Monthly Archives: September 2013

Chasing mountain light

As I wrap up a two week long assignment I feel the need to share  how much I love what I do. I have thoroughly enjoyed these two weeks between India and Nepal focusing on a range of themes and issues affecting South Asian countries. This last week I was able to see a vast array of the countryside but still with ample time in the capital Kathmandu. Kathmandu is one of my favourite cities in the world hands down.

Chasing the light here in Nepal has brought me great satisfaction and below are some that stand out pictures so far. I write quickly as I prepare to head off for another week long assignment to the remote Khumbu region of Nepal where I am sure there will be no shortage of light to find.

 

A girl travels home on a military school bus in Kathmandu. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013. All rights reserved.

A girl travels home on a military school bus in Kathmandu. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013. All rights reserved.

Old Newari men watch a traditional dance celebration inside Bhaktapur's Durbah Square. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013. All rights reserved.

Old Newari men watch a traditional dance celebration inside Bhaktapur’s Durbah Square. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013. All rights reserved.

 

A man carries a load of grass to feed animals through the mountains outside Pokhara. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013. All rights reserved.

A man carries a load of grass to feed animals through the mountains outside Pokhara. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013. All rights reserved.

Ripped cinema posters on the walls in Kathmandu. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013. All rights reserved.

Ripped cinema posters on the walls in Kathmandu. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013. All rights reserved.

Soldiers run in the early morning through Kathmandu. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013. All rights reserved.

Soldiers run in the early morning through Kathmandu. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013. All rights reserved.

 

A city beyond my words

As the days dwindle before I return to India for a month of assignments and personal work. I thought it was about time to write about a city incredibly close to my heart, that special place Calcutta.

Laborers watch a marching band parade through a street in Calcutta close to the Hooghly River. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013 All rights reserved.

Laborers watch a marching band parade through a street in Calcutta close to the Hooghly River. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013 All rights reserved.

 

How to describe Calcutta?

It remains an unanswered question, I have always struggled to put into words even for myself what Calcutta  means. Intensity is one word that springs to mind when I recall my first three months in the city at just 18 years of age. I landed in the simmering heat of May, pre-monsoon, with brimming naivety and staggering expectations to help others as a volunteer with a local community organisation. No doubt we all know how this story goes, in essence it was tough beyond belief for this privileged young Australian but filled with many important lessons along the way. In hindsight we can giggle at the idea of an 18 year old Conor wandering about trying to contain explosive diarrhea, while attempting to catch a third auto rickshaw to reach the local NGO. In seriousness, the teachings gifted to me on that first trip to Calcutta are still just as relevant seven years later.

On this next trip to the sub-continent I will be returning to Calcutta to continue working on a long term project that until now has remained unseen and unpublished. Below are a few pictures from this project accompanied by words from a range of individuals all who shed light on my relationship with Calcutta.

A police officer directs traffic through one of the many heavily congested streets in the Calcutta.  Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013 All rights reserved.

A police officer directs traffic through one of the many heavily congested streets in the Calcutta. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013 All rights reserved.

To a man and his resolution
a woman is someone steadfast
to be decided in the early morning
sun surrounded by the aroma
of a coffee drizzle
as the skies and the gods above
smile down bereaved and jovially
bearded
not benign but somewhat clumsy
in and out the Central Avenue traffic
lights smothering the blossoms of
all your soul’s passion flowers
as if in life as if in frenzy

Dr Prasenjit Maiti

 

 

A taxi driver scratches his head as he drives through Calcutta late at night. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013 All rights reserved.

A taxi driver scratches his head as he drives through Calcutta late at night. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013 All rights reserved.

“i see that Calcutta has got its old wrinkled grip on your soul – that is perhaps a good thing though Abhiroop and I have leapt out of those hands but our minds keep haunting the memories that are well-formed cobwebs now inside us”

Sarat Rao, Indian writer.

An elderly woman stands outside her home in an old British Raj era set of apartments in downtown Calcutta. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013 All rights reserved.

An elderly woman stands outside her home in an old British Raj era set of apartments in downtown Calcutta. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013 All rights reserved.

 

 

In Calcutta

Calcutta beckons me
In familiar names,
Calls me close in the midst of anonymous crowd
On an intense, familiar bent,
I fall back on its stones.
The crop-thick soil of Bengal seems to shiver
As I tread
Its roads,
I get back in its sky once more
The long-lost maze of dim trees
The creepers and wild flowers on entranced moments
An intoxicating odour, a distant voice,
My rural Bengal returns, for ever returns
In Calcutta.

Arun Mitra