Gallery 52

The Tibetan Photo Project exhibits.

Jan.- Mar 2006 Joe's trip to India-The Diary

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Jan. 26
All is well and traveling back to Bangalore tonight
Following a bunch of freezes and meltdowns at what appears to be the only I net shop in Hubli, on a 1942 Edsel of a computer... I would like to be poetic but I think I better just get out the details. Went back with Lobsang for a second day and an overnight at the colony...

He had arranged a Tibetan Cab driver, Adu, for all of this so they had lots of suggestions... left Hubli at 8 a.m. and visited a school, several other monasteries and had an amazing lunch with the Adu’s family... the Tibetans are very gracious.... all the food is completely fresh as no one has any refrigeration. And, lunch took about two or maybe three hours plus tea on the front and back... always tea... Chai and Butter tea...Butter tea made weak for the American visitor... good with sugar... Monks chanting (all of them 3,000 and there is film) in the afternoon... dinner back at Lobsang’s. He cooked and we ate outside under the banana trees. After dinner he told me that people had been warning him about putting banana trees in the front yard because they attract snakes. I guess its best to get such information after dinner..

He converted his workshop into a guest room for me with great pride... and around 10 p.m. he took me back to Drepung to photograph the monks debating in the courtyard... about 300 or more... we stayed for an hour and he gave me an updated education on all I had seen...

Lobsang is 35 and became a monk at age 9 and last year had to drop out of the monastery. Lobsang misses the monastery life and wrestles with life and choices just like the philosophical debates he took me too... He is obviously debating with himself about irreversible choices he made.. So, he has given his heart to the photo project. He has dreams for exhibits but no understanding how it works.

He went to the Kalachakra prior to my visit and with 100,000 in attendance he grabbed a corner of the Tibet office building and taped up and "exhibit" and was proud to have the opportunity to explain to foreign visitors life in the colonies through his photos.

Lobsang's parents were among the original exiles to India, they won the land and about 20 acres of farmland... Because of the areas extreme weather, drought, monsoons and heat over 120 degrees he know all the tricks of living in this place and what it takes.

So he photographs and wrestles with his heart and wants so to have the project help his people.

I asked him about prayer because Tibetans are always praying, they do not pray for things for themselves...he calls this useless... they pray for a better world... a happier world... and he has this down given the length of time of his studies as a monk...

Anyway, his front yard is banana trees and there was tea around 11 p.m. after the debating and more lessons ...Total darkness except for a billion stars away from city pollution

By the way... did you know that banana trees attract snakes.. there is one that will bite you and you are dead in 4 minutes...

But while his neighbors told him that the banana trees which offer shade to his front yard would attract snakes he said they have not so far... reassuring as I went to bed in the converted workshop with open (no glass windows) and a couple salamanders scurried away from my noise and light...

The next morning we went out and passed the police... we pulled into a small Tibetan store and Lobsang and I to get out.. Adu drove off ..he said toilet…his cab would not be parked at the store... word was likely out in the colony that an American was visiting (and I didn't have that pesky permit from the Indian government, although it is my understanding that it is ok to be in the colonies in the daylight hours) I was ushered behind the storeowners counter to sit on the floor and suddenly Tibetan customers lined the front counter to block any viewing... about 10 minutes later Adu came back and we all decided that given that it is India's independence day and extra cops would be on patrol... it was time to go.. so back to Hubli... a $5 hotel for a shower and a bus out tonight with all the greatest memories on film...

My little duck behind the counter was nothing, but it gave an ounce of what it might feel like to escape into exile....

so that is the news.. there have been a few incidents around India that might show up on U.S. news in relation to India's independence day... nothing to worry about, I am near none of it... ...Tonight I bus back to Bangalore and on the 29th I fly back to Delhi and to the Tibetan Colony there... time to see a few of the Indian sights... I hope. The rest of the trip is pretty tightly organized.

Visually and respectfully, Joe Mickey

Jan. 27
Greetings from Bangalore. Made the overnight bus ride sleeping about like you would expect. All of about $8 for the best class bus with A/C. They are very nice as busses go and there are some really crappy ones...

I tried to email from the hotel this morning but it would not work... I am on Mahatma Gandhi Avenue which ironically is a huge upscale shopping area... and the two year old guide book said this place would be swimming in Inet sites but only this one so far so.

I fly out in the morning day after tomorrow to return to Delhi... and then will put together a trip to the Taj Mahall... this is the R& R part of the trip. (Never did do the Taj Mahall) I think I found the best kept secret in Bangalore...Its on the outskirts in a rich neighborhood and its a bed and breakfast with a full staff...(Executive Inn) I am paying uptown rates and $34 a night and as it turns out, I am the last guest they had since today's return... this place is spotless and hot water shower from 6 to 10 a.m. But its a nice all is well and I will probably get a motor rickshaw tomorrow and go see some sites, so again no Idea on connecting to the inet and then fly out the next day to Delhi where I have my $6 room booked in the Tibetan Colony and a ton of Inet outlets in the early eve..

Jan 28
Ramblings on a layover in India

Greetings from Bangalore in the south of India. In order to save on travel time from north to south India and back north again, I have a layover in Bangalore.

There is a small Tibetan community here with a series of shops on the main shopping street, ironically named Mahatma Gandhi Road. Here India mixes modern and third world.

The more you see of India the more you come to understand the nature of the Tibetan survival and how remarkable it is in the context of India. India has 350 million living in poverty. 18 million children live and beg and are exploited on India’s streets. The Tibetans have managed to create self-sufficient communities that help India draw Western money and tourists and while they have all the human problems, they also take care of their own with deep conviction.

India itself is a land of extreme contradictions.

For staying in Bangalore, I picked the cheapest place listed on Expedia and it turned out to be a Bed and Breakfast style place in a Wealthy Indian neighborhood. Sometimes the gods do look out for me. The best comparison is an upscale American gated community. Some of the homes are still under construction... done by hand by men and by women. The workers set up camp and live in the barest conditions of poverty while building modern homes.

In the Tibetan colony, I met a man who is paid less than a dollar a day to watch a garden all day. He keeps the cows form eating the cabbage etc. Another man is a Cow walker, because the cattle that are milked are kept in relatively small areas and because they are sacred, the man is hired to exercise them.

The local Kentucky Fried Chicken in Bangalore offers a veggie menu, Most of the retail and market is street side and contained in singlewide rollup door style shops.

I am dying from the pollution and dust in the air. At my Bangalore hotel I met an Indian man who said his wife is suffering from the same thing so I don't feel quite so bad. He comes from Mumbai and is in town to give readings from his latest book, "Ocean in My Yard" memoirs of his life growing up in Bombay where he still lives (Mumbai) he also says the air is better there..... He asked me if the driving in Bangalore scared me. I told him I have become numb to it as it is been the same through all of India. He said Mumbai has a great public transportation system... I wonder... I think in india you have to study the nuances between crazy and insane.

On the street, a retired army colonel stopped me to tell me his son is working for Cisco systems in America... that now makes two Indians in two cities that have told me their sons are working in America for Cisco. The colonel's son will return home soon as they are currently searching for a wife for him. These are the contradictions of India.

Tomorrow, it’s back to Delhi and into the Tibetan Colony... for a few days before returning north. It’s time to see some of the India Treasures and then north to try to clear the lungs.

Visually and respectfully, Joe Mickey

Jan 29
afternoon on the 29... just letting you know I am safe and sound in Majnu Katilla back in Delhi...of course arrived in Delhi with all the lights out...

A non eventful flight... and its about an hour to cross Delhi from the airport in the Taxi... Just starting to get this down... have not had any bad scams, got took on one taxi ride in Delhi, for a bit of a high price for the ride and a forced stop at "you must shop here" but all in all have done well... Also, since I am not an epicurean, I have stayed really really safe on the food and I return to places I know and foods I have eaten. Tomorrow will go around Delhi to get a look at some of the major temples and old Delhi.

Bangalore was kind of a non-place except it’s a big city in India. I am sure with more time there is plenty to discover.

Bangalore does have lots of parks, small ones. And you just come across them.. One yesterday, had roses and various plants and just some lady in a Blue Sarri (the local dress and its spelled different ways at every shop) who wandered around the park pulling weeds. I think that is her entire job.

India is pretty surreal. You see poverty here that makes America's homeless look well to do. The children are the saddest and an Indian who is a missionary working with children said there were 70 million kids on the streets. The official totals from international agencies put the number at between 17 and 18 million.. Anyway you look at it its bad. And there are many incidents between children and police and children that end badly for the children. It is a situation similar to Brazil’s street children.

I don't think I told you, I wandered around Hubli, the bus stop town to points everywhere else and I took stills in the street market place and I would show the people on the camera’s screen... I started to draw some pretty big crowds, "All wanting to be photographed” just so they could see the picture on the screen. Indians are all very friendly. They are not as quick with a warm smile as the Tibetans. The Indians are a little harder to crack, but when you get through, they are all very friendly and very proud of India. I have taken Cabs, with no idea of course of where I am going and they are all very proud to deliver you to your destination and point out the sites along the way.

Here is the thing about Indian driving and roads. There are lanes, and traffic flows in two directions. But lanes don't mean much and drivers honk, not out of anger but its part of the actual driving school lesson to know how to talk to fellow drivers with the horn. And in the middle of all this you see a car with a "Student Driver" sign on the top. It seems chaotic but it all works very well. There are far less accidents on the roads than in the states and traffic does not stop so there are no jams.. congested, yes but no jams. The pollution is the worst and believe it or not, I actually saw a smog inspection station... go figure.

India is really wrestling with its own cultural development right now. Malls are a relatively new phenomenon and the dress for women runs from full berka to the traditional silk Sarris to modern Chic. The men all dress like something bad out of Saturday night fever.

Television is a mix of Hindu, Hindu dubbed and English. The entire country gets all the same channels. Television is not broadcast by region and every channel (and there are tons of them) is all the same everywhere?

There are Two European Fashion Channels, BBC News, CNN India with some American programming and a couple of National Hindu stations.

One network broadcasts American programming like Friends and Seinfield and U.S. movies, but they are not reruns but rather seem to run one or two seasons behind. And they have HBO but it has commercials.

TV has lots of Indian soap operas and movies stations and several religious stations... I think Televangelists learned their trade in India

The editorial page is often a mix of politics and religion.. One guy who led the government in Karnataka and got booted out of office in the state I had just visited and the headline said, he believes that this has happened to him because of past life Karma. The paper with the headline is one of a couple of India's national papers and would be equal to the NY times in the states.

Back in the Tibetan colony, the people are more open, more ready with a smile and they don't wheel and deal on everything... its good here... if it wasn't India. India is not a great place … but it is an amazing place.

Anyway, that is the news... sorry for the long email... I promise to try to keep a lid on it... It really is an amazing place... not a great place... but an amazing place....

Visually and respectfully, Joe Mickey

Jan 31
Its just about 9 p.m. Looking into traveling to Agra for the Taj Majal. That looks like it will be a one-day down and back if it happens. Everyone including the guidebooks says the town itself is no big deal. Sat or Sunday here for traffic and easiest drive down. Best solution seems to be to hire a car and just go there and back

Have taken two days here just to stay out of the air that is on the streets / Breathing improving, so still have plenty to see in Delhi as well and there is the big international book fair...

Every moment here is a hundred pictures... from that standpoint it is amazing. I keep forgetting to mention, coming back into Delhi, I saw my first Elephant, walking on the highway. It had a rider so it’s a working elephant. Did 't get that picture... but pretty cool to see...

Visually and respectfully, Joe Mickey

Gallery 53 continues diary





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