taking a walk in india: photos | stories | essays

10 December 2016

7 October 2016

Manipur in a funk

This is what is left of a person at the end of 16 years after being force-fed a liquid diet.
Some centuries ago, probably in the year 1717, the Manipur king decided to play host to Shantidas Adhikari (as he was known), a rock star from Sylhet (now in Bangladesh). Shantidas persuaded the king to convert the people of Manipur to Hinduism, the Vaishnavite strain to be exact.

24 September 2016

Men at work ahead of Durga Puja

Artisans from West Bengal have started making clay idols ahead of Durga Puja, at Chittaranjan Park in New Delhi.

30 August 2016

Stuck in an auto, on Outer Ring Road, in monsoon, for Lagaan hours

Getting stuck in traffic is nothing out of the ordinary.

Getting stuck in Outer Ring Road traffic, in heavy rain, at a time when people are heading out from office on a Monday evening, that is something.

25 August 2016

Ima Thokchom Ramani: a brief history of the Meira Paibis of Manipur, then and now

Meira Paibi – translated as ‘someone who holds the torch’ in Meiteilon, the language of the Meitei community – is an all-women vigilante group in Manipur in north-east India.

18 August 2016

Majnu ka Tilla

Majnu ka Tilla at New Delhi, set up as a Tibetan refugee colony about 55 years ago, has some good eateries that serve authentic Himalayan food. Dry days don't exist here. People visit MKT—as the regulars call it—on national holidays for a drink. That is how the people of Delhi see it.

16 August 2016

The all new Ghalib Kebab Corner

Ghalib Kebab Corner in Delhi's Nizamuddin holds a special place among hostel students of Delhi Public School (DPS), Mathura Road, especially those who studied there between 1980 and the year 2000.

29 July 2016

First come, first served

At 5:30am before the tea seller has woken up the bird man is busy feeding pigeons, the rats of the flying world, and crows, living the thug life in cheap black suit. Some squirrels also take advantage of the confusion and steal a few nibbles.

The bird man scatters a handful of seeds occasionally—obviously he doesn't get any money from the birds—to make the crowd of winged freeloaders grow bigger and bigger. Because in some time the early morning good karma hunters will start arriving—old men and women carrying hangover of last night's bout of insomnia.

The bird man carries a grin that for some reason makes him look like a used car dealer from Karol Bagh. It does not take long to find out why. The insomniacs buy some seeds, then without hesitation dig deeper inside their pocket to buy more. They scatter the seeds to cover the entire pavement. The red tiles acquire a yellowish tint in no time. Good corn seeds not picked up by the birds would be swept into the drain later by the municipal cleaner.

Some sleepy-looking people in SUVs stop by. They straighten their crumpled clothes—perhaps going home from an overnight party or work—and buy some seeds. After scattering the bird food they do a quick fold of the hands and look at the sky before moving on.

Remember these lines from the textbooks of the NCERT (National Council of Educational Research and Training):
"I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man [woman] whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him [her]. Will he [she] gain anything by it? Will it restore him [her] to a control over his [her] own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj [freedom] for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then you will find your doubts and your self melt away."
But pigeons are not exactly among "the hungry and spiritually starving millions".

Yet the good karma hunters, while breathing in pigeon bacteria that can even result in acquiring a fatal disease, have turned islands of sidewalks and roundabouts in our cities into pigeon parks because it is nice to feed animals. Animals also deserve a life of dignity, no? Or could feeding some avian pest in your dying age wash away lifelong sins?

Science has a different take on pigeons. First, these birds have chased away the house sparrow whose number was anyway dwindling due to other reasons. And second, pigeons carry some diseases that people often take for granted.

Also, pigeons give a shit about your smart AC. They shit on it day in, day out. Not that AC is a smart choice, but it is way better than pigeon shit. Maybe all this while these rats with wings knew that they would never appear in the extinct or endangered slot of the IUCN Red List.

Because humans are such fools.

25 July 2016

The carom boys of CR Park

It's Monday evening. People are returning from work, tired, already thinking about the next day. But the carom boys of CR Park are chilling. The year is 1990. They have set up their base beside a tea stall. A wall divides the carom game from a bustling fish market. The tea is not bad. People occasionally stop to see the game until it occurs to them why they have come to the market, and move on.

16 July 2016

When night falls at Hauz Khas Village

Hauz Khas Village, the wannabe place. A man chases the light at midnight on one of the colourful alleys at the so-called village.

Also see: An anomaly called Hauz Khas Village

12 July 2016

Open Happiness

Original Coca-Cola snapshot

Caffeine content: 34 mg

Ingredients: Carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, phosphoric acid, natural flavors, caffeine.

This product includes ingredients sourced from genetically engineered (GE) crops, commonly known as GMOs, which the FDA regards as safe.

11 July 2016

A Varanasi morning

Varanasi is wide awake at six in the morning. It is difficult to beat the sun at waking up. It will always be high up in the sky no matter what time of the dawn you head out to the ghats. During one such walk journey basket bumped into a procession. Having missed seeing the sunrise over the horizon of the Ganga–people say it is spectacular, especially if you are staying at one of those riverbank youth hostels that has a wide terrace–the colourful procession was a consolation.

Look at these guys. They are the original. Total retro, at peace. The real deal, not the fraudster snake babas who ask for money. There is a slight grin on their confident faces. Even The Beatles could not resist it; they packed their bags and came running to India (it is a different matter what happened afterwards). You bring the best retro makeup artist to get you decked up, but you will fail. You cannot match up to these guys.

That look is beyond earthly fashion; it comes from within.

Also see:
Varanasi: if god was a banker
Boat-boys and boatmen, Varanasi style


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Journalist. Taking a walk in India. | Email to journeybasket[at]gmail | Special thanks to M.S. Gopal | All rights reserved. No commercial use.


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