Posts Tagged ‘guru’

The Gurupurb

December 22nd, 2009

I forget where we were headed to one day when we got stuck in traffic which was worse than normal (for Bangalore). Traffic was backed up a good few hundred meters and it didn’t seem like we were going to be headed anywhere in a hurry. The reason for the delay appeared to be some procession at the intersection in the distance. I grabbed my camera, climbed out of the car heedless of the driver’s protests, and made a dash for it.

Turns out there was a several-thousand-person strong Sikh procession in celebration of the anniversary of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism. The actual date this year was to be the 2nd of November, 2009. But it is not uncommon for celebrations (or Gurupurbs) to be held in the two or three weeks prior to that date.

Standing there, alone, at an intersection and with the chaos of random traffic and stray motorbikes that miss you by mere inches, chanting people, suspicious policemen, whiffs of smoke fumes and the scent of food – it felt like my first real taste of India.

So far, everywhere I went, I had been for all intents and purposes led by the hand. We were spoilt by our hosts: everything had been provided for us – food, shelter, transportation and a pretty full program. Everything we experienced felt like, and for the most part was, part of an intricate, well-organised and well-executed Plan. There was very little room for error in this Plan.

This was not part of the Plan. This was unbridled. It wasn’t muffled behind glass windows, nor seen from the comfort of a hotel terrace, or car seat. I was no longer looking out at India. I was in the middle of the action. And this was pure chaos. It felt like anything could happen. It was a revelation.

As I watched, I chatted away with the family on the motorbike next to me, and tried to get some decent shots of the Gurupurb without getting run over by stray motorbikes or further arousing the suspicions of the 3 policemen who materialised beside me when they saw my camera.

I got treated to a mildly suspicious interrogation by the senior policeman. He seemed to be worried that I might be a journalist of some sort. I assured him I was in Bangalore for a wedding, and when I told him whose wedding it was, he appeared to relax a tad. Amazingly enough, everybody in Bangalore seemed to know this wedding was on. Unfortunately, he was only pacified for a few minutes and soon enough he was again interrogating me. That meant that I wasn’t as free with my movements as I’d otherwise have liked – and had to take the shots I could from where I stood. I felt I should stay put where I was and make small talk with him so as not to get myself carted off to the nearest police station.

I was eventually saved from his questions by two things. The first was that one of my friends joined me to take a look at the procession as well. The second was one of the Sikh revellers. I stopped to ask him some questions about the procession as he seemed to be an authority figure.

He was, like most Bangaloreans, exceedingly friendly, and adopted us immediately, telling us a little about Sikhism, about Guru Nanak and the Gurupurbs in general, about the prayers and the Panj Piare (or Five Beloved Ones). He even went off to collect reading material for us and some of the food that was being distributed.

Below you can see the long line of people making their way down the highway, with vehicles waiting patiently for them to clear. Interestingly, none of those waiting seemed upset, or annoyed at the delay. All waited patiently. Well, except for some people on motorbikes. At one point there seemed to be a small break in the procession, and suddenly tens of bikes were in the fray, zipping left and right in a mad dash for the other side.

The Procession (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f3.5, ISO 200, 1/640sec)

Revelers (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f3.5, ISO 200, 1/500sec)

This water truck came along at one point in the procession, pipes behind it spraying water on the street. It was followed by tens of barefoot people with makeshift brooms, who proceeded to sweep the street ahead of five sword-bearing figures in bright yellow robes – representing the original Panj Piare.

The Water Truck (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f3.5-5.6 @ 38mm, f4.2, ISO 200, 1/160sec)

This man was one of those who came immediately after the truck. The poor guy had the unenviable task of trying to sweep while dodging bikers.

Dodging Motorbikes (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f3.5-5.6 @ 105mm, f5.6, ISO 200, 1/1250sec)

The men were followed by the women, protected by men cordoning them off with bright yellow ropes.

The Sweeps (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f3.5-5.6 @ 40mm, f4.2, ISO 200, 1/320sec)

Sweeping (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f3.5-5.6 @ 135mm, f5.6, ISO 200, 1/100sec)

Oddly enough, I was unable to take a picture of all five sword-bearers. I have no idea why that is. Each picture I took had one of those on the fringes hidden from sight by a passerby. A little frustrating it was.

Framed Pani Piare (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f3.5-5.6 @ 62mm, f4.8, ISO 200, 1/250sec)

Pani Piare Partial (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f3.5-5.6 @ 56mm, f4.8, ISO 200, 1/250sec)

Food and blessings were distributed from garlanded trucks:

Food, Blessings and Garlands (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f3.5-5.6 @ 65mm, f5, ISO 200, 1/400sec)

Even schools were participating:

The School Banner (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f3.5-5.6 @ 55mm, f4.8, ISO 200, 1/160sec)

More pictures coming soon!

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Bangalore Portraits – Part III

December 16th, 2009

Carrying on from Part I and Part II, here are a few more portraits of the great people I met in Bangalore.

I met this family when I stood watching a Sikh procession in celebration of the birth of Guru Nanak (more on that later). I love the way this picture turned out. The son resembles the mum, and the daughter resembles the dad, and the son and mum were facing the same way, and the father and daughter a different way. And yes, they were all sat on one tiny motorbike. As is pretty much standard, only the father wore a helmet, cause that’s the minimum required by law – the driver of a bike must wear a helmet.

Family on a Bike (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 30mm, f3.5, ISO 200, 1/320secs)

This man I met outside a fruit stall on Brigade Street. He’s a retired aircraft engineer who worked 35 years building and designing aircraft for an aircraft manufacturer with operations in India (the name escapes me). He stood proudly to attention while I took this shot. I understand from conversation with him that he’s dedicated his post-retirement life to his religion.

Retired Aircraft Engineer (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f6.3, ISO 200, 1/125sec + flash SB900)

One of the ladies I met in Cubbon Park. She and her friends were collecting wood.

Wood Collector (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 35mm, f4, ISO 200, 1/30sec)

This is Mubashir. He’s a Muslim Indian from Kashmir who, along with his brothers, own and run a store called Asian Arts Emporium (located on 8 Cunningham Road). They sell some very fine silk (for saris and dresses), and all sorts of interesting arts and crafts. I visited their store twice with friends and made a goodly number of purchases.

We ended up having long and very interesting conversations with Mubashir. I particularly enjoyed our conversations about Islam. It’s a shame that Islam as it should be: one of peace, faith, humility, dignity in the face of adversity and enduring human kindness; does not seem to appeal to the popular media. That’s why the patience and warmth of people like Mubashir is important.

The conversations we had with Mubashir also brought the sheer breadth and variety of India to the fore – he doesn’t speak Kannada, the prevalent language in Bangalore, an requires a translator when dealing with Bangaloreans. The sheer number of languages and dialects spoken in India is staggering. You can find out more here.

Mubashir (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 56mm, f5, ISO 200, 1/60sec + flash SB900)

This man encouraged the mapseller to stand for her portrait and then happily agreed to stand for his own.

The Mapseller's Cheerleader (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 56mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/50sec + flash SB900)

This woman appeared silently while I stood at the gateway to a temple on a street off Commercial Street taking pictures of the temple grounds within. She allowed me to shoot the temple, even invited me in to do so. However, I didn’t wish to intrude and so remained at the gate to snap a few shots. I then asked her if I could take her portrait. She graciously acquiesced, but remained at distance. I was struck by the peace in her kind eyes.

The Temple Keeper (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 135mm, f5.6, ISO 1000, 1/80sec)

This here is The Park Hotel‘s one and only Raja Gopal. I thought of rendering this picture in black & white. But I liked the colour of his dastaar (Sikh headdress).

Raja! (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 65mm, f5.6, ISO 200, 1/80sec)

Meet the Liftman. This fine chap took me on a few rides up and down in the elevator of a building off Brigade Street.

Elevator Man (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/100sec + flash SB900)

More pictures coming soon!

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