Almost 8 months after my last entry I decided it was time to update my blog, only to realise I hadn’t published a bunch of photos from India last year, so here they are, 12 months late! All from Mumbai.

I’ve never been to another country where religion dictates so fundamentally, and where it’s ingrained in the lives of people to such a high degree.  All the national holidays are religion-based, and you can find signs of ‘God’ – be it graffiti, mini temples and shrines – on literally every single street – whether on walls, the floor, or trees.  I walked through a slum area and someone had drawn a picture of a god which was used as a temple.  There is one fundamental thing that connects everyone in this country of extreme wealth and extreme poverty – religious beliefs.

During my short stay there were 2 major religious festivals (there always seems to be something happening) – Navratri (a Hindu festival which culminates on the 10th day where people go to the sea to submerge statues of the goddess Durga), and Eid Bakri (a Muslim goat-sacrificing festival).  The only way to avoid either of these is to stay indoors in a soundproof building and have no contact with anyone.

Navratri involves dancing each night outdoors for 10 nights. How people do this in the Mumbai humidity I have no idea. There’s no AC out here.

This book has literally taken over the world.

Tea for 5p. Beats Starbucks any day.

Took this next shot (with some difficulty from a car window) for its irony.. a pet shop in a country with the highest number of stray dogs in the world, one of which is sat just outside its doors with a street family. Something so wrong about that.

Angry birds has taken over the world!

This next woman told me I shouldn’t take a photo of her as she’s ‘holy’ in some way. She had a whole group of followers who were sort of worshiping her. I took the photo anyway and she claimed there was no way the photo would come out. I showed her the image on the camera and she said it wouldn’t come out on the computer. Seems like a pretty clear picture to me.

Happy smiling people are everywhere : )

Haji Ali area:

I looked Gauri Bhonsle up online later – turns out it’s an advert for a show, except people took it seriously (who wouldn’t? Looks pretty convincing to me) and apparently people were even arrested for her disappearance!

Still trying to sell 50 Shades of Grey.

Eid Bakri. I walked through Dharavi for this (accompanied by someone who lives there). You can read more about this festival here, when I first photographed it in 2010.

When I look at these photos, I realise that 7 years after I first went to India I’m still struck with awe by this place. The skyline might change on a daily basis with buildings going up as quickly as they fall down, but the wonder of this place remains; even with its blatant irony, corruption and rich-poor divide. I’ll stop typing before I end up launching into an essay, because quite frankly there’s just far too much to say about this place that even pictures can’t depict.

I also took a video of each festival – my first time using video functionality on an SLR:

Thanks for looking, as always.

A Portrait of Mumbai

Mumbai, India – September 2011

Mumbai means great food, like tikli (a cripsy potato basket filled with yogurt, chick peas, sweet chutney and various other vegetables and spices):

Mumbai also means terrible traffic – the worst I’ve ever experienced. You can spend hours in taxis going from one part of the city to another. I asked someone when rush hour ends. The answer? It doesn’t.

Traffic jams are the ideal opportunity to take pictures from the car. There’s not really much else to do when you’re stuck on the road

The Navratri Festival (a festival of dance) was going on while I was in Mumbai. It’s one of the major events in the Hindu calendar

The dancing is amazing.  Apparently people start practicing months in advance

I don’t know how people can wear these outfits in the heat.. the dances take place outdoors and although it’s at night, the temperature is still at least 25C. Combine this with close to 100% humidity and we’re talking about some very uncomfortable conditions!

Juhu Beach

Man selling roses in the street:

I still can’t believe that kids sit on bikes like this:

Mumbai is a city of contrast – wherever you look:

Ganesh Hegde, an awesome choreographer (although it is fair to say I am slightly biased!), was directing a shoot for Hrithik Roshan (a Bollywood actor) for a reality dance show called Just Dance.

Shoots are laborious affairs – the tiniest scene can be shot over and over, and Ganesh being meticulous wants no less than perfection.

The costumes were made by the best costume designer in India, if not the world – Bipin Tanna (again I am biased but it’s the truth!)

I left soon after I took the above shot of Hrithik.  Filming finished at 7am the following morning.  You can see the end result here:

It’s interesting how it’s made to look like a live performance when it was shot a day before in the studio without an audience.

I saw her from a distance in the street playing with what looked like a doll. She was spinning it around and throwing and catching it, laughing the whole time. It’s only when I looked back on the pics I took that I realised it was a real baby!

I went on a bike ride which is basically a death wish. The concept of helmets is uncommon, but in the spirit of ‘when in Rome’, I decided to go with the flow, and take pictures – just to add to the danger.

I love how the driver is protected with a helmet, but not the kids

A games arcade – Indian style:

There’s a picture of a Hindu god in the middle, and the  Om sign on the left. The equivalent in the UK would be a games arcade with Jesus and the cross in the windows. Very bizarre, but then, this is India : )

Bigg Boss is the Indian version of Big Brother:

It’s hugely popular and adverts were all over the place.

A bunch of 20 roses cost around 50 rupees which is around 70p.. so basically less than a £1 or $1. Madness.

Dusshera is a religious day and is also a national holiday in India.  Cars were decorated with flowers:

On this day, people tend to bring statues of the goddess Durga to the sea to be immersed

They kept asking to be photographed : )

I also shot a couple of rolls of film.  I’ll save them for another post, but here’s one that represents the Indian railways:

More from India:

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