Pemayangtse Window

Pemayangtse Window (Sikkim, India)

We’re not allowed to take photos inside the buddhist gompas but trust me, they are incredibly colorful and stunningly beautiful. You can catch a peak of the inside by standing outside shooting in, which I did, but I like the simplicity of this shot. Those are ‘mani’ stones on the window ledge – the monks carve prayers and mantras, the most common of which is ‘om mani padme hum’ (hence the name ‘mani’ stones) into the stones as a means of meditation.

 

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Kathok Wodsallin

Kathok Wodsallin Gompa (Sikkim, India)

The tiny Kathok Wodsallin Gompa in the town of Yuksom didn’t appear to have any resident monks, other than the temple keeper. It sits on a small knoll overlooking the village below. The circle staircase to the upper level is an unusual sight for me – not sure I’ve ever seen that in a gompa before…the colors, however, are such a wonderful reflection of the tibetan buddhist tradition of brightly painted buildings and statues and tankhas…

Yuksom Yaks

Yuksom Yaks (Sikkim, India)

Yeah, these old yaks have probably moved a few mountains worth of gear up and down these hills since trekking is the activity of choice in this area and these fellows are a central part of that. I think they deserve a day off…or maybe few….

Kathakali Dance-Dramas

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Kathakali is a form of highly stylised classical Indian dance-drama that blends literature, music, painting, acting and dance. It originated in the country’s southern state of Kerala during the 16th century AD, approximately between 1555 and 1605.

There is no dialogue in Kathakali. Instead, communication among the characters, and to the audience, is through an intricate language of hand gestures, combined with facial expression and body movements.

The make-up, called Chutty, is an art form in itself. The colourful faces are the results of hours of painstaking handiwork by expert artists. The basic materials used for the make up are very crude items like raw amorphous Sulphur, Indigo, Rice paste, Lime, Coconut oil etc. It can take up to 6 hours to prepare a performer’s make-up.

Kathok Lake Yuksom

Kathok Lake (Yuksom, India)

This quiet little lake near Yuksom village is chock full of prayer flags. I was supposed to head east and then north east to Bumthang valley a few days ago but there was a bad earthquake in late September which has made the roads impassable (as it was, the roads getting here were, at times, very rugged b/c of landslides from the monsoons). So I’ve been hanging out in west Sikkim in a few villages that are really jumping off points for treks into the higher elevation mountains.

Street Sleepers

Street Sleeping (Kolkata, India)

An unfortunate part of the reality that is Kolkata. Some days, it seems I couldn’t take more than a few steps without having to walk by or around men, women, children or entire families sleeping on the sidewalks and along the streets of the city.

 

Kushti Wrestlers

Kushti Wrestlers (Kolkata, India

Kushti, or Pehlwani, is an ancient form of wrestling begun in the Mughal era, dating back to the sixteenth century. Although it once held great importance in Indian societies, its popularity has dwindled over the years. So I think we were all surprised when we happened upon this small group of Kushti wrestlers engaged in their daily practice on an akhara (wrestling area) tucked in a back corner of  the Mulik Ghat under a neem tree along the Hooghly river.

Taxi Sleeper

Taxi Sleeper (Kolkata, India)

As I wondered the streets of Kolkata around 5:00 in the morning, I saw a couple of taxi drivers sleeping on the trunk of their cars and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it (had it been a late night and they’d just not made it home?). Then I saw this guy this morning, then a few more. I’ve come to realize that this just may be their home, and I guess it’s cooler outside on the bonnet than inside the cramped interior…

 

Smokin Bidis

Smokin Bidis

This guy lives at the Mulik Ghat near the flower market. When I saw him hangin out smoking a hand rolled bidi, i couldn’t help but think he could have just as well been sitting along the walkway at Venice Beach posing for pics with the locals.

When Broke Still Spoke

When Broke Still Spoke

“Toda, tab bhi bola – tabla” -a Hindi pun reflects a legend which credits the 13th century poet Amir Khusrau as the inventor of the “tabla” (Indian drum) after he split the single south Indian ‘mrudangam’ drum into two.

This drum maker has quite the reputation in his neighborhood. I was struck by his focus and his very lean, muscular arms.

Fresh

Fresh (Kolkata, India)

This fellow’s friends implored me to take a photo of him. He was reluctant at first, but as soon as I snapped the shot, he and his friends broke into a fit of deep belly laughter. I think his eyes are smiling.

Metal Workers

Metal Workers (Kolkata, India)

Met these guys during a late afternoon stroll – I can’t imagine how hard it must be to work with fire in the middle of the scorching hot Kolkata days. They invited me to step inside to give it a try… but I couldn’t take the heat!