India -- March 2007
|In March 2007 my wife and I
joined another of those University of Chicago alumni trips, this one styled
"Jewels of India." As with any attempt to encompass a country as vast
and complex as India in eleven short days, the tour's goal of showing us
India's "jewels" was only partially successful. Nevertheless, the
experience, both via the tour and a little bit on my own, provided a large
number of good photographs, and a few that are even perhaps very, very good.
We visited four cities: Delhi, Varanasi, Jaipur and Agra. Each was distinctly different, and each had its own distinct character. We stayed in extraordinarily fine hotels, the pinnacle of which was the Taj Rambagh Palace in Jaipur. We savored the kindness of Indians of all walks of life, and endured the aggressive hawkers, persistent beggars, and salesmen who would make a U.S. used car seller blush.
Of all the experiences, Varanasi stands above the rest, as you will see by clicking that link below. Of the four cities, it is to Varanasi that I would return in a heartbeat. It also presented me with the greatest ethical challenge as a photographer, as I captured the intimacy of religious devotion with my telephoto lens. I don't want to dwell on that issue here, except to say that I am mindful of the issue.
Would my wife and I return?
You bet. We saw such a small segment of India, even with the intensity
inevitably associated with such a tour. We did not see Mumbai,
Calcutta, Bangalore, the rural south, tigers in the jungle, the perfection
of Kashmir (we can all pray that conflict ends in that disputed area,
reputedly one of the most beautiful on earth), or any of the ancient temples
with their carvings.
Finally, a special thanks to Wendy Doniger, the Mircea Iliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at The University of Chicago, who accompanied the tour and, through her three lectures, provided valuable insights into the complexities of Hinduism and kings of the Mughal reign. We've experienced many UofC faculty on these tours, and Wendy is now at the top of our list.
|Old Delhi: We visited Old Delhi twice, first on our own (with a guide and driver), and then with the tour group. The tour group visit included a fun rickshaw ride through the streets and alleys, showing us the frenetic and cramped mercantile activity that was to be found everywhere. Unfortunately, the rickshaw ride was also very constricting and jostling, so photography was impossible. Nevertheless, photographs to be found in this gallery include a large wholesale produce market, street scenes, children on their way to school, and a visit to Jama Masjid, India's largest mosque.|
|Delhi Miscellaneous: We visited only a few sites in Delhi, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Qutb Minar Tower, and Humayun's Tomb. Of these and a few other sites and sights, a small number of worthy photos resulted.|
|Varanasi [Benares]: Varanasi is a totally unique and totally wonderful experience. I took hundreds of photos; thirty-five will be found here. No photo can adequately capture the entirety of the visual, auditory, and olfactory sensations (although the latter not what one might expect from the polluted Ganges River). I sometimes fear that, concentrating on photo-taking, I am missing out on the experience itself -- Varanasi was so intense, however, that the act of photography was subsumed in the sensory assault.|
|Varanasi - Sarnath: Sarnath, just outside Varanasi, is the site Indian history records as the place at which Buddha preached his first sermon upon gaining enlightenment. I took minimal photographs, mostly concentrated on people rather than the structures.|
|Jaipur: It's called the "Pink City," although you might not guess that from my photographs. There're a couple of enticing close-ups of Indian women, and a whole bunch of photos taken at Jaipur's Amber Fort.|
|Jaipur Street: Finally, days after the morning spent in Old Delhi, I got out and photographed "amongst the people." Some good stuff here.|
|On the Road to Agra: Who cannot love a camel? Well, here's one encountered on the road from Jaipur to Agra, a fun little drive. If you've ever driven (or been driven) in India, you'll know what I mean.|
|Agra (the Taj Mahal): Nothing more need be said. Just click the thumbnail.|
|Finally: A set of photos from our last day in India, the last few of which are truly representative of my imperfect impressions of that fascinating country.|