Being born and brought up in India, I do come from a conservative community. I have always had an open minded attitude towards concepts and cultures. But at times when I experienced those cultures and concepts for the first time, my open-mindedness momentarily betrayed me. When I was at the LGBT Pride parade in Köln, Germany, this very thing happened. It was the first time I was in the vicinity of gay and Trans- community. For a little while, I admit, I did feel very awkward and scared. But 10-15 minutes there and I realised that these people are as human as I am and made of flesh, blood and bone, the way we all are.

After a lot of rainy and gloomy days, we luckily were graced by sunlight, of course with intermittent clouds. They never leave me alone in Germany. During the parade I observed a lot of weirdly and at times partly dressed people having fun on the streets – a rare sight in Germany. For once, everyone was happy and celebrating. Lots of gifts, chocolates and flying kisses were being showered during the parade. It was very funny to see curious kids and ‘not so familiar with the western world’ tourists being amazed and surprised by everyone participating in the parade. And there were these other set of kids who had accompanied and were supporting their parents, who were participating in the parade. I felt really happy that these kids were growing up in a new world which treats and respects individuals for who they are and love them no matter what.

At the end of the day, after the joy of the moment faded, I was left with a little bit of sadness. These people today had to fight their own self, the society and the norms just to be themselves. Some of them probably have been suffocated for ages living as a person they do not relate with. I’m very happy that things are changing now – at least in the west. Hope someday this freedom and social acceptance is available to every individual.

A rough idea of the wonderful day is available as follows as a photo essay of 15 images I thought would define the environment that day. I did not, as usual, shoot the procession itself.

Some other pictures could be viewed on my Flickr stream

Camera: Nikon D7000 with Nikorr 18-55mm

Spectral Spaces

I’m not usually a fan of noir because I feel they alter reality and reality is what I usually want to portray through my images. But this particular one is an exception; because this time my imagination took over reality and I chose to keep it that way. So this is the story of a ‘haunted’ place called Amboli.

Amboli is a beautiful hill station in Maharashtra state of India. It is at the peak of its beauty during the monsoon season, draped by lush green stretch of vegetation and bejewelled by the sparkling and ethereal waterfalls. Even in summer, the cold and soothing air of Amboli spells serenity for the visitors. My family and I travel to Goa often and many times we happen to choose the road which passes through Amboli. I have always loved this place. The last time I was there, it was monsoon, and I had the privilege of experiencing Amboli in its full glory.

Tranquility, serenity are rather distant dreams for a city boy like me. 11pm at my house when I would hear only a few dogs barking or only the constant squeaking of the ceiling fan, were my definitions of serenity. But what I experienced at Amboli was something new. I felt, may be this is what serenity feels like after all. It was serenity to the point of haunting. The air was cold, not biting, but just the right amount. There was no direct sunlight as the sky was crowded with clouds and the visibility was rather low because of the passing clouds. Yes we were right in between the clouds. It was an experience of a life time. I had never breathed air so pure and so clean. It was uplifting and I think even my soul felt a bit cleansed. It was a brief tryst with pure happiness.

Amidst all this a tale was brewing in my mind. As we moved up the ghat of Amboli, we started entering the monsoon clouds which clad the mountain. Suddenly all I could see around me was the colour white. The huge lush green valley that I could see next to me was suddenly history. Everything changed in minutes. What was soothing and beautiful a while ago was now scary. Fellow travelers were a rare. The simple road signs now seemed like invitations from hell. We had a few sightings of human like figures as we crossed the small village Amboli. This was the first time I experienced the thin line between Beauty and Haunting. Through the essay I try to exemplify my thoughts and portray my imagination.

All the pictures are taken in a span of 20 minutes as the passing clouds and the effect lasted only for that much of time. The signage played an important role to thicken the plot of the mysterious tale. By clicking on the pictures you should be able to view it in large format.

Camera: Nikon D7000 with Nikorr 35mm

Köln Karneval

­How important is Culture? I would say, very. It defines civilizations, nations, creeds and also individuals. Culture is a crucial entity that defines a person. It shapes one’s habits and carves one’s liking. Culture might be handed through lineage or might be just a choice. But it exists; through actions, food, clothes etc.

I have moved to Germany just 8 months back, and my stay so far has just strengthened this philosophy for me. Most of the German cultural events are usually celebrated in private for example Christmas or Easter. Though the Christmas markets are pretty beautiful, the 2 prominent days of Christmas are celebrated indoors when rest of Germany is a colder version of the Thar Desert.

I was proven wrong by the onset of spring. Spring and summer brings the sunny side out of these people. That brings me to the main topic of this blog post. The Karneval or the Carnival. It is primarily a community celebration popular in the Nordrhein Westphalia state of Germany. The significance and details of the Karneval are positively available on Google so if you feel too interested, look it up. I never have. So if you do look it up, do share it with me.

In a nutshell, the Karneval is a street parade, party and beer time for the natives of the state. What impressed me is the temporary and sudden change in the attitude of the people. The otherwise private Germans who would trash my camera if I point it at them, were extremely camera friendly and jovial.

I had an important exam to write in 3 days but I was not going to miss the Karneval. I went to Cologne on the Karneval Sunday and attended Rose Monday in Aachen itself. Just to be clear, I did clear my exam, though barely. Anyway to describe my experience in brief - Lots of bright coloured costumes were well complimented by the sunlight, which we were lucky to have. People were happy and merry with bottles, at times crates of beer roaming the streets of the city. Kids, which includes me, were excited to collect biscuits and chocolates that are distributed by the parade. The entire city was in a state of Chaos, of course a controlled chaos. They just don’t let anything out of control. It was first time in months I got close to feeling like in India. It was absolute fun.

The parade goes on for quite a while. It is full of horses, clowns, costumed groups etc. Lots of cameras were pointing at the parade as expected. So those pictures you could check on Google. I chose to differ and tried to look away from the parade and at the crowd. And trust me, the crowd never lets you down. So here are some off beat Karneval images which I hope you like and which help you get an idea of the things that go on around the parade and not just in the parade.

Some other pictures on my flickr page -

Camera: Nikon D7000 with Nikorr 18-55

Peths of Pune

In the last few months I was in India, I have walked a couple of times clicking pictures through the streets of old Pune, the real or original Pune if I may call it. I usually walked with a couple of my friends and fellow photographers who I really bonded with through this hobby. I came across so many nice people and nice places that it changed the way I looked at my city. I have grown up in a Pune far different than what I saw on these streets. The mean ‘Puneri’ attitude really was not as prominent and all the perceptions and fears I had about the people from the city slowly proved to be wrong to quite an extent. There were no situations where a smile did not ease the tension in the air. A simple smile made me one of them and they returned my gesture with a smile as well.

The attitude of the people is drastically different from the people living in the extended part of the city. Walking through the narrow lanes was initially scary because I had a lot of perceptions about the people that reside there. But after a few walks it really became easy. I felt the fear was just in my head. You have to believe that the person in front of you is a good person and means no harm. That makes our thoughts and minds free from negativity and fear. There is a famous saying where I come from – ‘People are never bad. Situations are’. My experience on the streets just strengthened that for me.

What I miss in Pune as a city, is character. Pune is a city with historic significance and yet there is not much evidence about it. The old buildings – Waadaas, as they are called, are slowly being changed in to modern day buildings. I don’t blame anyone for that. But I wish Pune did have better character as a city. The people on the contrary, are really amazing. They are bound by the innate Puneri attitude, even though they might be diversified by language or religion.

Now it has been almost 6 months that I have been living in Germany and I realize how vibrant and active the culture and life is in India. There are so many unique, colourful and lively places and characters hidden in the small streets of Pune, from daily wage workers to body builders or ‘Pahilwaan’ as they are called. Words fail me when I try to explain what the city feels like, one reason being my lack of vocabulary, but you would have a spend a few weeks walking through these streets and talking with people to understand what I mean.

From the picture I tried to paint about my wonderful city, I would not suggest people to turn tourists and go exploring the city. It is just the way I see it or rather feel it. According to me places are to be experienced and felt and not just visited and looked at. May be for you, you would not see any of the above said things. But you could always go for shopping, if not anything else. I do not have much more to write and would just let my pictures speak.

The pictures are the ones I rejected from my Flickr wall because they do not stand strong as good street photographs, but are not too bad either. You could check my Flickr wall for others.

Also interesting are the pictures of Pune a friend and fellow street photo enthusiast takes. You could check Sanket Garade's flickr account too.

If you are looking for even better photographs of Pune and places around, you could also have a look at my good friend Swapnil Jedhe's website. He is a renowned and brilliant photographer and a great mentor as well.

An upgraded version of this photo essay 'Peths of Pune' can be found on too.

 Camera: MY OWN Nikon D7000 with Nikorr 35mm and Nikorr 18-55mm