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No more bad photos

Russell at In Search of a Life Less Ordinary ran a fun competition once upon a time based on bad photos. Part of the rules stated ::
  1. Pick one bad photo from your travel experiences or expat adventures (‘bad’ in terms of poorly taken, over-exposed, or simply very dated).
  2. Share that bad photo and explain why you wish you could recapture that moment again.

All of the pictures demonstrate me in a harried state.  They were all taken in the time between knowing we needed to leave India and the time that we could announce that we WERE leaving India. I was desperate to capture every little thing that explained the experience that I had been given.  I wanted to soak it all up and keep it forever, in case it was erased the minute I boarded the flight for home.

If I could do it over though, I would realize that what makes the memory is not the actual “click” of the photo (or the push of the camera button on the phone).  What makes the memory is the association of your time and energy, and how that connects to the image that was captured.

All of the photos that you saw above were moments that were meaningful to me for so, so many reasons … yet because of the quality you would never know it.

When I don’t take time to follow through with an intention with quality … quality to match the integrity of the moment, it is all lost.

At first glance you see four people on a motorbike.  Common in India, but a classic photo that visitors to the country take, because it’s abnormal in other parts of the world.  [What I should have paused to capture was the laughter of these little ones on the back of this bike.  What I missed because I was paying very little attention was the uproarious laughter that then followed from the bike master]

This guy worked tirelessly near our home preparing lunch for the nearby shop owners, construction workers, etc.  I stealthily caught this photo on my camera phone as I walked the littles to the playground, when instead I could have taken the time to ask permission for a photo and captured the moment in a much better light.

So much happens at this corner and if I would have stopped for two minutes and asked Kushal to let me out, I would have captured a much more interesting vignette of this intersection.

4 steps to the right or left and I could have been witness to a story of how this man makes his living every day, or even if I had stayed another 10 minutes, I could have found out the story of the customer as well.  Was this a favorite place to stop for lunch, or was it his first time?  How long had the vendor been selling on this corner.  More importantly to the story of what I missed … WHAT was he even selling?  I need to stop longer, if I want the story behind the photo.

The blue village near Vasant Kunj.  The slum that was covered up during the Commonwealth Games of 2010.  My favorite place to people watch.  This is — I am embarrassed to say — the best photo I have of one of my favorite places in Delhi.  [Why did I not ever take the time to walk through, take some photos and introduce myself?]

For all of those reasons, and so many more … I wish I could capture the moments again.

India is a country that is extreme and rich in its experiences, moments, culture, family and even in its idiosyncrasy.

To understand it without having lived there is impractical.

Trying to understand it while living there is ridiculous.

To attempt to understand it after you’ve left feels impossible.

One of the things that India taught me is to be more intentional with my photographs and to take more time, to pause, and get the entire story.  I hope I can put it into practice more now that I’ve left.

Living in Chennai

Many thanks to Emma from In-Dia Stratis – Mutterings from Madras  for providing today’s “guest post.”  We truly have become kindred spirits and have recently shared so many of the same scheduling issues and time-frame dilemmas.  BEST wishes to her as she makes the move “state-side” soon after living in Chennai with her family!!

Naomi stubbled across my blog I presume when researching the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ and ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ of her move to Delhi and I am very happy to tell you that we have struck up quite a rapport, each helping one another for reasons that will become apparent!

My family and I (hardworking husband Ian, Ellie now 4 1/2 and Luke 2) arrived in Chennai in the state of  Tamil Nadu (formerly Madras) South East India from the UK late last September for a 3-5 year placement.

I’d been to India before…on holiday…in Goa, beautiful!  Go, if you ever have the chance, although I’d probably recommend Kerela first!.  My husband had been on business and we knew the score…amazing place, amazing sights, sounds, smells, (Yep good and very bad!) amazing people and a wonderous world of contrasts and contradictions. 

BUMP!  You arrive in this place and you hit the ground running and everything you see, touch and smell, everyone you meet, everything you witness combines into a crescendo of sensory overload.  

You take a deep breath and you get on with life and somehow everything becomes the norm…very quickly!  And I mean that. It is truly amazing how you can adapt so easily to a place that you thought would be, and is, quite alien.  It has its hazards, it has its foibles but if your sensible and careful you will have a wonderful life here.

Chennai is a sprawling city with no ‘Centre’ as such.  Historically us British colonised and in all honesty probably brutalised the place aswell.  It is large, it is HOT, it is dirty, it is littered with rubbish, cows, dogs and goats but the one thing that remains constant are its people who will tell you that they are Tamilians first, before Indian.  

Religion is strong and is split 3 ways between Hindu, Christian and Muslim and all co-exist respectfully and peacefully.  Having and being able to afford ‘staff’ is a Godsend, day to day everything takes so long to do and houses take up so much time and energy in maintenance that you need someone to translate, the handyman, the maid, the driver, the gardener, the sweeper.  

Lucky for you if you can find people to dual role!  I am very happy to say that after a couple of stumbles I found THE MOST wonderful people to help and have around and I will never forget any of them for as long as I live.  People who are so loyal and hardworking that they will put you before their own families….but when I found that one out on one particular day they all had a long hard talk from me!  As an ex-pat ,you live in Chennai in a bubble. There is very little to do as a family other than meet up and dine out with other ex-pat families, which is fun…for a while, but how nice would it be to be able to go out for a long country walks, ride out on bikes, have a picnic?  It is just too hot and public facilities and amenities are not the best. Toilets…eeeuuww don’t go there!!??

Delhi, on the other hand…don’t be fooled!…is apparently civilisation personified!  A friend visited last week and regaled us all with tales of shopping malls to rival London and New York. Good restaurants. Clean open spaces, Wide open unconjested roads…but it’s just what I’ve been told!!  Naomi will be fine!  She’ll have a ball!

Unfortunately for us, after just 6 months into our assignment we were told that due to the global economic slowdown it was unlikely that we would be able to stay our term.  Much heartache over missed opportunities and the like for us, as we sat, grumbled and waited to hear our fate. 

In just 2 weeks we will be leaving India, firstly for a few weeks back to the UK…and then…Woo Hoo! We are moving to North Carolina, for 3 years.  Wish me luck!  I do however hope that this is not the last I will see of this beautiful and most amazing country and her people.

Emma x