Here we have departed the familiar
Pt. 1 – India Soil – Saturday July 25th, 2009 2:15 p.m. – Manali
Giant lion faced flowers with towering stems as sturdy as a baton, though still pliant with the breezes that tour up and down the hills, fill in every visible open space of vegetation. The array of natural and impregnable colours; from ground, to step, to fabric is enough to make any one person crossover arms in a gesture of embracement. Sections of foliage are bold in similar hues, plucked from the same source in the light spectrum. Peaches, pinks, fuchsias, oranges, reds, and the whites look as though they have all been gently gilded. As if, as if it is the very nature of things to become golden in the Indian sun.
The lushness and furtiveness of this region is an apparent part of all things built and falling apart.
The clouds channel slowly through the very treetops of the bulbous Himalayan Mountains, which is replaced by thick, lowered fog in the early mornings. Far away homes and farmed land are visibly scattered along the mountainsides facing Manali. I wonder how often, if ever, the people living higher up make trips down to the village. And the people – I could say so much, but it doesn’t feel like it is mine to say. Everyone is generous, kind, and welcoming here in foothills of these gracious mountains.
2016 – Edit
Ahhh – reading the original entry above from when I was 21 and new to travelling. Looking to describe a place in ways I could relate (botany, agriculture, mountains) when everything about the place was entirely new and surreal.
We arrived in Manali after a 16-hour flight and a 13-hour bus trip along a weaving poorly-kept single lane mountain roadway. When we arrived, we grabbed a rickshaw to our hotel and right away met some incredibly interesting people also participating in the workshop.
We were so excited. I was so excited.
I found out there had been a handful of emails sent out to workshop participants prior to arriving that I had not received. According to other participants, the emails discussed workshop schedule and suggestions for how to get the most of the week-intensive mentorship and training. Here I was thinking we were going to just be handed some sort of map with an “x” marks the spot to be on our way with a story. Nope. One key email I missed stated participants should come with a rough story idea, including potential methods of travel and translation to have things run as smoothly as possible.
Young, naive-new-grad-me hadn’t considered any of this. I was set to be working as a student under Ami Vitale, my icon and photojournalism hero, and here I was, totally ill-prepared.
After a few terrifying hours of running through the new and old parts of Manali and meeting as many people as I could, I lucked out. I met a genuinely friendly local shopkeeper, Manish, who lived 30 miles north of his family in the back of his shop, alone for months at a time. Not only was his story beautiful and simple, but his young employee was able to provide rough translation of many of Manish’s stories. They were hospitable and keen to share many details of family and life in the one-room behind the shop. Every morning that week, Manish or his employee would prepare fresh chai tea for all of us before getting on with the day and documenting. My end product was nowhere near the most adventurous or well-researched (both of which are and were important to me), but I wrapped up feeling this was something people could relate or connect with. At the very least, it provided me with a better idea of various types of stories that can have meaning to people.
Check out a few images of “The Shopkeeper” in my portfolio section. Thank you for reading this travel-blog-style post. Thank-you even more for checking out my work.