Indian Stories – A Photo Gallery
India is full of surprises – and there’s usually a story behind the most prosaic of objects. Ever wondered how traffic signs get painted? No, there’s no automated, robotized procedure behind them as in the West – it’s a batch of women sitting on their haunches with paintbrushes and pots of yellow paint. I saw this first hand when I walked down Janpath in New Delhi. Who remembers these unknown roadside artists as we rush in our automobiles past the black and yellow traffic markings on the pavements?
India’s Monkeys – Irresistible!
In India you can see man and monkeys living together in an uneasy truce. A photograph that got away was of at least 20 monkeys all dangling from a traffic light pole in Agra! Before I got my camera out, the bus had moved on and the clambering monkeys remain a delightful snapshot in my memory. I’m sure the monkeys run rampant in places like Benares, Mathura and Haridwar.
In fact, I distinctly remember having my toast snatched from my hand by a greedy monkey at the Haridwar Railway Station many years ago. Now I caught glimpses of monkeys – and humans, outside a small wayside temple near the Ranthambhore National Park. Seen as a form of Hanuman, the venerated Monkey God, these monkeys are indulged and even fed by passers-by.
India’s Camel Power
You’ve heard of horsepower but in India you also have camelpower! Those comical ships of the desert can often be spotted on the road to cities in Rajasthan, pulling their share of loads. Owners love to beautify their animals and the markings on their bodies and legs can tell you quite a story. They are totally lovable as they rise tipsily to their feet to give endless lines of tourists a ride on their backs. I’ve never been to Pushkar for the annual camel fair but I can believe they are worth their weight in gold to traders. I was sad and a little queasy to learn that camel body parts from bones to skin go into making many handicrafts. Perhaps we can do camel milk chocolates, as they do in Dubai? A great tourist pleaser.
Indian Drinks – Gulab Pani and Nimbu Pani
Only in India, the twin pleasures of sherbet and nimbu pani – the marvelous cooling drinks which can tranquilize you in the hottest of weather. The sharbat, as it is called, comes in flavors like khus, kewra and gulab or rose and is instantaneously refreshing. The Nimbu or the lime soda/water immediately takes you back to childhood, to ice tinkling in the glasses and some delicious cucumber or chutney sandwiches eaten in the garden, always with lots of family gossip. No wonder these are drinks still going strong in spite of the inroads made by Coke and Pepsi!
Then there’s the drying laundry – which is on display everywhere. Luckily it’s not dirty laundry being washed in public but fluffy clean garments hanging up just about everywhere where there is an inch of space. I’ve seen it on roof tops hanging on water pipes, in construction sites and from windows and terraces, even in open fields, waving merrily from makeshift clotheslines between trees.
No washing machines and dryers here – quite a saving in energy as the free sunshine is utilized fully. The clothes are washed also in the open ghats, a place to chat and gossip while getting a great physical workout which would be the envy of any urban woman. In Mumbai, I’ve seen the Maharashtrian bais or cleaning women give the laundry a whopping – no wonder they are so fit and limber. They can traverse an entire apartment on their haunches while sweeping the floor with an Indian broom, unimpeded by their nine yard saris!
You’ve Got Mail in India
Then there’s the sturdy red post box standing through thick and thin on city streets, waiting to receive everything from your apprehensive job applications to your aching love letters, and armed with a big fat lock to ensure everything is safe and secure. It reminds me of all the letters to pen-friends, all the story pitches I excitedly mailed out over the years. Now of course, there’s e-mail, Twitter, Facebook and mobile phones. I wonder how many bits of personal correspondence still make their way into the heart of the big red mail box in the big cities now…