Archive for March, 2009

the Dharavi Slum

Posted in Uncategorized on March 30, 2009 by martinprihoda

There’s an interesting paradigm shift when that which you believe encounters the stark reality of how it really is. Such is the case with the Dharavi Slum.

As you may now the above mentioned slum is the largest in Asia and was featured prominently in the overly popular film “Slum Dog Millionaire” (which incidentally most Indians feel is an ‘average’ film at best). The general perception of the place, at least in my eyes was that of a dismal, economically depressed leper colony made up of dilapidated shanties, beggars, dirty shoe-less children and bad wiring.
Apart from the shoe-less dirty children and bad wiring my pre-conceptions are way off. As we walk though the narrow streets, our trusty guide and friend Rishi at our side, what we find is a little city full of extremely hard working, industrious and talented lower middle class folk. We see women sifting spices, men pulling old wooden carts full of deliciously fresh watermelon. Laughing, bright and curious children surround us at every corner while bakers remove fresh buns from tandoori style ovens. Paprikas dry in the baking sun, while workers stack cinderblocks along the flaking plaster walls.
We scrape through tiny alleyways ducking dangling electrical wire and side stepping oozing gutters. Up a rickety set of steep ladder-like stairs we arrive at a rooftop attic doubling as a tailor’s shop and once there sift through and buy enough linen for five tailored shirts and possibly a pair of shorts. Men sit sewing in the crowded room as ancient ceiling fans croak and groan above us, their machines whirling away in the sweat and humidity. At a rate of 15 rupees a shirt, these fellows are working their butts of to earn their wage.
As we walk back we pass chai walas pouring tea, butchers slicing into large chunks of lamb, the smell of blood and guts and incense permeating the air. In a flat bed truck a man throws severed goats heads into a pile while an old woman bakes corn over an open flame in a makeshift barbecue. In a dusty field scores of kids engage in sunset games of cricket and soccer while grandmothers sit chatting, the bottoms of their bright sari’s dusting the cobblestone street.
Dharavi exports some of the worlds finest leather and shops line the causeway selling bags and jackets for barnstorm prices. Leather walas chock a block call us into their shops, promising ‘special’ prices and guarantees of under-selling their neighbors.
Its an amazing place indeed. I think Hollywood would like us to feel sorry for these people, for their ‘lot’ in life, for their poverty and in many ways its been exploited as that…
but Rishi tells me that there’s much more to Dharavi than meets the eye, that if one looks past the initial perception of abject poverty, there is a thriving community at hand here.
Like everything else that is India, there is a much deeper mystery at work, waiting to be discovered by those who choose to look deeper…

finding my way…

Posted in Uncategorized on March 19, 2009 by martinprihoda

I’m starting to find my way through the labyrinthian maze that is Bombay. I’m not just talking about the physical locations of the city (which are a conundrum unto themselves) but the psychology of this place.

In keeping with its ever present contrast of extremes, Bombay and the people offer me a new perspective on human interaction.  Perhaps what is happening is that my western mind has begun to bend to the east or maybe I’ve just discovered new realms of tolerance and faith within my being.
Things work and get done here in a way that has a peculiarly organic and ever mysterious flow to it. There don’t seem to be any rules but its like life moves as if it were a pre-destined river of bubbling chance and opportunity. 
Its hard to describe but its like the city breathes. I can feel it breathe; inhale, exhale and then throughout are ripples of ebb and tide, wax and wane. It expands and contracts as its millions scurry through its narrowly congested roads and market squares. No one has an answering machine or voice mail, well known businesses, big corporations and ad agencies have their main phone lines answered by sleepy security guards who don’t know how to patch a call through.
Most of the phone numbers don’t work unless you add a + or a 2 or sometimes a 9 or maybe a 022 or whatever other number. People don’t return emails. 
Yet…i been able to get most of what i need and want done. 
Its the networking. Its unbelievable how it works here. You make a friend, he knows a friend who can get this and barter for that. I mean, you could argue its that way everywhere but its different here. Once you’re accepted into a circle, everything you need is provided, every meeting is set up for you. You need a location, they’ll get it. You need to speak to a big time producer? Just make a friend and within three phone calls you’ll have a meeting with the guy.
Its why when I first got here it was so damn tough. I couldn’t find a studio, I couldn’t find lights or where to rent a camera, no one had a website, no one is listed in a book. And I know why now…because its unnecessary. You just need to meet the right people, keep your eyes open, make contacts and everything is provided.
Thats what I love about India the most…the people. They’re so warm and kind and even when they try to rip you off…its with a smile and a wave. Of all the places I’ve travelled in my life, never have I been so warmly and open-heartedly greeted as I have here.
it makes the smell tolerable.

a stranger in a strange land

Posted in Uncategorized on March 15, 2009 by martinprihoda

Brave New World

Posted in Uncategorized on March 9, 2009 by martinprihoda

One month in and the full blown intensity of Bombay continues to overwhelm. I was talking to an ex-pat the other day and he tells me he’s been here so long now that all he has to do is close his eyes, inhale deeply and he can tell which part of the city he’s in.

The most fascinating part of this experience so far hasn’t been necessarily the people, or the city but rather the observation of how my very western mind is shifting and adapting to this very eastern world. 
I like to ride the trains, especially the intercity ones. They’re dirty as hell but so alive; pulling into the station with scores upon scores of working class Indians hanging from the guard rails. Children as young as four source you out of the crowd, their palms up gesturing to their mouths. Packs of sleeping dogs lie as Chai-whallas walk the platform selling their wares for 5 rupees a piece. The poverty is indeed abject and the personal space is none but it truly is a photographers dream.
That same day I go to a star studded Bollywood movie premier, food and wine flowing, actresses posing in front of the cameras dressed in immaculately designed gowns. The cream of the Bollywood crop, producers and directors all schmoozing in the cool of an air-conditioned theatre. A totally different world created from the dreams of a billion people. 
Once outside its India again. The contrast of extremes.
In a way you stop judging I think. Everything becomes as it is. There is no good or bad, only the constant hum of awareness and the sooner you can tap into that hum, the easier the experience becomes. 
I continue to feel blessed for this opportunity. As I look around I feel a deep sense of gratitude that i was able to be born into a life that allows my body to travel and my spirit to grow.

First images emerging…

Posted in Uncategorized on March 7, 2009 by martinprihoda

Mac Book Pro fixed!!

Posted in Uncategorized on March 7, 2009 by martinprihoda

okay, you wouldn’t believe it but i was checking my email at a cafe and went to restart my laptop and….nothing. Panic sets in. I try again, nothing. Though my work is backed up, I’ve just lost my lifeline to the world, not to mention all my email and post process tools.

I’m like…shit, I’m in India for god’s sake and my laptop goes…
Long story short, after some intense research I found the guys down at RSG Infotech, south Bombay. They were great, they replaced my logic board, cleaned my computer and were super friendly. That’s me and them in the photo, with my fixed notebook.
big thanks to them and an even bigger thanks to me for not cheaping out on buying Apple Care. I now have 50,000 extra rupees to spend on Aloo Gobi and Kingfisher.
ok, so now that i’m back in business, keep a lookout for regular photo posts!