New York, NY, USA -- 27 January 2008
The softest kitty in the world is no more.
Pomelo, M.'s cat, died today, from lymphoma. The disease ran its course very quickly; she had shown no signs of illness or discomfort before I left for India, but shortly after I returned it became clear that she was ill and she declined steadily from then on. There's some consolation in the fact that she hung on long enough for M. to return home and say goodbye to her.
She was a truly delightful creature, and we both miss her very much already.
Carol Jenkins (1945-2008)
M.'s friend and mentor, the anthropologist Carol Jenkins, died today at her home in Bangkok. She had been suffering from cancer for a long time, but continued to travel and work almost until the last moment.
Continue reading 'Carol Jenkins (1945-2008)'
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India -- 11 January 2008
A small collection of photographs taken in and around Mumbai.
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India -- 10 January 2008
Mumbai's railway system is
“perhaps the most complex, densely loaded and intensively utilized system in the world” , carrying more than six million passengers a day. At peak times, the trains are so overloaded that it has been estimated that there can be 14 passengers crowded into a single square meter  (this statistic is probably based on the floor area of the carriages and ignores the fact that many of the riders will be clinging to the outside of the train). An average of around 10 people die on the system every day, either run down by trains while crossing the tracks, or as a result of falling from the roofs or open doorways of the overloaded trains.
Having time and money on my side, I avoided rush hour and rode in first class whenever I took the trains. Even so, when I didn't pay attention to the time and arrived at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) just as rush hour began, I was practically knocked off my feet by the wave of commuters scrambling aboard the train I was trying to leave. Even outside the station, trying to walk against the human tide pouring down to CST to catch their train was a challenge.
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India -- 10 January 2008
Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat is Mumbai's largest laundry. Each day, the dhobis wash literally tons of the city's dirty laundry. All the washing is done by hand, with the laundrymen standing ankle-deep in open stone troughs filled with soapy water. Estimates of the number of dhobis involved vary, but there are more than a thousand washing troughs, and the laundry needs to be not merely washed but also hung out to dry, ironed, folded and finally returned to wherever it came from. An often-quoted figure of 5,000 people involved either directly or indirectly in the work doesn't sound implausible.
Amber, Rajasthan, India -- 09 January 2008
The fort-palace of Amber (pronounced 'A-mer') is about 10km from Jaipur. The guidebooks like to describe it as ‘delicate pink’, although the outer walls and some of the interior are a rich sand-yellow. Only the interior approaches any kind of pink, and even there yellow predominates. The fort is home to a colony of langur monkeys, who perform acrobatics on the battlements and view the tourists with languid indifference.
Jaipur, Rajasthan, India -- 08 January 2008
A selection of photographs from Jaipur.
Jaipur, Rajasthan, India -- 07 January 2008
Another commonly-held misconception about India is the idea that English is widely spoken. This is true up to a point, but the reality is that most people's English vocabulary consists of
“Which country please?” and
“What is you [sic] name?” This falls fairly far short of the ingredients for a compelling conversation. Small children, who have a cargo cult mentality when it comes to foreigners, extend the mix with one or more of
“Hello chocolate” (gluttony),
“Hello money” (avarice), or
“Hello schoolpen” (cunning).
Continue reading 'Indglish'
Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India -- 06 January 2008
One of the things everyone knows about India is that cows are sacred and are allowed to wander wherever they want, including the roads. This is true. However, everything else in India can also be found in the middle of the road, including but not limited to goats, sheep, chickens, pigs, buffalo, deer, dogs (three-legged), dogs (sleeping), monkeys (mostly on bridges, for some reason) people (walking along the road), people (walking across the road), people (just standing around), people (on bicycles), people (on motorcycles), people (in cycle rickshaws), people (in auto-rickshaws and tempos), cars (Indicas, Ambassadors, and other varieties), Landcruisers, buses (deluxe express, aged long-distance, superannuated local, antedeluvian), trucks (modern), trucks (ancient to the point of lethality), tractors towing entire haystacks, camels pulling lumber (in Rajasthan), cricket matches, assorted arts and crafts, potholes, road menders in colorful saris, and approximately six hundred million men with moustaches. Among other things.
Orchha, Madhya Pradesh, India -- 03 January 2008
Photographs of the palaces and temples of Orchha in northern Madhya Pradesh.
Tea with the sadhu
Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh, India -- 02 January 2008
The statue of Hanuman stood in a small enclosure by the side of the road, just across from the Brahma Temple with its fluted spire and courses of sculpted figures. The statue was taller than a man, painted in the International Orange that is used to designate active objects of veneration. A sadhu wrapped in a gray blanket sat nearby, while a boy with a twisted foot swept the steps that led up to the enclosure.
Continue reading 'Tea with the sadhu'
Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh, India -- 01 January 2008
Photographs of temples in Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh