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Auroville or at least where I stayed there, is full of snakes. One evening, after a long tiring day of cycling along the periphery of the township, I returned to my room to plunge my aching body into bed in my rustic room. I had barely closed my eyes when I heard a knock my door. A young, excited boy was asking me to please come back outside, “There are two snakes fighting, bring your camera, its amazing.” I darted out of bed even though this meant assembling my aching body parts into one moving unit all over again. In a daze, I grabbed my camera in whatever mode it was in and ran along with him to the spot. Alas the lens was my 50mm portrait lens. To get up close to the slithery creatures meant courage which I did not have. It was dusk in a shady spot under a large banyan tree, the light was fading, I was sleepy and feeling a bit creepy as well. I took a few shots and then decided this act would last more than a couple of minutes. The room was a five-minute sprint, so I dashed back to and fro with my zoom. That way I could be at a safe distance from the creatures and go about my job with a little more peace of mind. I just wish I’d kept my calm and done a better job.
In response to the zigzag challenge on dailypost
On a visit to Orissa in search of the elusive Dongria Kondh tribe, I chanced upon a weekly market in a remote village called Kakriguma. I was curious about what a flea market in a village populated with mainly tribals would have on display. I knew it would be a difficult experience, what with the summer heat beating down in a place I had no previous experience or limited knowledge of. I was at once captivated by the ladies in their brightly colored sarees and bovine nose rings. The men were nowhere near the charm the ladies exude in these parts.
This is Icha Foundation. A young charitable trust my sister started less than 4 years ago with a lifetime commitment to raising abandoned children, particularly ones with disabilities from abjectly poor backgrounds. At the core of her calling lies the belief that every human born on this earth has the right to live in dignity besides being given an equal opportunity to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. A life can turn around with something as little as love, care and genuine affection is what I thought, on my visit to the foundation last month.
It’s a tough project that runs mainly on her passion and compassion for the destitute. Tough because there is nothing normal or predictable with the kind of challenges these children present on a day-to-day basis. There are no benchmarks to refer to. Doctors are at least 50 km away and so are the supplies they need for sustenance. On my visit here, I was full of admiration for all the hard work that goes into making such a pleasant and wholesome life possible for these kids.
Over the 4 years Madhu Tugnait has founded a beautiful ashram (orphanage) facing one of the largest fresh water lakes in Andhra Pradesh, mostly on her own life savings. 7 abandoned/rescued children with various disabilities such as mental retardation receive care, education and therapy at no cost to either them or the government. If she had the resources she says she would handle more. “As many as there are to be found” she says emphatically. “But it’s hard to do it by oneself, without donors and volunteers” she adds.
She has been blessed with supportive friends and family who have been instrumental in making this project possible right from the time she decided to build on what was dismissed by most as marsh land. Her circle of contacts have also helped her garner support from overseas in the form of donations that just about pay for the running expenses such as salaries for caretakers, therapists and food supplies for the 7 kids. As an extension the foundation also takes care of 3 normal kids; those of the caretakers.
A donation of as little as Rs.500 ($8.25) a month pays for doctor’s visits or vitamins required for a child with disabilities. If you wish to help please do get in touch with Madhu herself. You can find her contact details here or you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
This is my gift to her for doing an amazing job. Respect, that’s all.
Icha foundation is a charitable trust registered under the registrars office Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, India, on 4th april 2010. The registration number is: 166/10/bkg. All donations to Icha are tax exempt since it is also registered with 80g of Income Tax. The home ministry of India has recently granted Icha Foundation with the FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act 2010 ) registration, allowing it to receive direct foreign funding from an individual or company.
I’m not much of a bird watcher, but when there’s nothing else to do, I tend to lift my camera to find something interesting. On a visit to see my sister’s charitable foundation on the outskirts of the city of Vizag in South India, I was at once struck by the lay of the land. This was last month, when it was a blistering 42 degrees celsius (107.6 fahrenheit), far from the season to be in these parts. Though fascinated, it was way too hot and humid to do anything meaningful other than find oneself the closest fan to air all that streaming sweat. An air conditioner in a remote village where its hard to find electricity? No chance. We had two nights and days to spend and I was almost done with the book I’d been reading on my other hand before I reached into my camera bag. Why kill time when you can shoot it!
Icha Foundation (more about that in my later posts) is built on elevated land overlooking one of the largest fresh water lakes in Andhra Pradesh. Suffice it to say that the lake surrounded by green mountains and coconut groves attracts many a migratory bird. Frankly I had no idea until I was back in Mumbai with these shots and informed by Google about this amazing fact. The place is also being promoted as an eco tourist spot.
A friend who is a professional bird watcher came across this site and very kindly sent me a list of birds in these photos. Have added them into the captions for bird lovers who want to know the species in this series.
For more pictures of the lake I was unable to shoot due to a flat dull summer sky, do see some interesting ones in peak season on https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.240379072723476.56515.225418204219563&type=3
Ride a local train in Mumbai and you can see the best and worst of living conditions in the city at one go. The spanking glass and concrete high rises contrast with the old crumbly Mumbai in a haphazard tapestry of modern shapes and makeshift rooftops. At least that’s what I was thinking on my way to the Yusuf Meherally Vidyalaya, a school run by a charitable trust by the same name. The much touted skyline of our city may show the face of a new India being rebuilt, but also has within its innards, the hunger, greed, lust and ambition of its slum dwellers, eager to cash in on its continuously rising real estate prices.
I was on a volunteering job for Yusuf Meherally Centre when I reached this sprawling school compound in the prime locality of Tardeo in South Mumbai. As I gathered from the secretary of the NGO, builders have eyed this property besides lobbying for its demolition. The school provides much-needed space for children from nearby slums to get away from their oppressive home life. Here, they receive free education besides a space to play and dream about a better life. The trustees of the school have successfully opposed moves made by builders with political connections. The school provisions such as computers, furniture etc are supported by donations made by corporates so far, but its far from enough.
I wouldn’t dare send my children here but it’s there for the very same reason: to nourish and engage the minds of kids. The worn out spaces in these images seem to hold the aspirations of many generations of underprivileged children in a timeless warp. They’re a reflection of what I understand as the parallel reality of Mumbai. I was drawn by the interiors and the silence of an otherwise noisy space on a day off for the school.
If you’re interested in extending support in any form please do visit this website to find out about the various ways in which you can. Thanks for taking a look anyway.
Picture this: A man called Johnson has an illicit relationship with a woman. Another man called Satish objects to this. Irked by the objection, Johnson informs the police that Satish has planted a bomb in the famous Meenakshi Temple. The 3000 year old temple attracts 15-25000 visitors a day so the bomb squad is on its toes as soon as they hear this news. After a thorough check on the temple premises, they say it’s a hoax. Satish & Johnson are arrested for allegedly threatening to blow up Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple. Johnson says he had meant the call to be a prank and did not realize its impact!
For the past two days the temple has been in the news for this flippant prank. I was amused; it’s that weird kinda stuff that can only happen in India. This story prompted me to dig into my photo archives from a visit to the temple in 2009. Since then I’m told security has been increased at the temple following bomb blasts in Hyderabad and various other bomb scares near the site in recent times. I believe cameras are no longer allowed inside the temple, although phones with cameras are permitted. I was lucky to be able to shoot with my DSLR then. However, I had a time trying to convince the priests (in vain) about my being Hindu, leave alone Indian. I was granted an Indian ticket (which is a lot cheaper than the one for foreign nationals) after much persuasion (in Hindi) but was prevented from entering any of the shrines as they were not convinced about the Hindu argument.