Monday, August 31, 2015


Our tour officially started today in Delhi with stops at Qutb Minar and Humayan's Tomb. I'm not sure why I continue to take pictures, since this is my 4th visit to these sites, but my camera refuses to stay in my bag!  

Qutb Minar

Qutb Minar among ruins of the mosque.
The mosque courtyard with the non-rusting Iron Pillar in the middle.
These pillars were re-used from Hindu temples.
Decorative dome (looking up)

Humayan's Tomb

One of three screened windows that point west to Mecca.
A brilliant red dragonfly.
To see more of these sites, see my previous posts:
     October 2013 Qutb Minar Humanyan's Tomb
     September 2014 Qutb Minar Humanyan's Tomb
     February 2015    

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Amritsar -> Delhi

Yesterday was basically a travel day to get to Delhi. (Why the English spelling/pronunciation is "Delhi" rather than the Hindi "Dilly" I can't explain.)
We made one stop at the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Panorama. The Maharaja was the king who united the Punjab under one ruler. His former palace and grounds are now a "museum" that is basically just paintings and dioramas of his life.
The Maharaja on his horse.
In the Punjab water tanks are sometimes turned into sculptures. Eagles and soccer balls are the most popular.
As we approached Delhi the famously polluted was apparent. Today's paper said that the air quality was "Good". Really???

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Indo-Pak Border Retreat Ceremony

This evening we went to see the border closing ceremony at the only land border crossing on the long India-Pakistan border. It's only a few km west of Amritsar, and is a major tourist attraction on both sides. It is so popular that both sides have set up spectator stands stands to view the pomp and one-upsmanship. The whole evening has the vibe of a football game between traditional rivals -- right down to the half-time show and cheerleaders ginning up the crowd. The major difference being that a double gate sits at the 50-yard line.
The bleachers for viewing on the India side.
The women's section on the Pakistani side. There were probably three times as many men in similar bleachers across the road, but I couldn't get a good photo of them.
Each side has their own gate at the border.
Both sides are blaring music, and the crowds are cheering, as each side tries to outdo the other in sonic volume. Ear plugs recommended!
Border goose-stepping to the gate to confront the other side. Their counterparts on the Pakistani side are doing the same thing.
Waiting for a turn to approach the border.
The best photo I got of the Pakistani border guards.
Both flags are lowered simultaneously.
The flags crossing each other as they are lowered.
There are a few more flags that are also lowered simultaneously with the two at the border.
  When the flags are down, the gates are closed for the night and everyone goes home.  

Amritsar - Old City

This morning we went for a walk through the narrow alleys of old Amritsar near the Golden Temple.
While I've been through even narrower alleys, Amritsar's are typical of old Indian cities.
Old tries to accommodate new and makes a spider web of electrical wires.
There was an amazing volume coming out of this loudspeaker.
These houses surrounded a large square that once was a large well with space for horses. This area is now for modern horses -- that is, a parking lot.
Trees attempt to grow in surprising places.
This intersection is known as Jalebi-wala Chowk for the shop that has been selling jalebis here for over 100 years. They were excellent -- fresh, hot, sweet, and crisp. Yum!
A lot of jewelry is sold in shops around the temple. There are also shops where you can have it assayed for purity.
Rat traps for sale.
Our last stop was the Jallienwala Bagh -- the site of a particularly vicious massacre of civilians by the British in 1919.
The only entrance to the Bagh was through this narrow passage, so the British troops were able to keep anyone from escaping their gunfire.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Amritsar - Golden Temple

About 5:00 this evening we went to the Sikh Gurudwara (temple) -- the main reason for visiting Amritsar. The temple is known as the "Golden Temple" because it is covered in gold leaf.
At the Golden a Temple. Everyone must have their head covered, be barefoot (no socks), and walk through foot baths before entering the grounds.
The temple itself sits in the middle of the temple tank.
A covered causeway runs to the temple.
I loved the way the grain of the stone made these birds look more life-like.
The temple serves up top 100,000 meals a day. Cooking is done in immense pots.
Masala chai is prepared all day long.

Camera Magic

I've been fooling around with photography since high school. We even have a Bessler 23C enlarger mildewing in the basement that I just can't bring myself to get rid of. It was last dusted off for the Boy Scout photography merit badge nearly 20 years ago.
I go back to hand-held light meters -- I know my way around f-stops, exposure times, and Kodachrome 64. (I chose the "fast" film over the standard, Kodachrome 32!) My first SLR, a college graduation present from my parents, was a Pentax Spotmatic -- the very first camera to have through-the-lens light metering. You still had to set everything manually, but you didn't have to carry a separate light meter. Of course, now the camera needed a battery, although only to run the light meter.
Yesterday I had plenty of time on my hands while Lon was working at the WestRock Powai office. Among the things I figured out how to do was transfer photos from my camera to my iPad via Wifi. That also meant digging through the camera manuals. It pays to peruse the camera manuals from time to time. (Thank you, Chuck Almarez, for making your photography classes dig through camera docs!) I came across this cool setting on my current DSLR (a Canon Rebel T4i) -- the "hand-held night" setting. This setting takes a burst of 4 images, then merges them into one spectacularly exposed photo.
Powai at night
Shops in the Galleria mall
More shops
Apartment building behind the mall
The bottom three photos have been cropped, but there has been no exposure or color adjustments. Pure digital magic as far as I'm concerned.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Kids & Birds

In Vapi this week.

First up, children:

These swings appeared a few weeks ago. They are made from bicycle tires tied in two trees along the road. Yesterday, three children were enjoying them.
I've been visiting Sr KG classrooms this week.
The lesson was "backwards numbers" -- counting down from 50.
On to the birds:

Lately, two roosters have been occupying this 2-meter-high wall. Today one was walking the wall, while the other was scratching in the dirt below.
This is one of a series of drainage holes in the wall of the underpass under NH8. Mynas like to hang out here, but I wasn't sure whether they used these holes as nests, or just as convenient stop-over places. Right now, several of the holes are occupied by chicks, so I guess nest holes it is.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Independence Day -- & More

15th August is Independence Day in India. Most institutions have some sort of "flag hoisting" ceremony. Modern School decided to do a ladies-only function, hoping that the Muslim mothers would feel more comfortable attending a school function without men or boys present. (Even the videographer and security force were women.)

The drum and bugle section rehearses. Normally girls do not get to play the drums.
I wore a two-piece sari -- in  appropriate saffron color. (The weird cut-outs on the photo are because the girl who took the photo likes "high-fashion" angled photos. I prefer more straightforward ones!)
Afterwards, Lon and I went to the puja for the new Spice Academy facility near the Daman checkpoint.

Sue and our instructors from Spice.
I'd wanted to get a "mehndi" (henna) pattern painted on my arms for some time. When one of the teachers at Modern School volunteered to do the artwork, I took her up on it.

The artwork is done free-hand. It definitely looks better on younger skin! I was also surprised by the difference in color between my arm and my palm.
A closer look at my hand.
I looked up the chemistry of mehndi. Turns out the active dye is "lawsone", which is very similar to "juglone" from black walnuts. Juglone is not only the dye in natural walnut stains, but is also responsible for the characteristic "allelopathy" that stunts other plants growing near walnut trees.

And now from our drive back from Mumbai on Monday morning:

Green can be overwhelming in monsoon. I've been wanting to get a picture of a traditional well and rice paddies -- I finally got my chance this week.