I’ve been in India a shade over two weeks now and the days have been long. I thought perhaps I’d have time to write a bit but by the time I finish looking for pictures and then downloading my efforts each day, I’m usually deep into the night. The era of digital photography is certain one of give and take. We can look at our work at the end of the day but then it’s a matter of making a rough edit and getting the files into at least two external hard drives. At least that’s the way I do it. I’m sure those who are comfortable and well schooled in digital technology know all kinds of time saving ways to get the work safely logged in and perhaps sent on to an editor. I’m not, unfortunately, one of those kind of photographers. I have an assistant here in India but he’s involved in making our schedule workable, contacting subjects, tracking our expenses so I don’t lose money which has often been my downfall. And language. I can express myself in English fairly well; I don’t have anything else going for me, certainly not Hindi or any of the variety of dialects prevailing in this most wondrous of countries.
I’d like to be able to blog more often but I also like and need to read and a demanding assignment–and what other kind is there if one is trying to do good work–is all consuming. I’m lucky if I can get in a bit of reading time at breakfast, maybe some on the road but on the road in India is usually a long series of one-act plays going on in most any direction and requires my attention and admiration at times at the wonderment of the driver’s ability to avoid vehicle catastrophe. At night the road seems to offer danger lurking in the darkness or in the overwhelming brightness of on-coming drivers who seem to have either headlights that don’t match each other–one is on dim, one is on super bright, or both may be blindingly bright and there may be none at all. We come up quickly behind trucks rumbling on ahead with no apparent taillights or even reflectors. The highways of India have improved immeasurably since my last visit eight years ago. Still, at night, it seems a crap game of travel chance but I suppose if one lives here and hopes to continue to live, one gets used to it or at least has a good driver. And to date I’ve seen only one accident and that was of no consequence and was within the city of Ahmedabad. God only knows, or perhaps I should say one of the many Gods here may only know just how the cars, the trucks, the auto-rickshaws, the buses, the motorcycles, the motor scooters and the pedestrians somehow how criss cross each other’s paths in a series of sudden braking and renewal of speed, like some huge dodge ‘em car rink where everybody tries to avoid hitting the others, somewhat like a reverse demolition derby. I think India has this mastered. France, Germany, and Italy, may all have faster cars and highways but they often also have some spectacular high speed tragedies; I saw one once at night in the French country side I wish very much I hadn’t. I can still see in my mind the car, its top sheared completely off by the tree around which it had wrapped itself, ending at rest with the four young men sprawled in death within like some godawful horror exhibit.
Enough of that.
Better that I comment on the extraordinary visual effect common here in Ahmedabad and, I’m told, other parts of Gujarat, but not in other parts of India, and that is how the young women tear along within the miasma of the ever ongoing traffic, their heads and faces completely enwrapped in scarves, only their eyes visible and often those dark beauties are hidden behind stylish sunglasses. And their slender arms are covered in gloves that reach to their upper arms. What at first look I thought to be some kind of modesty given to a religious concern is simply their desire to protect their skin from the heat and grit of this city and its outlying areas. When wandering in the markets and in their shopping ventures their faces are usually revealed. But while astride their scooters there is a wonderful visual secret behind all that fabric and those dark glasses. And when there are no dark glasses, only dark but brilliant eyes seen framed by a narrow opening in the fabric, I always look to see if those eyes seem to be smiling as they pass me by. Sometimes they are.