FTB People: Nazar 72

Nazer 72 in his auto-rickshaw

“I Nazar seven two. Maybe you want diesel? Maybe wash boat?” With a sideways, rolling nod, he proffered a flimsy business card. Maybe, I thought, taking it from him. His anxious expression relaxed, and a brief smile smoothed his shiny face.

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Not One But Two Top Ten Images

I was pretty stoked to have two of my three submitted images selected in the MyWanderlust Top Ten Photography Competition (titled ‘Weather’). One was of the Kanchenchunga Massif, taken in Darjeeling, the other you’ve probably seen already of the two school girls walking through monsoon puddles.

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From India To The Maldives

Saying goodbye to friends is hard enough. Saying goodbye to friends we’ll probably never see again had me choked. It caught me by surprise but as I hugged Gladwin, my Indian brother, I was lost for words and my eyes welled up. The pontoon at Kochi marina was a hotch-potch of our close friends, our Indian ‘family’ and the marina staff. They all waved us off as Esper slipped her lines and it was at that moment it struck me exactly how much I would miss India. Surely a passage to the Maldives was just the tonic we needed. If only!

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Good Days, Bad Days – It’s All Relative

Boat ownership is a mix of ups and downs. Today was a really crappy day for us but rather than getting depressed about it we should look to others and their small victories. Take Gladwin, for example, our Indian friend who couldn’t swim. Check out this inspirational video clip when life throws you those little obstacles…

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Black Dog – A Real Indian Scotch Whisky?

One frustrating aspect of living in India is the lack of decent booze. Rum is in abundance, but it can be quite sweet; wine is available with just three labels worth talking about, but their flavour does not justify the price; and as for the whisky… The only way I can describe Indian whisky is ‘caramalised fire-water’.

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Can I have a case, please? Wine tasting in Cochin

Ever been to a wine tasting in India? Did you know that “terroir” is a term that has no English translation? It is like the fifth element, and is that “je ne c’est quoi” produced by the environment in which the vine grows: the fungus that grows in the soil, the insects which crawl in the soil, the strength of the sun and the amount of rainfall. They all affect the taste of the wine in your glass. Apparently.

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Rogan Art – The Kathri Suma Family of Gujarat

The Kathri Suma family of Gujarat is the only family using this technique of cloth decoration. It is unique to this one village. In this clip you’ll see my photographs and some video of the family at work. The black scarf at the end of the clip is a present we bought for a friend who helped out organising my photography courses. Thank you, Karen!

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Animal Magic: Darjeeling zoo

You have a cold? Try a pinch of tiger, or a smattering of red panda. A Chinese medicine maker’s pantry is spread over the hills of Darjeeling, but this zoo is doing all it can to protect the animals.

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Storm Brewing Over Cochin

It’s a bit early but the storms have started brewing over Cochin. I remember two years ago sailing from Goa to Cochin having to motor straight through some nasty weather and seeing lightning like you see in this video clip.

Around the one minute mark you’ll see it’s just like someone turning the kitchen light on and off. It feels like monsoon is just around the corner.

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Kolkata, Kewpies and Kalighat

“If you’re talking about a great place to live, I’d say Kolkata. It’s got everything: great restaurants, historic buildings, the Maidan, an excellent transport service and friendly people.” Upon this great bit of advice from a seasoned visitor to India we spent a few days in Kolkata and in this post we visit the untouristic Kalighat to view a few burning bodies.

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A Murder of Crows

For all their jingoism and arrogance, I felt humbled by their intrepidness. We call ourselves travellers today, but catching a flight over to the other side of the world for a quick jaunt up to Machu Picchu, or a guided tour round a wildlife park, doesn’t compare to the terrifying adventure into the unknown these individuals must have endured for the sake of commerce.

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The Kites of Kolkata

As the sun began its rapid descent, the sky began to fill with black kites, some of them tiny specks a mile high. At first we took them to be of the raptor variety, but as we emerged from the undergrowth into wide grassland we saw a hundred boys and men wrestling with long twine stretching into the distance.

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Photographing The Limboo People

Our last blog post on our trip to Sikkim ends with a photo-montage of the Limboo people. As you read in our last post we spent some time with out guide, Perna, and his family. They reside in the village of Darap in an old house passed down through the generations. Perna lives in relative luxury with a TV in his room, but the main house is like something out the dark ages. We were privileged to be allowed to spend a morning with these gentle people, even more so that they patiently allowed us to snoop around their house and photograph them going about their daily chores, which was mainly drinking salted tea and cooking pop-corn.

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We Meet The President: A Darap Village Homestay In Sikkim

Ever been to Shangri-la? We have. It’s alive and kicking in Sikkim. Almost anywhere in Sikkim, outside a large town or tourist area, will do. We found our lost horizon in Darap, near Pelling. Two hundred year old houses growing out of the side of the mountain in which tiny people and chickens share their home with you is not something that happens every day. An afternoon getting high on hooch in the Himalayas is something to remember.

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Kechopari Lake Almost Gave Me A Heart Attack

Liz has very kindly omitted the tale of our 17km trek to Kechopari Lake. In a nutshell it is the story of a 40 year old man realising his limitations. Realising them in a way that involves clutching the left arm, breathing like a 100 year old, having to walk backwards up hairpin tracks to avoid the constantly seizing leg muscles, all the while watching his girlfriend skip gaily by, light as a feather, hopping from leaf to cobweb like a woodland fairy.

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Sleeping In A Dung House: Walking In Kalimpong

Sitting on ankle-high stools we ate fresh pork straight from the flames of a dung oven, which we washed down with ‘Tongba’ and home made millet beer. After a few glasses of Rakshi this Arcadian village life became more and more attractive.

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