Jama Masjid – Ramadan

culture

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A Breath of Art and Fresh Air

Travel

My year is always incomplete without at least an annual trip to Kerala to visit family, and this time I planned my time there to coincide with Vishu and the temple festival at the Kanichukulangara temple. Plus, I had a new niece and nephews to hang out with!

There were Kathakali and classical music performances at the temple for the duration of the festival, and I headed there to watch the Kathakali artists get ready. I’ve been sharing the photos on Instagram erratically, so thought it would be good to have them all in one place. I’ve watched Kathakali artists prepare for their performance earlier, but since there are so many stories and characters it’s a unique experience each time. And it might be just me, but the artists seemed so much more expressive than us mortals, even while just going about their business!

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Most temples feature a couple or more dwarapalas (gate-guardians) at the entrance. The Kanichukulangara temple has a few unusual ones though. They have sculptures of policemen on the pillars. Here’s a picture of what I’m talking about:

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My father remembers these guys being there when he was young, so the cops keeping guard at the temple are at least half a century old, and most likely even older.

The pleasure of getting up early and sitting on the porch with a cup of tea is something I do without fail when I’m down South. Colours in Delhi, (where I spend almost all of my time) just seems like duller versions of what you see in Kerala.

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The night before Vishu, I helped my dad cure cashew-nuts from our garden, to be used in the payasam (rice-pudding) that my mother was going to make. The outer shells of cashews are hard and contain a corrosive oil, and the cashews are roasted to make them fit for consumption. For those of you not in the know, cashews, while being roasted, are mini firecrackers. They sizzle and pop, and you have to be careful. We tried roasting them directly in a bonfire in the first round, and well, uh, that didn’t work. The cashews ended up burnt and unusable for the most part. We got it right the second time around though! We put the cashews in a clay pot this time.

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I forgot to mention that we had an audience during the entire exercise. We haven’t given him a name, but he shows up at mealtimes like clockwork to ask for his share.

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Remember the nieces and nephews I spoke about at the beginning of this post? Well here’s a couple of photos of the youngest nephew with his mother and grandfather.

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A trip to Kerala isn’t complete without watching the sun set, and watching little crabs scuttling about on the sand.

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Taking the HTC One A9 for a Spin

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Since I’m used to making manual adjustments to my camera to satisfy my vision for the images that I create, I’ve occasionally caught myself wanting the same flexibility in my phone. A little adjustment to shutter-speed here to capture light trails, a wider aperture for shallower depth of field, and a lower ISO to have as little noise in the image as possible, and I would definitely end up using my mobile camera more. So when Little Black Book Delhi got in touch with me to do a photo-essay for them, using the new HTC One A9 mobile, which has native manual controls built into the camera app (in its Pro mode) AND shoots in RAW, my curiosity was piqued, and I went gallivanting about the Delhi NCR region, testing the abilities of the camera.

I’m aware of the fact that there have been mobile cameras before this that shoot in RAW and offer manual controls as well, and that there are apps which enable this functionality, but I’ve never had a chance to use them.
I had developed an interest in street art and graffiti in Hong Kong, which is where I first got my hands on a DSLR camera. And with organizations like StArtIndia, street art is gaining popularity in the country, which is something that gives me a lot of joy. The WIP Show at the Container Depot in Tughlakabad was something to be experienced first-hand, because photos don’t do it justice. Here are a few photos I took with the HTC One A9 there.

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I was very pleased with the minimum focusing distance of the mobile camera, because I could get very close to the subject (almost touching it!) without losing focus, and enabling me to create a more exaggerated composition for dramatic effect. Apart from this, I took multiple panorama shots to do justice to some of the artworks which were inside containers.

The Rashtriya Dalit Prerna Sthal

Well, the people who built this place spent a mind-boggling 7 billion rupees ($113 million) on it. In a country like India, in my personal opinion, this money could have been put to much better use elsewhere (schools and public healthcare for starters), but hey, I’m not here to talk about that.

The lights inside the monument were off when I went in, and though there was natural light coming in through the skylights, it wasn’t very bright. I slowed down the shutter-speed to gather more light for the camera, and I was concerned about introducing camera-shake into the pictures. But I was pleasantly surprised! The image stabilization kicked in and did its job, and I got sharp photos. If you look carefully at the full length photo of the statues, you can see a blurred figure of a man walking out of the frame to the left. The statues, however, are sharp, in spite of the fact that this was a handheld photo.

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The Buddha Jayanti Park

A quiet, green expanse, with lots of geese to keep you company, near the statue of the Buddha. Also, fun fact, I saw a goose attack a fellow goose and hold it underwater for a long time. That was a bit traumatic, and so I kept my distance from the birds.

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Majnu Ka Tila

I love this place! I went there with plans to get a bellyful of Tibetan food at a restaurant that I’ve been haunting since my college days, but I was foiled by my own timing. It was Losar (Tibetan New Year) and all the restaurants and cafes were closed. Much disappoint. But it was a pleasure to see many people dressed up in traditional clothes. The little square outside the temple there has always been a wonderful place to people-watch, and that’s what I did this time around too. It also warmed my heart to see many Tibetan children, dressed up in their traditional finery, playing with a bunch of less-privileged little ones.

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Gazipur Flower Market

The chaotic bazaar was a hive of activity and colour, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many flowers, and in such quantities in my life.

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See more pictures here, on Little Black Book Delhi. I’ve been told that the story has more than 35,000 views!

Istanbul

Travel

Made a much-awaited trip to Turkey in August-September 2015. Fell head over heels in love with the country, and Istanbul in particular. Here are a few photos from my travels.

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After our first meal in Istanbul, we had to try the local Turkish tea and coffee!

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The Obelisk of Theodosius

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Detail of the German Fountain in Sultanahmet Square

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The German Fountain in Sultanahmet square.

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Friendly cats everywhere!

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The Hagia Sophia

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Details of the Hagia Sophia

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Medusa’s head in the Basilica Cistern.

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The kitten who temporarily adopted us in the Topkapi Park.

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Cats!

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Kraken Rum

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I’ve been lusting after Kraken Rum  ever since I saw the packaging and branding for it online, many years ago. A close friend of mine brought a bottle back for me from the States, and it was as good as I thought it would be! I got really excited and did a little impromptu product shoot of the bottle, just so I could showcase the little details that make its design so appealing to me.