30 Day Photo Diary: Day 13 – A story about temples

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Experience of Indian temples is difficult to explain and describe- they need to be seen and felt. The richness of the culture and spiritual life and the symbolism of the rituals evoke a unique mix of peace and fascination. For me it started as a sort of a fairytale-ish experience and with time evolved into something that goes beyond words- a special feeling of going back home, feeling safe and becoming very very still.

There are different types of temples and deities that are being honored and with time I discovered the ones closest to my heart. Without a doubt, these are the temples in remote villages in Kerala.

They are small, intimate and strikingly different than the mega-temples in the big cities. Very often they are not located in the heart of the village, but in outskirts, where you feel inexplicably united with nature.

The rituals (pujas) take place early in the morning or in the evening. The evenings are special for me. First it’s the preparation- the temple rules are that you are clean, presentable and decently dressed. Then it`s the ritual- the candles, bells, music, the richly decorated deities.. it`s a symphony for the senses, a story told without words, rich food for your imagination.

At one point it comes to an end- and only the silence is left. You`ve just participated in the ritual and paid your respects to the deity – not just to the idol – Ganesa, Krishna, Shiva, Karthikeyan or whichever it is but most importantly – to the deity in yourself. You`ve felt the connection with the light, sound and nature. And you know that everything will be just fine.

It`s not just a temple that you`ve visited. It is a visit to your soul.

 

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30 Day Photo Diary: Day 12- A story about education

Independently on the location, culture and religion, there are always common elements that unite people. One of them is education. India is not one of the countries where education is neglected – on the contrary, it is my impression that it is very high on the agenda and it seemed to be especially so in Kerala. All of the children in the village where I was staying were going to school from morning until late afternoon always wearing their uniforms. It was always fun to meet them during my walks when they would surround me and ask me all sorts of questions– a bunch of energized chirpy little birds flying free in the green Keralan lushness. Minu was one of the shiest and the most charming ones of them.

 

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I met her on the way to her house in a late summer afternoon. She was coming back from school and was initially very shy, but after a while felt more at ease and even agreed to show me the content of her notebook. It was really admirable to see how much people in the village appreciated the value of education and how they were eager to invest in the future of their children rather than make them work which happens at many other places. Minu is a bright girl and one day she can be a doctor, an engineer or an artist – actually anything that she wants to be. Fingers crossed that she has the wisdom to study well, listen to her heart and make her dreams come true. But bottom line- she`s set for success by making it to school every day.

 

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30 Day Photo Diary- Day 11: A Story About Special Boat Rides 

Every day Shivan transports people accross the  river Peryar in Kerala charging about 30 rupees per trip. He has been a boatman for the last 25 years. He is married and has a 21 year old son who is a painter.

His boat is a handmade piece with typical Keralan design, not really an eye catcher,  but very sturdy and enduring and definitely pretty unique for the European eye.

When the sun gets unbearable he wears a funky big umbrella-looking hat (it is lying in front of him in the boat on the first picture). He doesn’t like it so much when people take his pictures, but I haven’t been giving him much choice, so he eventually gave up.

Shivan likes his job and he is good at what he does. There is a certain ease with which he operares and his focused yet very relaxed manner of pedaling gives his passengers a soothing vibe.

Every boat ride with him is like travelling back in time-  him silently rolling his beedi (tobacco rolled in a dried leaf), me enjoying the warm Keralan breeze at the time when the sun is setting and sky and  water are merging in a beautiful purple-shaded embrace. It is a truly special boat ride every time.

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30 Day Photo Diary: Day 10- A story about Loving Life

Nearby the village where I stay there is a a church on top of a hill called St. Thomas Church. This lady was selling candles at the start of the rocky path leading to it.

At first I was really attracted to her unique jewellery, which I had never seen before. Then I noticed that she was quite old-much above the retirement age. Nevertheless, she was super energetic, smiling and very very friendly to the excited stranger (me), using my body language to inquire whether it is possible to have her pictures taken.

Her energy, desire to look good, work hard to earn money despite her age and friendliness reminded me of something very important – there is a special type of people who independently of their age have bright and young spirits and never fail to make memorable impressions on the ones that they meet- these people are the life loving ones.



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30 Day Photo Diary: Day 9- A Story about the shy and the beautiful

I met her on a late afternoon during one of my walks around the lake. She was washing her clothes in the lake accompanied by her boyfriend/fiancée. There was something so gracious and pure about her that I couldn’t  stop taking pictures of her.

 

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She was supremely shy at the beginning, but also curious in a child-like way and did not protest especially after we got the approval of her boyfriend.

 

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At the end I showed her the pictures and she suddenly lit up- it was like she saw her pictures for the first time. I promised to print them out and give them to her the following year – I will soon be there again and hopefully will be able to find her 🙂

 

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30 Day Photo Diary: Day 8- A Story about family

I passed by their house during one of my walks and what immediately caught my attention was the warm laughter coming from inside. I normally don`t enter people`s houses without being invited, but this time just couldn`t help it and decided to “ask” (with gestures and smiles, as they didn`t speak a word of English) if it`s ok with them. They didn`t mind at all!

Something that will never seize to strike me is how genuinely welcoming and hospitable were people that I met in Kerala and how quickly they would open up and allow me to take their pictures. I was often offered tea and biscuits and asked to sit down and chat – the chat went with them asking questions in Malayalam and me answering in English. After that I would sometimes get flowers and almost always be invited to come back.

I am going to print the pictures and give it to them and to the rest of the families the next time when I go back. I am sure they will be surprised and excited to see them. And sharing these captured specs of happiness is the least I can do for these wonderful people.

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30 Day Photo Diary: Day 6- A story about humaneness

This lady called Ama owns a small shop next to the bus station where she sells coconuts together with her husband. She is eighty five years old, energetic as a twenty old girl and always smiling and asking a lot of questions. I once forgot my wallet on her counter; less than a minute later on the way to my rickshaw I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was her bringing the wallet and giving me a scolding look saying “You need to take better care of your belongings” . Needless to say she didn`t speak a word of English.

 

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30 Day Photo Diary: Day 5- A story about Journeys Back in Time

The boat man waiting for the next passenger. He was taking people across the Peryar river  charging ten Rupees for a one way trip. Whenever his helper was on the boat or there were passengers willing to do the rowing themselves he would chew his “Paan” and silently observe his surroundings. I enjoyed his quiet contemplative presence which was matching so well the calm river and peaceful ambiance. I took one of my best pictures of sunsets and skies from his boat, some of which you will see in the coming days of this photo diary.

It is a very interesting coincidence that this exact river is the setting of my favorite book, “The God of Small Things” which I read eight years ago never imagining that at one point of my life I would see the river every day. You can find more about the book at http://www.amazon.com/The-God-Small-Things-Novel/dp/0812979656 .

 

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30 Day Photo Diary: Day 4 – A story about Going Home

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I just love the atmosphere of this picture- the beautiful nature, its mystery and most importantly – this amazing old lady. It was very difficult to meet her, as she didn’t go out much, but I had enough time to wait for the right moment. It is very likely that this house has been her home for the most of her life and the village has been her world. The contrast with so many of the people from my generation including myself- living abroad and not sure anymore where exactly our physical home is, is so big. But independently of the type of person we are- a globetrotter or someone who has never left their village, there is a home within ourselves and it takes us just a minute to get there. For me the picture also shows this mysterious place out of this world where we find our safe haven and feel at peace where our true home is.

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30 Day Photo Diary: Day 3 – A story about Openness

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I approached this beautiful lady and asked her if I can take a picture of her. Elderly people are normally supremely shy in front of the camera and would try to avoid me as much as possible, but she was one of the few courageous ones. There is a saying that one`s eyes are a window to their soul. For me this picture demonstrates it so well – you can so clearly see how opened her soul was in her smiling gentle eyes.

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