Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Velankanni Flag Raising Ceremony

On Sunday, huge crowds gathered in Besant Nagar around the Velankanni Church to celebrate the opening of the annual festival with its flag-raising ceremony. Attendees raised their right hand or folded them in prayer as they fervently sung "Ave Maria" in Tamil.
This 10-day festival is a smaller version of the one celebrated in the small town of Velankanni, located about 150 mi (240 km) south of Chennai along the Bay of Bengal. According to legend, Mary and the infant Jesus appeared three times here, first to a Hindu boy, then to a physically disabled boy (who was then healed), and lastly rescued some Portuguese sailor merchants from a terrible sea storm. September 8 marks the day of the merchants' landing and dedication of a chapel in Mary's honor. It is said that at both Velankanni churches, healings and other miracles occur, which draws a large gathering of people from all faiths. This  seaside town of 10,000 swells during the festival, with some pilgrims walking many weeks to arrive. In fact, the Velankanni church attracts more pilgrims than any other sacred shrine in India.

Monday, August 30, 2010

On the way to the Velankanni Festival

Late Sunday afternoon, I joined one of my Indian friends and his family who were participating in the walk to the annual Velankanni Festival. The main road near my apartment was transformed into a steady parade of devotees all heading to the church in Besant Nagar for the raising of the flag marking the beginning of the Velankanni Festival. People of all ages joined the throng, walking, riding in carts, overcrowded auto rickshaws, five to a motorcycle, trucks, and more. Despite the heat and humidity, the mood was jovial. People waved from across the street or from their crammed rickshaw. Others came up to me and asked if I could take a photo of them with their child. Although the usual rainbow of assorted colors and patterns abounded in textiles, a favorite color was orange, signifying religious propriety of the common person.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Here Cometh the BSNL repair man

Telephone, originally uploaded by oskay.

This past Friday a short Tamil guy showed up at my door, clutching a large phone that looked like a relic of the 1970's. A bit puzzled why he was here, he showed me a crumpled piece of paper indicating that he was from BSNL (the local telephone co) and was to do a repair here. True, I did have a problem with erratic internet connectivity, but how was he and his old phone with a long jerryrigged cable with wires sticking out of one end going to do anything about this? Sitting down on the floor next to my modem and telephone wire, he looked perplexed for a couple of minutes and then smiled, pointing at a telephone cable, indicating that it was the problem. Quite certain that the problem was not fixed and definitely not confident in his testing methods, I stalled by asking him to look at the non-working telephone connection in my bedroom. As he took his only other tool - a tiny screwdriver - and began the lengthy process of unscrewing to get into the phone jack, I called the apartments manager at school. When a worker from school arrived, the BSNL support number was called. When they asked me to go to the Start menu, I promptly told them I had a Macintosh. "Do you have XP or Windows 7?" they asked. Seeing the futility of the conversation, I told them I had neither but if they told me what they were looking for, I'd find it myself. Needless to say, the school worker offered to take my computer and modem to the local office. A few hours he returned, shaking his head after dealing with the unorganized, incompetent government business. It seems like my problem is still here. I regret not taking a photo of the man with his phone, but I was focusing hard on not chuckling at the scene presented before me. I shouldn't be surprised anymore by such things. Oh well....

Done for the Day

Done for the Day, originally uploaded by melissaenderle.

Here is a color pencil drawing I did of two women just finishing a day's work in the tea fields near Ooty, Tamil Nadu.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Twice the Reception

In India, cell phones are rather ubiquitous. I've seen gypsy-like people set down their huge bag of trash to answer their phone, cell phone conversations occurring in one-room shacks, and skinny grannies in the bus pull out cell phones from the blouse of their saris. Amidst the huge piles of flowers of the muddy street in the Georgetown area of Chennai, I happened to snap a shot of one vendor passing the time by simultaneously operating two cell phones.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Rickshaw Driver

Waiting patiently for customers, this bicycle rickshaw driver was one of many who asked to have their photo taken. On Mint Street and others in Georgetown area of Chennai, such rickshaws are more common - not the 3-wheeled put-put lawn mower engine ones that are ubiquitous in all of India. Such a skinny guy, I wonder how much he can haul around.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Weighing the Flowers

Imagine having so many flowers that you sell them by weight. Here we see one vendor using the old fashioned scale. In his hand was the flower he gave me - one of many I got that day!
Here's the other guys in his shop. A woman from the shop took a flower, pulled out a bobby pin from her hair, stuck the flower in it, and then inserted it into my hair. It was nice to be made to feel special....

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sewing the Wedding Pieces

 Items for weddings comprise a large portion of floral pieces sold in Chennai flower markets. This woman is adding strips of skewered jasmine buds to one piece used as part of a wedding costume. Below are some other components of the wedding costume in process. But the star of the show was her darling newborn baby girl, slumbering so peacefully in her mom's sari.

Blog article: 20 things I've learned from traveling around the world for 3 1/2 years

One of the blogs I follow daily is by Gary Arndt, a travel photographer from Wisconsin who has been spanning the globe for the past several years. He covers the things he's learned from the experience, including addressing some stereotypes he's heard. Having lived overseas now for 11 years, I would have to say that my feelings & experiences echo his. Wouldn't that be an awesome job, traveling the world and photographing its people and places?


Monday, August 23, 2010

Not the Top Spot Today

I'm not quite sure what prompted the worried look on this man's face, but the muddy water he's had to plunk his goods into would certainly not make me very happy. I hope he at least had a stool or box to sit on...

Sacks of Flowers

Badrian Street in Georgetown is lined with vendors selling plucked flowers to be strung and used as part of wedding, temple ceremonies, and adorning women's hair. I've seen huge bags arrive via rickshaw, carried (as in this photo), in baskets, and more. Beauty amidst the mud and water-logged street.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Muddy Beginning

This morning I took the city bus for seven cents up to the old area of Chennai known as Georgetown. My destination: the old flower market. To get there, I had to walk past sellers who lined the muddy main road. Pavement was not to be seen. The mud and puddles added to the already chaotic scene. A cycle rickshaw wheeled over to the pineapple vendor, piling a small mound into the foot area. Custard apples were carefully piled up in tiny pyramids. A woman inspected her growing garland of yellow flowers, snaking around the inverted basket. A mere block later, I would be on the side street lined with flower sellers.
Looking toward the bus station, one can see the Madras High Court up the street. Shortly, these umbrellas would be used not for relief from the sun, but from the rains.

See more photos of Georgetown on my Flickr page.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Demolition Crew - Indian Style

In my Adyar neighborhood in Chennai, lots of construction is going on. Two-story homes are being demolished and apartment buildings going up in their place. So now instead of hearing birds chirp last Saturday morning, I heard the sound of jackhammers and pounding. Demolition vehicles are not shown in the picture - because they weren't used at all. Manual labor is what is preferred in India. After all, you can employ more people and pay them a small wage. A palm thatched wall hides most of the construction, but if you look up, you will see several men using hand tools to knock down the walls. No hard hats. No shoes either. Below, you see several women wearing saris who are often used to carry things during construction, such as bowls of cement on their heads.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Happy 68th, India!

Today marks the 68th anniversary of India's independence from the British colonialism. I planned on going and taking some photographs today, but alas it is raining. This is a memorial statue of Gandhi, located in Pondicherry  (south of Chennai). Like everywhere, where there is a climbing opportunity, there kids will be.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Back from the Catch

Although early in the morning, these fishing boats are already pulled up to shore, done with the catch. Even though a similar color scheme is used, each boat has a different design, accompanied by (usually) Tamil writing. All lined up with kids dangling on the ends of some, this scene looks quite tranquil. I can imagine what it must of looked like six years ago, when the tsunami ravaged fishing villages such as this.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Bridge to Nowhere

At one time this bridge crossed the Adyar River just before it flowed into the Bay of Bengal. According to a local, it fell apart about 20 years ago and never repaired. When I asked, he simply replied, "politics." Now the bridge is a favorite hangout for the college age crowd. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Makeshift Seesaw

One of the things I love about poor people is their ingenuity and ability to create items out of simple items or junk others throw away. In this fishing village in Chennai, we see children who have crafted their own seesaw and having a blast playing on it. Too bad today's kids in the USA are deprived of this equipment, deemed unsafe by the "playground police."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Meditating by the Shore

Apparently deep in thought, this man struck my eye when I was walking towards the fishing village on Elliot's Beach in Chennai. Sitting on his catamaran traditional fishing boat and eyes towards the shore, that gaze is ripe for storytelling.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Fishing in the Adyar Sewer

Fishing in the region is not limited to the ocean, as this man demonstrates. Here we see a man casting his net in the sewer-polluted Adyar River. Just off to the right on the top photo, the river flows into the Bay of Bengal. I'm not quite sure what kind of fish this man hopes to catch, but I sure wouldn't want to eat them.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Sorting Through the Catch

Once the boat was pulled to shore, the men dragged the net onto the beach where the women began to pick through and sort the fish. Note the inter-generational collaboration here.

An Offering for the gods

An Offering for the gods, originally uploaded by melissaenderle.

Here is a color pencil drawing I worked on this summer. The scene is from the Simhachalam temple near Vizag in Andhra Pradesh, India. If you know the name of the idol she is praying to, please contact me.

Desert Boy, Jaisalmer

Desert Boy, Jaisalmer, originally uploaded by melissaenderle.

Here is a color pencil drawing that I just finished of a young boy in the Thar desert outside of Jaisalmer.

Pulling in the Boat

Fishing in Chennai is not a solitary activity. Coming in with an early morning catch, teamwork is involved in order to drag the boat ashore, particularly since the strong current had created a fairly high ridge. The wood poles straddled over the boat were used in much the same way as a yoke, with one person on each side. 

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Get Your Pots and Pans Here!

Located in the section of Chennai known as Pondy Bazaar, this shop is popular with those looking to outfit their kitchen with pots & pans, tiffins, plasticware, and some gadgets such as blenders. On the first floor is everything aluminum. Large quantities of such items are purchased and given for a new bride so she can outfit her kitchen. The third floor is dedicated to everything plastic. Petite shop employees follow customers, promptly whisking items from you and into a basket, then on to another counter. At yet another counter, you pay for the items, At still another one, your items are delivered to you upon your displaying of receipt of payment. The shopping is a bit chaotic and procedure excessive, but due to large quantities and decent fixed prices, the place is always buzzing with customers whose distorted reflections appear on the stacked and hanging aluminum as they walk past to begin their shopping experience.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Double standard over disaster compensation

By now, everyone has heard about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. To compensate for the ecological  and economic impact of the disaster, $20 billion dollars has been set up in a fund by BP. Such a ruling has angered some in India, who are calling for equal justice for the victims of the Bhopal Union Carbide plant disaster of 1984, considered the world's largest industrial accident. This gas explosion killed 3,500 people immediately, with around 15,000 eventually succumbing.  after the accident, people (including second generations) continue to suffer long-term health affects. For example, two brothers born to parents exposed to the gas cannot speak or walk and also suffer from cognitive impairment. Ground water continues to be contaminated. After this disaster, the Union Carbide company abandoned the plant, claimed there would be no long-term effects, and left, wiping their hands clean of the issue. Seventeen years later, a meagre sum of $470 million was obtained as a settlement - a far cry from the ruling for the BP disaster.
Was such unequal compensation due to the location of the disaster? Would the outcry have been greater had the gas explosion occurred in a developed country? Considering the demonstrated, lingering impact of the gas explosion on Indians, the victims and residents of the area deserve more.

Read more about the Bhopal disaster at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhopal_disaster