Today morning, I woke up with an overwhelming desire to go on a boat ride. I don’t know why, but there was this yearning to be on water and allow for its soothing motion and rhythm to take over. But today was also a Wednesday, a weekday and a working day. It didn’t feel right to give in to the temptation to take leave from work and go to the Gateway of India for the nearest boat ride I could take.
Instead, I went to work. But thoughts of the boat ride kept intruding between editing documents and meetings, and during lunch and and coffee breaks. Well, if only thoughts were boat rides, I would have gone on a real one … So, I did the next best thing — photograph therapy.
Once I reached home, I raided my digital photo library to look at all the trips that I have taken on water. One of the trips stood out for sheer novelty and beauty — a boat trip on the River Thames from Richmond (in Southwest London) to Hampton Court in July 2009. The novelty lay in the fact that this the first time I got the opportunity to observe how boats navigated river locks. This boat ride was part of an explorer day organised by London Walks to first explore Richmond, then take a boat trip along the Thames to Hampton Court Palace, for the second part of that day’s activities. It is a journey that took about an hour-and-a-half through a very picturesque route and in typical English weather It — sunny, cloudy, and rainy at the same time.
Come on, join me, as I take that boat ride from Richmond to Hampton Court once again with some photographs and a video.
My house looks unnaturally clean and dust free. Well, as clean and dust free as a ground floor flat in Mumbai can possibly look like. The bright and newly painted walls enhance the clean and airy look of the house, as does the freshly polished, gleaming furniture. As I survey the house, I can’t believe how calm and quiet it is. This calm and quiet is not indicative of a storm to come, but of a storm that has passed. A storm called “repair and paint the house” ! And a storm that I have just about survived.
It all began with the realisation that I had ignored my house for 5 years. Mumbai’s humidity and monsoon had taken its toll and something needed to be done. That something included some minor repairs, electrical work, polishing the furniture and, of course, painting. So the contractor was contacted, an estimate of the cost involved (gulp !) taken from him, the final cost haggled over and agreed upon, a work schedule drawn out… and we were good to go. Or so I thought.
Work began on October 1st and from then onwards it was a roller coaster ride of small and big hurdles that would that would test my patience, and sometimes my sanity too. At the end of each day, I would breathe a sigh of relief and say “Ok, I’ve survived, and tomorrow is another day.” Each day brought up something new—some funny, and some not so funny. So, while I am certainly not going to recount every little thing that sent my blood pressure soaring, let me share with you some of the more memorable ones, and the ones that make me say, “I am a survivor”.
It was the day after Dussera in Varanasi last year. Around 2.00 pm. I had just returned to my hotel at Chausatti Ghat on the banks of the River Ganga after a morning at Sarnath and then wandering and photographing in the alleys near my hotel. As I entered my room, I heard the sounds of drum beats and conch shells. In a place like Varanasi, this really should not have been unusual, and besides it was the festive season. But 2.00 in the afternoon was rather unusual for such sounds.
I grabbed my camera and rushed to the balcony. As I peered over the railing of my 3rd floor balcony, I saw a group of people bringing idols for visarjan (immersion).
I was a little surprised as, traditionally, Durga visarjan should have ended the previous day that is, on Dussera. But as the hotel manager told me later, the ghats along the Ganges get extremely crowded on Dussera day, leading to some visarjans taking place even 2–3 days after Dussera !
The Guest Post Serieson “My Favourite Things” has contributions by those sharing my interests in travel, books, photography, music, and on issues that I am passionate about. Though the guest posts are not always by fellow bloggers, the guest authors are always those who have interesting experiences to share.
Ever get the feeling that you are being pulled in three different directions at the same time? I do. Every time I have a moment to spare, I feel like my interests/passions/hobbies all gang-up and pull me towards their individual selves. Films and Travel have always occupied the highest tier on my activities table. Photography was recently added to this knocking down books and food to the under-appreciated second tier. So now when the weekend rolls in I am never sure what to do, which eventually leads to me doing absolutely nothing.
But, just once in a while, something magnificent happens. Everything falls perfectly in place and I end up with a photograph, a memory, or in some cases my vivid imagination wherein all my interests amalgamate. Searching through countless photographs (thank you digital camera technology) I ended up with these few instances wherein my lust for cinema met with my passion for travel to collaborate into a unique photo.
The place: Allahabad. The year: 1948. Twenty-year old Abrar Narvi was a fairly well-known Urdu poet, a sometimes writer of short stories and satires, and with a wish to write in other genres as well. One day, someone told him that Urdu novels “would not sell without an element of sex in them”. When Narvi said that no one had ever tried, the same someone retorted that until this was tried no one would know, would they?
Narvi took this remark very seriously, changing the course of his life and that of a whole legion of his readers. In 1952, under the pseudonym of Ibn-e-Safi, he produced his first novel in Urdu without an element of sex and with an emphasis on originality and newness. This novel, in the crime fiction genre, was the first of a series that came to be known as “Jasoosi Duniya”. And in 1953, when Narvi migrated to Karachi in Pakistan, another series was created in the same genre that came to be known as the Imran Series.
Ibn-e-Safi was a prolific writer and wrote 3–4 novels a month at the peak of his productive period. When he passed away in 1980, he had written about 245 novels across both the series. Published simultaneously in India and Pakistan, his novels were hugely popular as they were the type that everyone in a family could read. In fact, Ibn-e-Safi’s publishers (on both sides of the border) claim that no writer of Urdu crime fiction has broken his sales record till date!
It is this popularity which prompted an attempt at translating Ibn-e-Safi’s novels into English to enable a larger number of readers to become acquainted with his works.
There is a room in the British Museum at London that, perhaps, receives more visitors than others. This room is a veritable treasure trove of Egyptian artifacts — there are busts of pharaohs, sculptures of Egyptian gods and goddesses, sarcophagi, giant scarabs, ships, and what not. A giant bust of Rameses II towers over the exhibits and it is quite difficult to notice the other exhibits under it’s rather overwhelming gaze.
Therefore, it was only on my third or fourth visit to the British Museum that I saw the “Limestone door of Ptahshepses” properly. I mean, I had noticed it before, but had not actually seen it, if you know what I mean.
The Limestone Door
That day, I spent quite some time searching for the mechanism that operated the beautiful and imposing door. I mean it was a door wasn’t it? Which meant that it would open and close. Right? Wrong. If only I knew how to read the hieroglyphics on the door or had read the information plaque carefully, I would have saved myself I would have saved myself those minutes of growing frustration.