This is our entry in Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Chutes and Ladders.
In February of this year we rode the Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR) toy train from Coonoor to Ooty in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. This railway is a meter gauge, or cog, railway, having a middle rail with a rack that allows a train to climb steep inclines.
Our tour company had arranged to get us tickets for the afternoon run, but a taxi drivers’ strike scheduled for that day threw our plans in disarray. Our guide, who lives in Coonoor, worked his magic to get us tickets for the earlier train, but even then it was uncertain whether the train would run at all that day.
We arrived early to be sure of a seat, since two trains-worth of passengers could be expected to queue for the one train ride (if it happened at all). We were early enough that the morning’s haze had not burned off yet, but swirled mistily a few feet above the ground. Any object photographed even a short distance away was muted by this mist. The water tower shown below finally rose above the mist that enveloped the shrubs below it, but the sky beyond was featureless.
Coonoor Station Water Tower
This photo was taken on February 5, 2019. Specs are:
Canon 100D, ISO 320, f/9.0, 1/500 sec, 106 mm.
This is our entry in Lens-Artists Challenge #44 – Harmony.
The Maharaja’s Palace, built in 1907, is a huge building in the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture in Mysore, India. It was the seat of the Wodeyar maharajas until the creation of the modern Indian state. One fabulous but gaudy area of the palace is the Public Durbar (Audience) Hall. The repeated granite columns and stucco ceilings provide a stunning sense of harmony and near symmetry. It was built to impress and it does. As Mel Brooks said in History of the World, Part 1, “It’s good to be the king.”
There are many hill stations in India. These were built by the English as places to escape the oppressive heat of Indian summers. One of the hill stations we visited was Ooty which is home to many tea plantations.
Tea is grown on trees that are constantly trimmed to the height of shrubs so that pickers can gather the leaves. Only the leaves of new growth can be turned into tea and the smaller the leaf, the higher grade tea it is used to produce. The plantations are quite beautiful.
The individual plants look like something in a lawn. Ligustrum comes to mind.
We visited a plantation in Ooty. After paying a small fee to visit the plantation, we had an opportunity to taste free samples and buy tea and — for some reason — chocolate. The tea samples were truly wonderful but the reviews of the plantation we visited complained that the tea sold in the shop is a much lower quality than the tea in the tasting room. As a result, we didn’t buy any.
Aside from the fields, the tour also included walking past the factory where the raw tea leaves are converted to a finished product. The factory is very humid and looks dangerous but it was interesting to see how something that initially looks like lawn trimmings makes it into our tea bags. The tea is then sold at auction and marketed by companies like Tetley.
We traveled to India to see things that are different (if we wanted to see things that are “the same,” we’d just stay home). Signs are one thing we found to be different. This post has a few that we found interesting.
As an aside, our driver (Saran) found a long line at the only shower available for drivers in our hotel in Hospet. Rather than be late (or unbathed), he bathed in the river where the “Beware of Crocodiles” sign was posted. Experiences like that shine a different light on first world problems.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
With so many astonishing things in India (at least from an American viewpoint), it is still strange to see how people carry their groceries. After visiting the Flower Market in Bangalore, we passed through a very crowded street market while walking back to our car.
We could barely walk without tripping over produce, dogs, cables, sellers, or ourselves, but dozens of shoppers casually strolled with the day’s groceries aloft.
Bangalore seems to be more interested in the future than the past. However, they do keep a few relics from ancient times to satisfy tourists. One is the Tipu Sultan Palace.
The Tipu Sultan is honored for resisting the East India Company whose main purpose seems to have been to steal anything they could in India. The Tipu Sultan resisted but was killed by an army including Arthur Wellesley, later made the Duke of Wellington after defeating Napoleon at Waterloo. In any case, the Tipu Sultan had a summer palace in Bangalore and we visited it on the first day of our trip this February.
From outside, the palace doesn’t look like much, but it has a very nice palm tree. We at first thought the Tipu Sultan drove a small Toyota, but learned that was a later addition.
From the street
Inside, however, the palace is small but beautiful. The palace is largely made of teak with Islamic arches. At a good angle, the light reflected from the arches is stunning. The center photo of the triptych below shows the balcony where the Tipu Sultan held court.
The final photo again shows the light on the arches with tourists — almost entirely local — enjoying the beautiful architecture. One thing we like about this photo is the combination of a young woman in traditional dress with another in western style jeans engaging in a traditional tourist pastime.
One of the byproducts of religion in India is the use of beautiful flowers. Our favorite stop in our first day in Bangalore was at the Flower Market. There is a sense of real life there that seems missing in places oriented towards tourists. It is beautiful, squalid, chaotic, and organized all at the same time. The people are there to live their lives and they are fascinating.
The typical photo of the market is this one, taken from a second floor balcony. It is beautiful but every tourist takes it.
We prefer this one showing an individual seller in an instant of time going about her life.