A pretty experienceful month

When we decided to give semi-rural living a try we knew things were going to be different. We flew in and found the hired car which would drop us at the place which was to be home for the next month. The driver was kind enough to stop for us to pick up essentials: toiletries, basic medicines, water, and some food. When we went for a walk in the evening along what we’d thought was a narrow and lonely road, it was filled with autos and motorbikes driving at breakneck speeds. It was hard to cross the road and take a photo of the sun setting over fields.

Were these kiosks going to be our grocery stores for the next month? The Family wondered aloud as we walked for an hour down the road and saw nothing else. Eventually, she found where the town got dense enough to support a bigger store which stocked the kinds of things that our city living had accustomed us to. I found shaving cartridges, for example. The two of us had fun choosing between unfamiliar types of biscuits. And the family found a range of pre-mixed ground masalas to ease everyday cooking.

There was no Uber, and no taxis or autos would run by meter. We wondered whether a two hour walk for groceries was worth it. Eventually we bit the bullet and found a work around: we met auto drivers whom we could call for grocery runs at a negotiated price. One of them showed us a couple of markets. This one under a highway flyover was further off, but more picturesque. The other was closer, and had really fresh veggies, fish, and fresh lobster at throwaway prices. There was a rather good bakery, and wonderful sweet shops.

Our “fully furnished” house had been a shock when we came through the doors. The furnishings were a large dining table with chairs, and a good bed. The kitchen had a gas cylinder and two burners, one kadhai, one huge pot, two steel spatula, and two melamine plates. We managed to find an old sofa, a fridge, some more tables and chairs, and eventually the living room turned into a place where we could sit and work comfortably. We lined the pockets of Bezos and also made a trip to the nearest town to get more things for the kitchen. Cooking here has been the biggest experience, but one that built our skills.

We enjoyed the silence around us. The sound of wind and rain, and the calls of lapwings, babblers, and the brain fever bird were more common than internal combustion machines. There was also company over for dinner a couple of times and we went over to a neighbour’s for dinner one day. We enjoyed walking. I have definitely become more fit and physically agile. But could we give up living in a city? We’d just paused streaming the most recent hit when The Family talked wistfully about going to a restaurant and catching a movie afterwards. A couple of days ago we went into the nearest town for lunch. We felt relaxed and at home when we walked into a fairly full cafe and sat down with our double shots of espresso. “We will definitely need a car if we decide to live in a village”, The Family said. I thought that we could do it as long as both of us were in good health. We could perhaps take a sabbatical from the city, but I can’t see us living a rural life permanently.


Consider this post, like the experience, to be a collaboration between The Family and me. Most of the photos were taken by her. The commentary is mine.

Celebrating the margins

At the edges of festivals I find interesting human stories, the sort that I like to capture in photos. The last couple of years have not exactly been productive times for street photography, so I’ve rescued some photos from the dark depths of a hard disk. The featured photo is from the end of the Ganapati festival. Families from a fishing village gather at the shore of the sea to watch large images of the god being brought for immersion in the waters at the end of the festival. The children had created a viewing platform to watch from. I backed up against the crowd-control barrier at the edge of the sea to take this photo.

Around every religious place you find commerce in the necessities. Outside a Durga puja, I found this young man trying to sell flowers to visitors. I hung around across the road, sensing that a teenager at a repetative job would give me a good shot at some point. It wasn’t long before he started showing signs of boredom. I got my shot.

There are families who hop from one Durga puja to another, eating dinner at food stalls around them. I like to hang around these stalls, and not only because I like a snack. You can see interesting stories build and resolve at food stalls and the nearby tables. Festivals are times when families eat much more than they would normally do. Late one night I found this sleepy child apparently abandoned by his family at a table piled with the remnants of a feast on the go. The father came back soon with another fizzy drink for the child.

Diwali is a private time, spent with families. It doesn’t give you too many opportunities for a camera roving the streets. Instead I spend time at the pre-Diwali markets. Families are out buying lights and decorations for the home. The strange forms of these long stems of artificial lotuses created an interesting forest for shoppers looking for something new and different, and salesmen trying to convince them that they have found exactly what they are looking for.