taken in the two Jewish synagogues that exist in a Kolkatta. The city used to have a Jewish community of over 3,500, with most of the original Jewish settlers having come over from Iraq in the 18th century onwards. Today, that community has dwindled down to 26. Many thanks to Jael Silliman for showing us around the synagogues, the Beth El Synagogue, built in 1856, and the Magen David Synagogue built in 1884.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Rajasthan Revisited

In October I went on my 9th trip to India. The two-and-a-half-week journey took me back to familiar places – Mumbai and Udaipur – as well as a new place (Jaipur) and a city which I had last visited 26 years ago: Kolkata – or Calcutta, as it was still known then.

Jaipur was about sightseeing, but the rest of the trip was not - it was mostly about catching up with friends. As such, the journey turned out to be a study of contrasts: I went to villages in the mountains around Udaipair where at the best of time people subside on very little and where this year’s overlong rainy season destroyed the maize crops and thus the villagers’ income for the year. I visited a friend’s house whose family is living four people to a single room. In Kolkata I was shown around the (now empty) palace of the Maharaja of Burdwan. 

My stay in India coincided with a nine-day religious festival, Navratri, dedicated to the worship of the goddess Durga. In Kolkata, I spent a night visiting the Durga Pujas, and in Udaipur I was 'coerced' to participate in the traditional Garba dances which take place in honour if Durga

I also met two of the 26 remaining members of Kolkata's Jewish community, which once numbered more than 3000, and visited the two synagogues there (I also visited a number of Hindu and Jain temples).

As for the touristy bits, there were a few: the Amber Fort and the Palace of the Winds in Jaipur, Victoria Memorial in Kolkata, the Monsoon Palace in the hills above Udaipur.

I’ve said this in previous blog entries, and I’m mentioning it here again: India for me has always been about the people. Which is why, this time around, most of the photos I brought back are portraits or street photographs, with few exceptions. I had with me again a Polaroid and a Holga camera. Unfortunately, just like last time, the Polaroid films were damaged by the airport x-ray machines (despite taking a film with lower ISO) and the prints have a noticeable red tint. I also took a fair number if photos with the iphone, mostly using the hipstamatic app and choosing a black & white 'film'. 

I posted the following sets: