Strolling in Ahmedabad

I set out,

With only the perceptive lens of my camera as my guide

Unravelling the mundane architecture of people’s lives,

Beginning with the static maze of streets,

Whose sagging structures conspire to form each isolated niche,

Where enigmatic sculptures are decorated, to defy their age,

Hindu demons whose weathered faces still convey their rage,

Trunkless elephants of stone, locked in combat, have newly painted eyes,

Warped door frames, elaborately carved are colourfully disguised,

The alluring forms of goddesses grace crumbling walls

Shrines are secreted between flyovers and market stalls,

Punctuating concrete with splashes of red and green.

My lens starts by picking out these elements of the scene.

Drawn in by the fractal gravity of detail, I am camera blind.

Each alleyway is a whole new universe of geometry, fixed in time.

While this narrow depth of field leaves a breadcrumb trail of clues

The blurred background of the world inevitably intrudes.

Perhaps it will be jarring rickshaw yellow and a blaring horn,

Or it may be blaring techno from a temple megaphone.

Or maybe, ghostlike and alone, the lumbering form of a placid cow

Floats like an otherworldly mirage through congested crowds,

Forcing you from its path.

But the camera has its own momentum and creates its own sense

As people see themselves reflected in its lens,

Eliciting Bollywood poses or enthusiastic smiles,

Attracting Facebook savvy school kids with western styles

All demanding selfies and lining up to shake my hand.

While excited stall holders beckon from behind their overloaded stands,

Embracing the theatrics of their trade with flair,

Counting out money and loading scales with exaggerated care.

As the camera works to frame its own stage the route of my passage unfurls,

Drawn with strangely cinematic certainty through the living fabric of successive world’s.

And the scene shifts

Relaxed, radiating the energy of his youth, he appears on cue,

He is crouched by the dusty roadside for a spontaneous tattoo.

Defying the heat in skinny jeans, presented in his trendy best,

He grins through chunky blue rimmed glasses and thrives off my passing interest.

And the scene shifts

Two shopkeepers sit, wrapped up in woollens and practicing their time pass with an easy air,

Their shop (merely a shelf on the side of their house) stocks all manner of tobacco related wares.

Yet they are more preoccupied with studying the street, reading its fluid script like scholars,

Parsing the characters they meet for gossip- be they photographers or rickshaw wallahs.

And the scene shifts

An electrician insists I photograph his work- imparting camera angles with friendly sincerity,

Sifting purposefully through his own clutter, he restlessly tinkers with practiced dexterity,

While his shop spills from a modest cupboard- a cryptic mess of boxes, all battered and rust stained.

Eclectic tools, bits of broken things. Everything in its place, systematised by the cypher of his brain.

And the scene shifts

Around him stalls sell badly photocopied tomes; countless stacks of science and engineering.

In the half light beneath the busy bridge, he is conscious of the angular arrangement of his limbs,

Selling posters, he perches before a rainbow pantheon of gods, whose every pose hold hidden omens.

He stares into the middle distance with a practiced grace, his Bollywood dreams being voicelessly spoken.

And the scene shifts

The very lens which led me blindly on my traveled path

Now digests the lived experience, leaving merely frozen moments in its aftermath.

Cast forward into the future and reaching back to shape the past

Like fossilised fragments of time, transforming memories and shaping fact.

Images which hold monopoly on truth, their vivid power once transmitted,

Denies even the thought of who, or what things, may have been omitted.

Obscuring the frayed symmetry of a cluttered city,

Offering in its place a photogenic simplicity

Which feeds the pattern hungry cravings of my mind,

Draws my photographers eye to seek out and to find

A wealth of hidden details

Within the static maze of streets.


Click here to see some of the photos which inspired this poem

A farmer in Darkness

A nest of receding embers glow.

Wrapped in swathes of Shadow

He cradles the brick black hole.

Antimatter that crackles with Kathmandu,

A hiss of disembodied voices and distant news.

Hunched over and deeply entranced,

He is seemingly of the same substance

As the Red earth floor.

 

The red earth floor

That drinks daily of spilt chai,

Of the essence of life, to be revived

In the grey half light by calloused hands.

Each previous day’s remnants

Sealed in a new layer of rich clay soil.

 

The Rich clay soil

That is compounded by the passage of bare feet,

With each passing winter in wood-smoke steeped,

A mute testament to ingrained routine

Whose powerful gravity permeates dreams,

Wordlessly whispers when the darkness is strong,

Here you belong.   Here you belong.


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Lethargic meteorology

Lethargic meteorology- perched above Darjeeling with a cup of tea.

Angular concrete populates the steep slope, like a growth of bracket fungi in the moist air.

Tankers and jeeps belch their noise and smoke into clogged streets,

Congested with crowds, offering their voices to the parabolic sweep

Of the land.   Rivulets and streams, are channelled into a snarl of plumbing,

A hopeless tangle of inch thick steel, hissing at ill fitted joints

And fatigued meanderings.

 

Moving low, slumped into the open bowl of the valley, lie unbroken swathes of cloud.

The antidote to divided nature.   Powder-white lake of burdened vapour,

Struggling to regain the sky.   Tenderly brushes, through the supplicant and lush

foliage of tea gardens; infiltrates snarled forests, with the subtlety of spirit.

Settles on the standing cedars, which rain gently on their own roots.

 

Translucent tendrils followed by an eerie tide, swallow up the mismatched labyrinth

Of streets.   Station buildings, schools and busy shops are enveloped by the soft and silver belly of the mist.   Expansive space, immersed in ether, is suggested only by acoustics,

A deadened collage of dislocated sound.  Amnesia, encroaching, brings a blind reprieve,

The chaotic mass of masonry is lost in disembodied dreams.   While the clutter of crowds,

in the ambient glow, dissolve like wisps of steam.