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MARCH 18, 2013

Indian for gidday, thanks, please, help, pass me the spicy chicken, which way to the taxi stand, TAXI!

You get the idea, with a simple change in inflection, desperation and perspiration this simple word, has a thousand meanings.

Have just spent a month in India working on ‘Peace in 10,000 Hands’ and am on the way back to NZ. This email is my point of view, from the heart and boots and soul. If you don’t want to read this whole blog, I get it, totally, words blah blah blah what ever….. So quick bullet points for you – travelled over 3000kms by car, swam in The Ganges, nine flights, two car accidents, one dust up with the army (bit scary), one police bribe paid (bit scary), officially became an overstayer and was escorted from India (bit scary), one snake charmer (charmed), Himalayas – amazing.

Delhi Belly, missed it completely. Know it exists but couldn’t find it.

There was drama…… no doubt. I was escorted from India by an officious and angry Indian customs agent as an…. over stayer, yup. I now sort of know how that feels and can finally buy the t shirt. Even though I was leaving the place, this is not funny in India. Not even haha like my funny haha, here’s a joke for you… a one liner….. no – it is cavity searching not funny haha, my departing words were….. I’ll be back.

Spent a few weeks on the Ashram being woken up at 3am everyday for…… the 3am to 6am holy prayer broadcast through the loud speakers (LOUD). For those in the know, God descends to earth from the heavens in the holy hours of 3am to 6am (Amrit Vela) and therefore prayer and connecting with God and all things spiritual take place during this time.

Although the dog howling, people hoicking, monkey screams and screaming prayers were sounds of dreams and or nightmares for my few days in the ashram, it never came to pass as part of ‘the furniture’.

Rishikesh is a holy city where Mata Ganga (The Ganges for the un anointed) the holiest of all holy rivers, runs wide and fast. Thousands of pilgrims visit this small yet sprawling village on the banks of the Ganga to wash their sins away and cleanse themselves of everything imaginable (hence everything imaginable flows down The Ganga). They also cremate people on the banks here and float them down the river to their watery grave.

Roads: Whom ever is in front by a nose rules the road, whom ever is behind by a nose rules the road, whom ever has the bigger vehicle rules the road. You get the idea. Traffic lights are merely fancy poles for pigeons to land on and Give Way signs just mean ‘give way to no-one and go for it’. 40km means 100km, 100 means parking lot and parking lot means 100. Basically you can go anywhere at what ever speed you want and stop anywhere you want.

The open roads here are ruled by trucks, massive trucks, no joke, get a solid steel forty foot container, hack a bit out of the front for a steering wheel and ‘cab’, add SIX wheels and Boom you have a truck worthy of being driven like it is a high performance machine on a track. These vehicles look like they have been in a massive laser gun fight in Battle Star Galactica, they are messed up mothers. They are adorned with hub caps from cars hanging on chains – one can only assume these are the trophies of their ‘conquests’ on the road.

Food, all amazing, the sameish – but amazing, I love Naan pronounced Narrrrrrn like a good Scotsman would and like all good Scotsman living on Oats you can live on Narrrrn here too, no worries mate.

Living animals encountered on the ROADS – camels, cows (sacred here and they roam free like birds), sheep, pigs, goats, monkeys, elephants and people, lots of people. As there are no crossings (signs up cross now) in India people, like cows, just use the road like a footpath.

Dead things encountered and seen: cows, pigs, monkeys and people. Saw more dead people in a few weeks in India than I had seen in every episode of CSI. Ever.

Dead animals eaten, so only seen in bits – goat, camel, pig and sheep so apart from elephant in India experienced everything seen living was also seen….. dead. Makes you appreciate life a little bit more seeing so much death 🙂

In India they change things around to make things a little bit fancy – like shifting letters! so Experience becomes ‘xperience’ (fancy) and restaurant becomes ‘ restaurante’ (fancy)

They can get the English spelling of words wrong too, which can be cute, for dinner one night I had ‘vagi’ soup (was quite nice actually) and was told via a sign ‘do not flash the toilet’ in a mens room in Rishikesh (which made my job a little difficult:)

Everything is multiplied too. It doesn’t make you feel richer or fuller but just smile. Like this – for breakfast you have – breads and butters with honeys and peanut butters. You get it.

While everyone here seems to be in a rush they all go so slow. Everything happens in their own time which you kinda likes untils yous needs that wifi code NOW. Another example of speed and time co efficient is the buses, there are bus stops but the buses don’t stop, they just roll by while people are getting on and off. All the buses seem to lean to one side too, the curb, probably the buffet side.

Indian people are all extremely helpful and friendly, really friendly. They are amazing and beautiful people and have made the month magical. Even if they don’t know, they won’t let you down, like being at hotel and being told by reception the wifi code is 27Y3 and wondering why this isn’t working, you go back to reception to say my life has stopped my wifi is not working… blah blah no wifi, white man no happy blah blah. Anyway you’re told, with a smile that there is no wifi in the hotel and there never has been, you enquire why the $#%& I was given the code for the wifi?!?! To this question you simply receive a gentle sway of the head, large smile and ‘yes yes sir’ answer. It’s is as ancient and mysterious as India itself.

Defensive driving in India…. Like most combative situations, the only form of defence, is attack. So when approaching a roundabout speed up so there is no chance of stopping. None. When performing a lane change, keep it secret from everyone until the car next to you is missing some paint. Have been in two car accidents in India, luckily they were not in the high speed journeys over the 3000kms travelled from Village to Village across the Thar dessert… Once was in Varanasi where the car lost its bumper as did the other car and both cars had panel damage, neither stopped and just drove on. The other accident was in a village where the car passed a side road and sped up we could see a motorbike was pulling out, also speeding up. Both drivers saw each other and neither vehicle was able to stop, it was to later to stop offence / defence rule did not apply, so we spun off the road, along the gravel side of the road, some how missing all the villagers, and ended up facing the same way we were heading, half on the road and half off. Our Sikh driver (renouned as the strongest people apparently) got out of the car to have a screaming match with the motorbike rider (the motorbike had four people on it) who was now supported by a cast of a few hundred angry villagers, I got out with my monopod (no….. a single legged camera tripod) and was ready for some who’s ya daddy. After a lot of screaming and fist waving we took off from our latest next near miss to the next one.

One stop made for a photograph of the rose was to the Indian Army Boarder Patrol (BSF) who guard India from Pakistan, this did not go well at all and descended into an all out screaming match, but ended ok as we got to leave and weren’t taken away for questioning… they take security here extremely seriously, e.g. – you can’t get in to any airport with out a printed air ticket and your passport….

Due to my applying (deliriously at 5am) for an Indian visa when I landed in Delhi for the first time, I put down some random number between one and a hundred that was supposed to equate to the days I was staying in India….. soooo I ended up over staying my allotment of days and like the Police and the Army in India, don’t mess with customs here.

India is as they say ‘Incredible India’, an ancient rich culture with so much breadth and depth it humbles you, wraps you up and takes you on a journey literally to a whole other place.

Seeing so many bodies under blankets at the hospitals and so many being cremated makes you really appreciate life is short get on with it, appreciate it, embrace it, make your own destiny and make the most of everyday.

‘Peace in 10,000 Hands’ has reached a new level all thanks to India and thanks to the few hundred people that were happy to sit in front of our camera and have their image and expression of peace and love curated into a project conceived to create change.  We were humbled by how helpful and open everyone was that we encountered.  Along with our translator, we ventured into far flung and remote areas to take images of incredible people doing incredible things with their hands to survive everyday here in India. We distributed 200,000 rupees to various underprivileged schools, villages and orphanages on the journey and tried to make a difference where ever we were.

- Written by MARCH 18, 2013

Varanasi – up at 5am again

MARCH 10, 2013

Varanasi, locally referred to as ‘the oldest living city and the holiest city in the world’… an incredible place, the layers of time are thick and visible at every twist and turn of the city’s maze of streets.

Up at 5am this morning to get to our own little boat on the river to watch sunrise and the many and varied morning traditions that have been continuing for the last 3000 yrs on the Ghat (the steps on the riverbank).  Its Maha Shivaratri celebration today, the streets and the Ghat overflowing with hundreds of thousands of people. The city streets fill up cars, bikes  animals and people become gridlocked

Varanasi is where the river Ganges flows to before it terminates in Calcutta… It’s pretty polluted at this point and yet you watch as everyone does their yoga or prayers, washing themselves, shaving, doing their teeth in amongst cow shit, urine, rubbish, milk, ash, fires, funeral pyres, professional laundry men.  Incense burns, Mantras and chanting gently fill the air, Naked Sadus covered in wood ash, young boys in yellow, men with their faces painted with white, yellow or red, old woman lighting puja  and offering them to Matta Ganga.

There are thousands of people, locals, tourists, pilgrims, hippies, families, primarily Hindu and Muslim people of every age.

Everyone farting, belching, hoicking, spitting, urinating freely…smiling and happy.  The human body is just a vessel, there seems no shame or very little modesty about all the noisy ways we cleanse it.

It is intense.

The smells, the sights, the colours, the old temples, fish jumping, a huge golden orange sun rises and despite all this humanity, history, tradition, poverty and chaos Varanasi has a deep sense of calm, of blissful peace and serenity. ….everyone stays happy and smiling.

They have a saying that puts it into perspective ‘remember that the thousand petaled lotus grows out of mud’.

Hindu people come here to die and to be cremated here. They believe this will release them from the cycle of reincarnation…. So the funeral pyres burn constantly 24/7.

It’s Shiva’s marriage celebration here tomorrow, this happens every 12 yrs, so the city is full to the brim.  It took about 3 hrs to move about 1 km during the middle of the day!


- Written by MARCH 10, 2013

Leaving Rajasthan

MARCH 8, 2013

Left the dusty bumpy roads Rajasthan full of colourful people, bikes, fruit stalls, decorated trucks, cars, desert, goats, camels, cows, opium fields, neem trees, wheat and mustard fields and are about to board our plane to Varanasi.

Have met and captured images and footage of some incredible people for Peace in 10,000 Hands.

- Written by MARCH 8, 2013