Scenes from everyday life: India & Nepal

MY PERSONAL MOTIVATION

 

If I had to resume my travel to India and Nepal in one word, it would be intense. But before I start explaining how my trip was, let’s firstly have a look through a window and go back to the past, specifically about a month before leaving.

People around always want the best for us. They advise and recommend you what you should do, even if they don’t know what they are talking about. So this is how I felt: Everyone was advising me about the risk of traveling alone to India and Nepal.Specially to all the advices about corpses and mutilated people on the streets, rotten food or horrible diseases impossible to treat. Of course I am exaggerating a little bit what people said to me before departing, but one way or another it happened.

India and Nepal are pretty different from these silly stories. They are wonderful countries where I had the opportunity to have strong feelings that I hadn’t felt before. Doubtlessly, they are extraordinary and splendid beautiful countries, with a mysterious power of attraction really hard to describe.

The reason why I chose to backpack India and Nepal was simple and clear: I was looking for a culture quite the opposite of the western world where I come from. I have already lived and backpacked a lot countries in Europe, Africa and Asia, but I wanted to feel something stronger, more powerful, an unforgettable experience.

Hey look! that’s me!

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A PHOTOGRAPHIC PURPOSE

 

The purpose of the trip was simple: On one hand, I wanted to meet those amazing countries, discover their most beautiful places, and learn about their cultures. On the other hand, I wanted to carry out a personal photography project. Yes, I had been cooking a project in my mind for a couple of months: I wanted to take pictures of scenes from everyday life of local people.

The great photojournalist Steve McCurry has been a great inspiration for me. I coincide with his perspective and style of shooting pictures. I like to observe unknowns walking on the streets while I am composing a photograph in my mind. I normally have a previous idea of what I want to do, so I just have to find the location of the right place, and then just wait for picturesque people to carry out my plan.

So how do I take my pictures? As I don’t have a professional studio, makeup or flashes, I have to improvise anytime, and that’s exactly the photography style that makes me feel comfortable and confident. Improvising while taking pictures is the best way to test myself in my favorite environments: streets and unknown places in the world. Sometimes I follow picturesque people to take pictures of them; however I also like to find the right place or the right corner, and then I wait for someone to pass near me and I take pictures of them; but what I like the most is to interact with people and then ask for a picture. Every single picture has its own story and methodology, but all of them have the same purpose: show the people the value, beauty, and secrets of the world. I like to connect what I see with the people where I come from.

Before departing, I had to choose the photography gear for this trip. Fortunately, I was already aware about not taking too much weight as I would be backpacking Asia alone for a month, and believe me or not, when you are backpacking it’s very important to feel comfortable and agile. So I finally decided to pick up my two favorite Fuji lenses for traveling: the XF16mm f1.4 R WR and the XF35mm f1.4 R. Both lenses attached are my favorite combo to cover all the photography needs and face any photography challenge a long this trip. My camera is the Fuji XT-1, so I already knew that all my photography needs would be totally covered.

 

SCENES FROM EVERYDAY LIFE: INDIA

 

DELHI

 

Delhi is the capital of India and the starting point of my trip. The city has a population of about 25 million, almost half population of Spain, something a bit hard to figure out if you don’t visit Delhi. As soon as I arrived at New Delhi’s station (I took the metro at the airport) I felt the biggest culture slap ever. It was around 9:30 am and it was about 38 degrees and 85% of humidity outside.

The colors and the strong city smells blocked my mind for a couple of seconds and I felt completely overwhelmed and paralyzed. I swear I’ve never felt such a culture crash before, it was like liquid lead running through my veins while an adrenalin explosion started driving my mind crazily. Then I smiled to myself and started walking into the city while I thought: “I just arrived and India has already beaten all my expectations.”

Indeed it was not a dream, it was happening in front of me. I was surrounded by hundreds of Indians all the time and everywhere. They were looking at me with curiosity while I was pretending to know exactly where I was going, trying to be another Indian in the crowd. Soon I found my backpacker, I checked-in and I took a hot shower. Then I grabbed my camera and I went outside to taste the power of Delhi.

The famous Red Fort of Delhi was closed as the Independent Day of India was around the corner, so I decided to get lost in the crowd again. The first thing that caught my attention was the people. Everyone is doing something in India, yes! People are quite busy: people selling fruits, carrying stuff in their bicycles, repairing motorbikes, cooking in the streets, praying in small temples, sweeping their homes, tuk-tuk drivers overusing their horns, etc. Everyone was stopping me and asking who I am and what I was doing in India, so I decided to keep walking and avoid making eye contact, at least for a while, as I wanted to be invisible in one way or another.

One of the highlights of Delhi is Jama Masjid, a beautiful mosque and one of the biggest in India. The atmosphere was very religious and calm. Inside children were playing around while adults were contemplating the surroundings and praying in peace. As the place was peaceful I felt ready to start interacting with everyone.

Indians like to observer fresh foreigners, and they are very polite and friendly. They seemed very accessible to me anytime. When I needed to ask something or just take a picture they always were close and easy going.

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VARANASI

 

Without the slightest doubt Varanasi has been one of the deepest and strongest experiences in my life. It is one of the biggest and most remarkable religious epicenters in the world, mixing culture, traditions, and life. Varanasi is the best place for street photography by far. Every single city corner is an amazing experience and opportunity to discover unreal life scenes almost impossible to see in the western world.

Its citizens are very religious and their lives revolve around the Ganga River, the world most famous sacred river. It’s a historic place with a strong religious and cultural significance. Ganga River has been used across the centuries for rituals after death. People cremate their dead familiars in order to grant instant salvation. Also people take showers daily to remove impurities and take them away.

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JAISALMER: THE GOLDEN CITY

 

Jaisalmer is a little beautiful city located in the State of Rajasthan, close to the border with Pakistan in the Thar Desert (the Great Indian Desert). The city releases a mystery energy because it evokes an ancient age of royal palaces and forts, desert routes, gypsy nomads, great Maharajas and kingdom wars.

Jaisalmer is a strategic city for the Indian army too. The distance between Jaisalmer and India’s border with Pakistan border is about 343 km driving distance, and the Indian’s military aviation guards and watches the border area daily.

In fact Jaisalmer is pure magic. As soon as I arrived I immediately felt trapped in time. I really enjoyed the experience of walking through its narrow streets, visiting aromatic street markets and getting lost in the stunning Jaisalmer Fort.

Locals are very friendly and they seemed to be trapped in another ancient age. I also met some Indian gypsies from the Thar Desert. They are desert nomads and it is quite easy to see them in the streets selling handmade trinkets, playing folk songs, or herding around.

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JODHPUR: THE BLUE CITY

 

It is the second largest city of the state of Rajasthan and one of the most interesting cities to visit. The old city was built around the immense Mehrangarh Fort, and its houses are painted in blue color. The reason of this color is because there lived lot of Brahmin followers of Shiva. Blue color has been always associated with Lord Shiva and that’s why they painted their houses in blue, a sacred color.

The city is also well-known as the “Sun City” for the bright sunny days all the year round. From the Fort is possible to enjoy the city views and feel the culture vibes.

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PUSHKAR

 

It is an important small town located in the Indian State of Rajasthan. This holy town is associated with Brahma, the Hindu god of creation. Hundreds of pilgrims and devotees go to Pushkar every year to visit its famous Pushkar Lake. This lake is surrounded by many temples and about 52 Ghats.

Pushkar is a small friendly town, easy to visit and walk around, what invites to have a relaxing good time.

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JAIPUR: THE PINK CITY

Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan State, an unique beautiful city worldwide famous for its wonderful Architecture. My favorite places of Jaipur are Amber fort, Nahargarh Fort, Jaigarh Fort, Hawa Mahal, Monkey (Hanuman) temple, Sun temple and Jal Mahal.

It is a chaotic city, very noisy and anarchic. Compare it to other Indian cities where I was in Rajasthan, Jaipur was too stressful at any given time. Fortunately I found a nice backpacker where I spent 3 nights and I slept and ate quite nice: www.moustachehostel.com.

On the other hand Jaipur is an easy city to visit anytime. Locals were very friendly, always looking at me curiously and trying to help me out. Definitely India is one of the easiest countries to take pictures of local people, but it is also a country were locals like to take pictures of tourists.

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AGRA

One of the greatest and most famous cities in India, and probably one of the most visited cities in the world for one big reason: Agra is the home of the wonderful Taj Mahal. Also Agra is home of many other magic places like the Agra Fort or the Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah.

This magnetic city attracts millions of tourists every year, but it is also visited by millions of Indians every year too.

I woke up about 5am to visit the Taj Mahal. Its gates open about 6am. When I was near to the South entry of Taj Mahal I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was already full of Indian pilgrims everywhere. In that moment I realized how powerful an important religion and culture are for Indians. I decided to walk through the multitude to feel the purest spirit and significance of the Indian culture. It was already over 30º degrees and everyone was praying, talking, eating, meditating, singing or just sleeping near the gate. Most of the people were poor pilgrims but all of them seemed to be happy to visit the majestic Taj Mahal. India is incredible.

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SCENES FROM EVERYDAY LIFE: NEPAL

 

KATHMANDU

 

Kathmandu is the capital of Nepal, one of the greatest and most remarkable cultures and countries I’ve ever met. I arrived in Kathmandu from India, where I experienced an unforgettable adventure traveling and backpacking the magic State of Rajasthan over 3 weeks. While the airplane was landing in Nepal, I could realize how different the landscape was compared with the Indian places where I was.

A huge mountain range embraces the city of Kathmandu and the Kathmandu Valley. Green landscapes and snowy mountains welcomed me to another world: the country of the Himalayas and the highest point on Earth: the Mount Everest (8,848 meters above sea level).

Before living the airport, I felt pretty anxious because I couldn’t wait longer to meet one of the most ancient cultures in the world. The majority of the Nepalese population follows Hinduism, but Buddhism still being very important too, because Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism religion, was born in Nepal. Definitely India and Nepal would leave an unforgettable mark on my soul.

Believe it or not, my first impression of Kathmandu was peace and relax. I knew Kathmandu is a huge city with traffic and stuff, however, arriving from India I felt like in an empty exotic islands for a while. Kathmandu has traffic, a lot, but there are no noisy autorickshaw or tuk-tuks like in India, and local drivers follow the traffic rules in an orderly way, impressive!

Tragically, the 2015 earthquake destroyed part of the most iconic monuments and holy temples, but most of them still intact. So the next couple of days I had the opportunity to visit the most remarkable places of Kathmandu and the Kathmandu Valley too: the extraordinary Swayambhunath religious temple, the unforgettable and beautiful Pashupatinath Temple in Patan (where I had the opportunity to attend to a Hindu cremation), the crowded neighborhood of Thamel or Kathmandu Durbar Square, where I realized how magnificent and historical is this city.

Nepali people are very friendly, cheerful and welcoming people. They are always ready to help you out. Like Indians, Nepali people are proud of their traditions and culture too. They respect foreigners and kindly let them to visit holy places and temples.

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BHAKTAPUR: THE CITY OF DEVOTEES

 

Bhaktapur (also named Bhadgaon), which means City of Devotees, it is one of the most important medieval city-states in the Kathmandu Valley. The Bhaktapur Durbar Square is less crowded than the Kathmandu Durbar Square so it is nice to visit anytime. Bhaktapur took me to another ancient age where I had the opportunity to be part of it.

All the temples of The Bhaktapur Durbar Square are beautiful unique constructions. Palaces and temples are built with bricks and wood. Imperial effigies guard the entry of the main temples staring at me as if I had to ask them for permission.

Children flying kites, men rebuilding destroyed temples and houses, women sweeping their houses and selling clothing, and old men playing ancient local games… seems like the last earthquake of 2015 has never hit the country, at least that’s what I felt for a while.

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TRIP MEMORIES

 

Wherever we are, it is important to understand that beyond our home towns exist different cultures, other religions, and similar ways to face life challenges. Doesn’t matter where we come from, we are all the same: the human race, we are equal and we belong to the same planet. People and communities are the essence of our human race, and the only way we can improve and survive is by, respecting and helping each other and preserving our environment, the Mother Nature.

The best part of backpacking alone, is the opportunity to interact with people from other cultures. It opens your mind and connects your human essence with real life. It is beautiful to talk with strangers while you are far from your home town, because it reveals who we really are. Deep inside of us it is our personal essence, and believe me or not, it comes out when we are alone in different or unexpected life situations.

Those situations allow us to connect with parallel realities that are happening at the same time anywhere else, and that is the reason why I named this article “Scenes from everyday life: India & Nepal”.

Don’t forget to visit my website here: www.josecarpin.com

Thank you for reading my article!

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8 Comments

  1. Nice reportage ! I was looking for some travel photography with fuji cameras as i want to migrate from canon to fuji with a x-pro2 + 35mm 1.4 and 23mm F2. you have overall nice street shots and touching portraits,it’s also pleasant to read you. you did a great job.

    • Hi Otaz!

      Thanks for writing me! I’ve migrated from Nikon to Fuji about 13 months ago… and I am so happy with it. Firstly I felt a bit scared, because the word “mirrorless” sounded weird to me. However, as soon as I tried the Fuji XT-1, I felt in love straightaway with Fuji and I bought it… then I sold all my Nikon gear and I migrated to Fuji. Nowadays I am so happy shooting with Fuji. Definitely is the best brand for traveling photography.

      I have the following lenses for Fuji: Samyang 12mm, Fuji XF16mm f1.4, Fuji XF35mm f1.4 and Fuji XF100-400 for wildlife photography. Do you know what lens is attached 90% of the time to my new brand XT-2? Yes, the amazing 35mm, what a lovely lens!!!!!

      Good luck in your migration

      Cheers

      Jose

  2. Me encantan tus fotos!! son brillantes!!!

    • Muchas gracias Pepa! Me alegro que te gusten! Has estado alguna vez en India o Nepal?

      Saludos

  3. I like the pictures and the style of them. Also interesting that you just work with 16mm and 35mm. The last one I own myself and love it too. Do you shoot in RAW or in JPG?

    • Hi Tobi!

      Thanks for writing here! Well, I actually own this following lenses: Samyang 12mm, XF16mm, XF35mm and XF100-400mm, but I only use the 16mm and 35mm for traveling. I don’t feel really comfortable with the Samyang 12mm, so sooner or later I will sell it.

      I always shoot in RAW. I know XT-1/XT-2 JPGs are stunning, but I like to manage my pictures from RAW, good habit? perhaps hehehe

      Thanks for your comment!

      Cheers

  4. Tecapla

    Wow! Really nice! Thanks For getting a little closer to The hindu culture. I love the photos 😉

    • You are welcome Teresita! I love to take other cultures to people who have never experienced those amazing trips… it feels like a little window to the world hey? 🙂

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