Of living, eating, and forgetting

It is raining as I write this. And it was raining when I took the pictures below. And it will continue to rain indefinitely until the monsoon season decides to leave this country. A land at once sated, and harassed. Patience is a virtue you might wish to keep a good stock of while you visit this blog in the coming days, for it will have more of rain. And of the places I visit. Today, feast your eyes on life, as the world lives it. The levels of struggle, the extent of including the unnecessary, may differ from communities to communities, species to species, but the world does live on these — struggle for comfort, struggle for food, and the occasional indulgences.

Adat bazaar at Nainital -- the place we will see today. Adat means a wholesale market for vegetables and fruits, and sometimes grains.
Sitting on a high perch, I looked at the intense interest people have in the one thing that is arguably the basis for all life -- food.
Wholesale vendors look for bulk sales, retail vendors look for the best bargain.
Like these mangoes, most vegetables come to Nainital from the outside. The terrain of the town is such that not much can be grown here.
This lady is oblivious to the sounds of haggling, rain, triumph at a good bargain, despair at the grumbling stomach. She reads her newspaper among her ivy and geraniums.
This man under the umbrella has deft fingers.
To fill this carton with carrots....
... he chops off the unnecessary with a knife. Sometimes two, or three carrots at once. Where do the scraps go? We'll see.
This porter is one of the many, who make life in a hill station like this livable. They carry anything from grocery bags to fridges to homes that are right up on the mountains where no vehicle goes. Where these young boys in their Adidas shoes will not dream of going in slippers.
These women were probably devastated. Outsiders, they did not know it could rain; and the steep climb didn't add to the comfort. But there's always a shoulder to lean on when you're with friends, no?
Though I love the normal fuschia, I am beginning to like these with a white bottom. They display the contrasts so well.
Forgive me for adding the unnecessary. I just love the look of wood. If only we planted more trees to make up for the ones we fell.
This police woman was careful to not let wet splashes ruin her kurta. Holding the umbrella with one hand, she grabbed the flailing cloth with the other. What would she do, if she had a handbag, I wonder.
This young lady was enjoying the drizzle, for it had become a drizzle by this time. Showing off her ponytail (or was it happiness radiating through the ponytail?), she looked around with great interest.
These people don't look too happy, now, do they?
Ah, a lawyer. Walking to the High Court nearby. I love his pinstriped trousers. Don't you?
Jalebis and pakoras. And copious amounts of oil in the middle kadahi. 🙂
These school kids were wondering if they could leave the tiffin boxes their mothers had packed for them somewhere around here, and, when they needed to eat during the school recess, they could sneak into the canteen outside of their school. Tiffin boxes a cumbersome to carry.
Another unnecessary picture. It is here because I love letter boxes. Much more than the email inboxes. And I love the canisters for milk in the background, too.
The clouds were closing in again, the wind vane surprisingly silent.
This fruit section of the market attracts few people. It is expensive.
Our sparrow friend hopped on this electricity line, obviously pleased at the short-term respite from the falling water.
It never ceases to amaze me -- the incredible amount of wires and cables and lines we have to depend on. So many connections, such ugly ones. And so necessary.
Sometimes ugliness has a virtue -- of being quaint, and most of all, of being useful. Someone has tied wires around this tired gutter. It is almost as good as it needs to be!
This monkey stole a roti (chapati) from a shop nearby. By the time I could divert my attention from the drain, he had already tried his loot. And got bored with it, for some reason.
Moving on to the rooftop, he did something more exciting -- got himself de-liced.
And then, returned the favour. The pleasure was doubled, for as he discovered subsequently, lice are tastier than rotis.
Potatoes. The one vegetable that everyone HAS to like. Oh? You don't? Think of all the wow-energy it gives you! For cheap, too. Hill people in India love this vegetable, for it is one of the few things they can grow, it is tastier than the ones found in the plains, and it is comfortably priced.
Grain sacks, brooms, shoppers and wealth. Of sorts.
A local mithai shop. Sweetmeats. The brown thing is chocolate barfi. A favourite among the tourists.
Back to what drove me to sit on this perch in the first place. The sheer energy of this place!
And all for this.
A porter carrying apple cartons to I do not know where. I wonder what they do to their drenched clothes once their day is done. Once it is time to settle in wherever they settle in for the night. Do they have spares?
This caller was calling for gourd takers. He has a humungous task. People usually do not like gourds.
And look at this, this feat of mankind. Standing here for at least a century, defiant. Though it might seem like it is neglected by the successors of the ones who made it, it is simply a matter of choosing aging over botox. Oh, chuckle all you wish. It is indeed so. The day you become as wise as I am today, you'll know.
Laugh at my foolishness. I'll laugh with you. Things are meant to be maintained, of course -- so that they don't leak, look good. But if things are functioning well the way they are, beauty can be found anywhere -- so that the resources can be saved.
Speaking of which, I wish we had not discovered the virtues of a CFL. It is inelegant, and gives off the worst light possible. What resources are we saving?
For whom?
I wonder if these tomatoes will go all pulpy by the time this person takes the sack to his small roadside shop somewhere in the other end of the town. Do you know?
These are more patient witnesses of this bazaar. They might.
This person kept coming up to adjust the plastic roof above his shop.
And here comes my favourite part of the outing!
His master directed him carefully through the veggies.
But not carefully enough! Ha! What a catch! He got one big potato, all for himself!
After he unloaded the wares, the master didn't forget to cover our potato-lover with a sheet of plastic. It helps against the rain.
And now, he's found a tomato!
But this man could use some chai. And an umbrella. Shivering like he could shake off the cold, he kept looking for mangoes.
And here's our scrap user. Remember the scraps from de-greened carrots? This man's companion was collecting edible waste from all the stalls, dumping them here. But the man couldn't wait for her to come back to sit with him and eat. He began his feast without her.
She's got her week's requirement. And is now looking for some fruits. Eventually, she just went away. Perhaps they were not to her taste.
There is such a difference between use and misuse, wouldn't you say? A few years back, this bazaar scene would have made me furious. Why is there so much disorganisation? Why can't they make proper shops? What about the ones who see food in front of them, but have to eat the waste? There are so many questions that probably need no answering. Or perhaps they are answered without words.
Like everything else, everything that is not else, lives. And life is about survival.
But what about reaching for the sky?
What about achieving that one extra inch of height, so that you are higher than the others? Better, efficient, creative, beautiful.
I do not know. But I do know that with time, and harsh drops of rain, only the one who focuses on the necessary will win. In their own right.
I leave you with the images of these birds, who wouldn't say "I lose", no matter the intensity of the rain.
Defiant,
Grumpy,
Each dealing with the rain in their own way,
Some patient, some otherwise,
Some wishing I'd stop analysing.

This is for you, Rosie.

33 thoughts on “Of living, eating, and forgetting”

  1. I’ve mentioned before that my life-long wish has been to go to India, well now in all honesty I can say I have. I had a tour of a wholesale market (which I learned is called an adat) in a rainy hill town called Nainital via your magnificent photos and marvellous commentary. Thank you Priya. My Congratulations on a brilliant post. I LOVE it. I love it all – love your commentary, the colors, the people, the views – through windows or from above – the vegetables, the man cutting carrots, the horse stealing a potato, the monkeys, the birds… I know samoosas, pakoras and jalebis but don’t know what chocolate barfi is. It looks like fudge. Could it be fudge? Is a kadahi a frypan?

    One request – personally, and selfishly because I love them so much, I’d like to see all the photos in a slide show.

    1. Chocolate barfi is an Indianised fudge. It is made with khoya, a milk product, and cocoa powder, and sugar. That’s about all that I know, apart from my experience that it tastes very different from the fudge you must be used to.
      Kadahi is a frying pan, yes. The Chinese call theirs ‘wok’.
      Thank you for liking this post, Rosie. I thought of you often while compiling this together.

      1. Priya it gives me such a good feeling to know you thought of me while compiling this blog 🙂
        Where were you sitting when you took the photos? An apartment across the road?

        I’m going to look out for barfi next time I go to little India (about an hour south of L.A.).
        I didn’t know that Indian cooking has something that looks like a wok – but as I
        know that samoosas pakoras etc are deep fried, I shouldn’t be surprised..

      2. Yes, I took these pictures through an apartment window.

        Let me know which barfi you got for yourself. Try kaju barfi (made of cashew). It’s my favourite.

    2. Many thanks for the slide show 🙂

      Mr F has a weakness for fudge. When I told him barfi is Indian fudge and your favorite was cashew flavor, he looked reeeelly interested.

  2. Thanks Priya for this amazing photo essay. I had a sense of how wet the monsoon season is, but your photos show it must be cool, at least by sub-continent standards. Loved the little birdies too. Do their songs reflect their wet state too?

    1. Oh yes! They chattered crazily, almost angrily. I was amazed at how one of the birds looked at me with those eyes that could kill. He was probably wishing me away, or willing that I be exposed to the rain and then see how cool photography can be!

      Nainital is at a height of 2048 meters. It is a part of the Himalayan foothills, so, yes, it is always much cooler than the rest of the sub-continent. But during a healthy monsoon, almost every part of the country experiences a much cooler time.

      Thank you for the appreciation, EarthImage.

  3. These photos are exquisite. What a pleasure it is to come to your blog and see these. I am madly in love with the one showing the lady reading the newspaper framed by the gorgeous blue window frames. Do you crop your photos after you take them? Because if you do, you show an amazing sense of design. If you don’t, you’re simply marvelous at catching the essence of a scene. This one post is a treasured one for me. Thank you!

    1. I think I am a bit of both, then, Jean. *ahem*. The picture you mention is not cropped, but some of the others are — mainly the ones that were taken at a distance and the limited zoom of my camera couldn’t quite capture the object I wanted to focus on.
      And I thank you for transporting me to cloud nine for tonight.

  4. Thank you for sharing your world with us, Priya. How wonderful it was to travel with you to all these sites. I swear there were times where I heard the sounds of the market, rain and birds, too. Stunning, Priya. Stunning and humbling. Thank you.

    1. I am so happy it could do all of these things for you, Lenore. The marketplace is indeed a stunning and an equally humbling experience.

  5. I would have missed most of the things you highlighted. You call it a partial view, but the truth is, your blog is like a magnifying glass that you hold up to the world. The photographs are beautiful, as always, and your commentary is incisive. Thank you for taking us along.

  6. I agree with Charles. Yours is no partial view, it is carefully focused and intensely insightful. I love how you can show us the big picture and then zero in on the details like the ancient roof trim or the cobbled together drainage system. All I missed during this wet stroll through the Adat were the smells. I particularly enjoyed the horse stealing the potato and the mail box, which I would never have recognized as such.

    As we here in Idaho head into our hot, dry season, it is refreshing to see images of a cool, wet world on the other side of this great ball of ours. It never ceases to amaze me how in one area we may be sunburned and parched while simultaneously in another area, people are shivering and paddling about with webs growing between their toes!

    Thanks for starting my day off so beautifully!

    1. Yes, Priya, collection boxes here are always just like the one in your photo link. Earlier than 1970, I believe they were red and blue. But this is standard now with the standard eagle logo.

      Of course, individual mail receptacles at people’s homes come in a wide variety of shapes, colors, themes….sometimes quite difficult for letter carriers to fathom!

      1. This discussion was so interesting that I had to come see the mail box again… I knew it was a mail box because I know mailboxes are red, but when I looked at it again noticed what an interesting shape it was. However what really surprised me from this discussion is I hadn’t realized US mailboxes are blue. LOL. I’ve always thought they were a funny shape, but even though I’ve lived here for over a decade, I hadn’t noticed the color. Funny how we can take things for granted and just not notice them… Thanks again.

      2. Linda, thank you for telling me about the letter boxes there.

        Here, we are now beginning to have public letter drop boxes that are shaped quite like yours, but are always red. I suppose the rectangular shape helps save space and material. I do confess that I prefer those old ones. They carry the quaintness of old times.

        Rosie, isn’t it funny how things that seem so innocuous are actually the things that join together to make a culture? 🙂

  7. excellent collection of monsoon pictures with nice captions to go with… common man struggling in rain but still loving it… in a way this post captures the essence of India….

  8. I could not go to bed until I finished going through the terrific photos and commentary, Priya. Right from the get-go, I loved the colours of the umbrellas. Plus look at all that delicious, healthy food. As other mentioned, I loved the horse treating itself to a potato. I bet the owner pretends to not see! 😀

    I was astonished by the huge pile of wooden crates that the one man is carrying. Knowing the crates contain goods, one wonders how long his body is able to endure such an undertaking.

    Many thanks for sharing such a delicious assortment of views. What a fabulous way of making our world more one than it was before by sharing this part of your life with us.

    1. P.S., It’s now 2:35 a.m. Good thing I can sleep in tomorrow. Hopefully we’ll have some rain so I can put off mowing my so-called lawn when I wake up.

      1. Did it rain? I hope it did! Lawn mowing is a thing for the days when you haven’t spent time looking at pictures on the computer at 2 am! Thank you, Amy, for finding this post worth it.

        The mule’s master pulled him away before he could grab a couple more. 🙂

  9. Wonderful view of what you’ve been looking at and thinking about, Priya. I love so many of these photos and you give me pause for thought, too. As I looked at them and read what you wrote, I was thinking that you must have been such a good teacher when you were teaching.

    Apart from the little girlie house sparrow, the other birds look like Swallows. If interested, there are a couple of photos of a baby swallow perched on the outside of our kitchen window sill, in my blog in this post.

    1. Val! I wonder how I missed replying to this comment! And such a good one, too. And to think that I missed it when you provided a link to such a thought provoking post (with a swallow for good measure). 😦

      But, thank you.

      I was a good teacher, I think. *ahem*

      They are swallows indeed. I just neglected to mention them. And thank you for pointing that out. I am going to go back to this old post of yours and read it better again and then say what I will say.

      Have a beautiful day today.

  10. Hi Priya,

    I am loving this! I have this so-close-and-yet-so-far feeling. India: this is was land, my native.
    Great pictures and in full view! I am glad I found you so quick. I am a fledgling writer at wordpress and you are going on my blogroll (as soon as i figure out how to add it.)
    If you’d like to, take a peak at mine.
    thank you for writing.
    Aparna

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