Story and photography by Barbara Angelakis
Faces and Places of India
On my first trip to India, I visited Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, just 2 of the current 34 – and counting – states that comprise the sub-continent of India. Having been warned of the heat, the dirt, the poverty, the strange practices, and most of all the crushing crowds, India had not been high on my list of luxury destinations to visit. But if you have been put off by these negative impressions like I was, please continue reading and possibly you will re-think your desire to visit India. Hopefully, like me, you will find India exotic and addictive.
The sub-continent of India is home to one of the oldest civilizations on our planet, but least you think it has been a homogenous march through the centuries, au contraire. Without boring you with names and dates of conquerors and conquered, suffice it to say that India has been a player on the world scene since 2,500 B.C. suffering invasion after invasion, from within and from without, until after a period of non-violent protest led by Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi, India gained independence from the British Empire in 1947.
All those invasions have created a country rich in social variety and brimming with cultural diversity in religion, language, customs, dress, and attitude. There are about 9 practicing religions - although Hinduism is the largest - and 18 major languages with more than 1,000 dialects spoken. Manners in dress for both men and women are dictated by the region in which they reside - so too is the method of draping the sari, the traditional costume for women, and the length of a man’s trousers - but ornate jewelry as adornment is favored throughout the country with the style and manner of decoration determined solely by financial constraints. The things I found in common were the easy smiles and warm and friendly greetings from everyone I encountered. The universal love of color, music and art, and the joyful participation in festivals and celebrations was a nice surprise and a real eye-opener. Indian weddings are famous for their 3 to 5 day affairs of dancing, singing, eating and socializing and many overlapping weddings put partygoers in the difficult position of having to choose whose affair to attend on any given day.
There is an unhurried momentum in the south, even in the cities, that puts one at ease even in the crush of humanity. This makes it easy to view the passing scene and note the variety of features, sizes, shades, and manners of the surrounding multitudes. If you go to India and see nothing of its many historical artifacts (which would be tragic) or its modern accomplishments (another shame) but just with a camera or a paintbrush immerse yourself in the contrasts and ironies that abound, you will find the possibilities limitless and enthralling.
There are many luxury and ultra-luxury properties to be pampered in – I actually stayed in the fabled royal residence of the Nizam Mahbub Ali Khan, purported to be the richest and most powerful man in recorded history and now an ultra-luxe hotel of the Taj Group - and methods of air-conditioned travel can be arranged, but to experience the real India, take the time to stroll the streets and markets with your camera at the ready. India is a photographer’s dream and presents a photo opportunity at every turn. I could not take my camera away from my eye for fear I would lose the shot of a lifetime.
Here is a sampling of my impressions of India… close-up and personal.
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