Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Exposed India - A terribly hot day and a scarey ride

***I'm posting this from my iPhone in India so I can't upload the images yet, will do so when I get back home***

The morning started with my favourite Indian fried dough - the vadai. Then it was off to the Koovagam festival again. Today we'll be shooting the "widows" as they break their bangles and mourn in white sarees. 

When we arrived, there was a massive jam of vehicles, cattle and people so we decided to walk across the field. It turned out to be quite a trek as the distance was far. As we were walking towards the village area, we noticed everyone else walking away. One man told our guide that someone had a little too much to drink and died in the fields. Yikes! But still the show must go on so we continued. 

There was plenty of action at the village, groups of Hijra widows were beating their chests and mourning by chanting. Some familiar faces from last night were there as well. There was also the procession of the Aaravan podium I had to shoot. The wait in the 36degree heat for the podium to be pulled was unbearable. It was around this time I felt giddy and signs of fainting. Was told that I didn't drink enough water and probably dehydrated. After a litre of water down and a short rest in the shade, I was ready to go again.  

We walked to the village area where the bangles worn by the Hijras were broken by the priests. This area had a carnival like atmosphere with regular families and lots of kids running around the grounds. There were hand operated carousels and ferris wheels, ice-cream and balloons and even a shooting booth where you can try your luck at winning a toy. I spied a young mother breastfeeding her toddler under a tree and asked if I can take a picture and she obliged. Seeing the little girl suckling contentedly, I thought of Dylan again. How I miss the little squirt!

It took a long while to find an English speaking Hijra in white saree to be interviewed. Our director Raja scrapped the idea and we shot some widows having a bath in the river instead. Then it was the long trek back to our vehicle through the fields again. We had to be careful not to tread on lumps of human and cattle faeces along the way. Funny quip of the day by cameraman Michael,"Shit! I stepped on shit!" Hahaha!

After lunch, the rest of the day was ours. Raja wanted to visit a friend in the French town of Pondicherry and Michael, Azira and I decided to tag along. The driver we hired was one hell driver! If I had balls, they would have shrunk! I can't tell you how many times during the ride I thought it's my last. We sat by the balcony of a hotel cafe with French architecture to have a beer and dinner. The place overlooked the sea and a full moon, it was lovely. We forgot that we were in India for awhile.

The ride back *shudder* was another terrible experience. Especially since it was dark now. The oncoming vehicles have their high beams on and each time Arun cuts into oncoming traffic, I closed my eyes and hoped for the best. Even Mike, who's unfazed by most situations, put on his seatbelt and chose to take a nap to avoid screaming at Arun.  I've never been happier to arrive at our dingy hotel after what seemed like an eternity in Arun's car. I'm still alive!

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