Author: v70pdb

Documentary: Washing clothes in India

One thing immediately noticed when in India is, no matter how relatively poor the people are their clothes are clean and bright. Rarely do you see people wearing dirty or even unpressed clothes? How is this achieved in a country where the use of washing machines, though growing, is very rare? The answer, of course, is the same way it has been achieved for hundreds, if not thousands of years. The dobhi washerman is the man instrumental in the process of keeping India clean.  Hundreds of thousands of these workers exist all over India hand washing clothes all day. It’s a grueling task in the hot sun, often up to their knees in water, these workers soap, scrub, soak, rinse, wring and dry, – and even press with coal-fired irons – the full range of clothes for every type of household or business. Even the higher priced hotels seem to use this services, as marks inside my collars seemed to show when they returned from the ‘hotel laundry’. On top of the long and hard hours of work, there …

Travel: The Indian Sadhu.

A Sadhu is a Hindu holy man. Typically, as here, pictured in Mysore, dressed in saffron coloured robes they wander the country living on alms. Having renounced the normal pleasures of life, or denying themselves material satisfaction, they follow a mendicant ascetic life  – tapasvee in Hindi – dedicated to spiritual goals. There is a more radical sect of Sadhu, the Naga Sadhu, who wear no clothes, simply choosing to cover themselves with ash and beads. They rarely appear in public choosing special events like the Kumbh Mela to do so.   Abhishek Madhukar, a photojournalist, and filmmaker based in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, covered the last Kumbh Mela and produced a video on the Naga Sadhus for the New York Times. You can see it here…      

Travel: Hampi, Karnataka, India

What a place! If your ‘gob is not well and truly smacked‘ by this place then you have no soul. The natural landscape is strewn with huge granite boulders, some piled precariously atop one another, some say, they have been there for thousands of millions of years, formed by the ancient tectonic plate movements of the earth’s crust. It’s certainly a landscape which dwarfs the visitor, not only in scale but in time. It’s also been a natural quarry for the indigenous people for many centuries. Working with the hard crystalline granite – not an easy task I’m sure – artisans and artists first quarried the stone by splitting boulders – you can see evidence of this all around. Boulders with pockets chiseled in line litter the area. It’s said these pockets were filled with balsa wood which was soaked with water. The expansion of the wood split the stone. The boulders were then worked to produce exquisite objects, some huge in themselves, and elements for building construction. There is much to see in Hampi but, for …

Travel: Gandhi in the back of a truck.

McLeod Ganj, high above Dharamshala in the state of Himachal Pradesh, India is the home of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan school of Buddhism. His Holiness escaped across the Himalayas to this region of northern India following the failed  Tibetan uprising against the Chinese in 1959. The Dalai Lama lives in a monastery in this small mountainside town on the edge of the ever present snow-capped foothills of the Himalayas which set an impressive backdrop. Part of the ritual adopted by Tibetan Buddhists is to ‘circum- perambulate’ the temple on a daily basis. A path has been built on the vertiginous slopes around the temple to facilitate this activity. It’s no mean feat. The inclines are steep and at nearly 7000 feet above sea-level, the air is thin for people not used to this altitude. His Holiness is in residence and is teaching so the town is bustling. McLeod Ganj normally attracts visitors from around the world, monks, mendicants and just the curious. But, when there is the opportunity to see His Holiness and …

Documentary: Brick making in India.

Here in Europe, most bricks used for building are machine made with only special bricks being “hand thrown” – hand made. If you are of a certain age you may remember LBC – London Brick Company – Flettons, or common bricks as they were called. Billions were made and laid after the war in housing projects all over the country. The LBC common bricks were made in and around Bedford. As you drove down the M1  you could see dozens of chimneys in the brick yards churning out smoke making bricks from London clay. This clay had a carboniferous content so the cost of firing was less than conventional clay. In India the process is somewhat different, using the “clamp” technique (which produces an intermittent type of kiln as opposed to continuous) to fire the hand thrown bricks. Labour intensive, hard work defines the process. The clay-rich soil is tempered by hand with water to make the mouldable clay which is then scooped up by hand and thrown into the metal moulds – hence hand …