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Stepping into the past in Chunar

In February 2016, my grandmother and I went on a long train journey. It was dark and uncomfortable, and at one point there were cockroaches on me and I read fan-fiction to forget them.


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Train view...15ish hours ago. Still not arrived at our destination 😒 #India #travel #journey #train A post shared by Kriti Bajaj (@kritibajaj21) on Feb 5, 2016 at 11:18am PST
Eventually, though, our train made a one-minute stop at our destination at 4 a.m., and we hopped out into the extreme cold. A frigid auto ride later, we were in the warm glow of my great aunt's living room, sipping coffee and eating plum cake. This was the first time that someone called me "my girl."

I like to think that this was where it all reallybegan.

I had always been curious about the place where my grandmother would disappear to once a year, the place where my mother used to pluck fruits from trees during school vacations, the place that my great grandparents had decided, in later …

On the road: 10 hours

On 29 December 2019, a fine Saturday morning, we drove to Panchgani, the land of strawberries. We started before the sun came up, and I diligently selected one photograph to represent every hour from 7 am to 5 pm. 
The first hour was an orange sunrise amid butterfly street lights, and the second was a brief blue pause.  The third hour was a commercial breakfast, the fourth barely picturesque.  By the fifth hour, I was struggling to find subjects to photograph, but there was a lake to drive by.  In the sixth hour, we were thwarted for a while near our destination by a broken down bus,  And in the seventh hour we made it to our container-room.  The eighth and ninth hour were lunch and then dessert overlooking a strawberry field.  The tenth hour was a vision.











Beginnings

The last two months have been about change. Change for the better, I think, but change nonetheless. Change isn't always easy to deal with. I picked up and moved my life in almost every way. I met all kinds of new people in encounters that were fleeting, and those that will stay. Three people in my life said goodbye to this world in a span of ten days. My allergies returned and then calmed down. I found a room with a window with a view that tells me everything will be fine, and I found nature nearby for my soul. And I learned to learn from criticism and use it to grow.
I'm still learning.
It's not all stars and roses. I've complained a lot, and probably will some more. But I'm proud of and happy about and grateful for many of the things I've achieved, and received. There are things I want to improve upon and change, but as a wise friend said, this is only the beginning. I forget that sometimes. Everything happens in due time, and everything runs its course. The…

In memoriam

For the man who loved this poem:

From too much love of living,
From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be
That no man lives for ever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea.

- A. C. Swinburne

Farewell, nana. 

A Greek song about Madhubala

My obsession with Greece began ten years ago, when, in my second year of college, I opted for Greek and Indian Classics as one of my papers. I borrowed a book on Greek mythology, avidly discussed Homer and Euripedes and Aristotle's views on friendship, and made a wonderful Greek penpal, Sophie - my first friend from this beautiful country. From her, I learned that there is an island in Greece just like my name*, and about Yannis Markopoulos' Liturgy of Orpheus, based on Orphic poems and possibly my favourite character from Greek mythology.


I travelled to Greece seven years later to finally visit Sophie, who is a singer, among many other things. Every drawing of Orpheus and his lyre stood out to me, whether at museums or on a set of coasters (I bought the latter). I attended a concert in the awe-inspiring Odeon of Herodes Atticus theatre. And while visiting Santorini, I had the luck of being there during the Caldera Arts and Literature Festival in Oia and attended a concert of…

If on a hot summer's night a fire

It is always a bit disconcerting to be woken up in the middle of the night because there's a gigantic fire right opposite your house.

My nose was already clogged up thanks to the season of spring, living in Delhi, and the smoke I had been inhaling in my room for hours previously. This was probably quite possibly unrelated to said fire; I had chalked it down to the routine burning of leaves or some other mysterious paraphernalia that happens quite frequently in my neck of the woods (yes, you read that correctly. In the most polluted city in the world, the burning of stuff in the open causing more pollution is a routine occurrence and no one seems to have succeeded in stopping it). Just before going to bed, I also heard a loud blast in the BSES power plant opposite, but as this isn't all that unusual either, I dismissed it.

So there I was, being shaken awake by my mother, who was telling me in a sombre whisper to move to the next room because the power had been out for a while …

The Monochrome March Project

For my next photo challenge in March 2018, I decided to use an unfamiliar lens and shoot only in monochrome. I've done the latter just once before on a whim; my usual technique is to shoot in colour, which I'm rather fond of, and occasionally edit to black-and-white.

I also spent a part of March in Himachal visiting my grandparents, so nature images abound. I've photographed extensively there on past visits, and it was a welcome change to exert myself a little as I searched for the compositions that would best complement my grandfather's lens.


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March 2018
Himachal, Delhi

Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 2/58
Canon 500D body


A vintage camera in Jaipur

Tikam Chand with his antique camera (Carl Zeiss lens, imported film), allegedly manufactured in the 1860s, which contains a fixer, darkroom and printer all within the same body.


Standing in the middle of a pavement, with elephant-shaped handicrafts in the background, the camera doesn't attract much attention. But the man is enterprising and often stops passersby to explain what he's doing. In front of the camera sits a low stool for its subjects, flanked by a board filled with photographs it has taken and newspaper clippings featuring it.


Tikam Chand and his brother were of a cheery demeanour, and generous with their advice about our old family film camera that I'd been trying to use (TC took it away and worked his magic. It works!)


Find them near the Hawa Mahal the next time you're in the Pink City. The camera wears a sheet and several holy adornments, and it's interesting watching the entire process as you wait for the photograph to be washed, the negative pla…