Highlights from India Photography - M1key - Michal Huniewicz
Namaste! These are some of my pictures from my recent trip to India, a country that takes you out of your comfort zone and makes you
feel alive, like no other I have ever been to; where cash points are difficult to use (you must slide the card in with feeling);
and McDonald's offers Maharaja Mac - mmm...
As I'm writing these words, I'm still on malaria pills, and my camera still
smells funny. In India planes on domestic flights smell of spices!
There are more galleries to come after this one, and they will be devoted to specific subjects.
Gypsies that you find in Europe originally came from India, so if you are familiar with them, you should see many similarities.
I have briefly described them in my Transylvania gallery.
Indian people are very proud of their ancient civilisation, and the question that was bothering me was "Okay, so why is
Indian music such repetitive, one-themed crap?" I have set out on a quest to find good Indian music, not some Bollywood junk.
The embedded track below can seriously enhance your gallery-viewing experience. Please welcome, Ravi Shankar.
In all honesty, I've only been to two different Indian states, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, and to the city of Delhi, which is probably similar to
visiting two states in the US, and Washington - so "Highlights from India" is possibly too big of a name.
Still, the trip yielded many exciting and exotic experiences, so let me show you some pictures now.
To take a ride on a bus like that is dirt cheap, but they are often overcrowded and, as you can see,
you might find a bomb under your seat, and that could possibly ruin your day. On the other hand, even if it's completely full,
the Indians will always find a place for one more person, so no worries here.
The primary reason why I went to India in the first place was so that I could attend a wedding. Indian weddings are
quite interesting and a bit odd from a Western point of view, so I will probably have a separate gallery about the subject
with loads of interesting information.
Every guide book will tell you that India is a country of many paradoxes and, apparently, no matter what you say about it, the opposite is also true. You see
modern buildings and technology, and then someone may offer you chai in a disposable clay cup - these cups have been produced like that for
thousands of years. 
In the picture, holy men recording the Dev Deepavali (aka Kartik Poornima) celebration in Varanasi, the religious capital of Hinduism. Hindus believe that on that day the gods
descend on earth to bathe in the Ganges. 
One of the ugly faces of India is its poverty. Every third poor person in the world is an Indian citizen. Out of 14 million
people that live in Delhi, 4 million live in slums. 
In the picture, two girls literally brought before me in one of the Delhi slums near Kirti Nagar station. The things I saw in that slum
deserve a separate gallery.
Everyone in that particular slum was making sure I was okay and happy - that is sometimes referred to as the culture of pleasing.
Whether it is the tourist, boss, colonial master, or parents - the Indians try hard to please.
Obedience is another important part of their culture, considered a virtue and often glorified in both ancient and modern literature.
It seems to me that, just like the Greek mythology, Hindu mythology presents the reader with difficult choices and dilemmas,
but unlike its Greek counterpart, it also provides the answer: obedience and loyalty.
I was once upset when someone jumped
the queue (a very common thing over there), and while no one could quite understand what my problem was, an alarmed employee quickly
showed up and, upon hearing my complaint, made sure I was on the priority queue and content.
But even the poor manage to have some fun and smile. Here, Makhan Bhatt with his puppet doll, in Kathputli Slum, or magician slum, in Delhi.
This tranquil-looking place is in the middle of the most disturbing neighbourhood I have ever seen or smelled; more, all my senses
were overwhelmed by the experience. But even the unbelievable stench did not persuade me to avoid those premises, as they were something new to me.
The Ganges river (or Ganga) is the second greatest river in the world by water discharge, and its basin is the most
heavily populated river basin in the world. From a spiritual point of view, it is the most sacred river to Hindus,
and is worshipped as the goddess Ganga in Hinduism. 
Sadly, it is also one of the five most polluted rivers in the world. From what I saw, India is incredibly polluted, and while people
seem to be quite patriotic, they don't care about the environment at all.
Girls in Varanasi, on the other side of the river. Initially, I though the second one from the left was releasing a decent amount of rather thick spit
out of her mouth (like other people do in India, all the time, and accompanied by a loud noise: ghrnnhhrraak!), but it's actually just a toothbrush if you take a closer look.
In the Ganges the Indians bathe, brush teeth, swim, do the laundry, dump human waste and ashes and remains. All of that happens, among other places, in Varanasi.
Also, it's not rare to see a monkey on top of those roofs.
The locals don't mind the pollution, and eagerly wash in the river, which is supposed to wash away their sins. That belief only
applies to Hindus.
"It was a divine experience, a dip in the holy waters is like being with God." 
Do we need a crash course on Hinduism? We probably do.
Over 80% of Indians are Hindus. Hinduism has many variants, from animism of spirits, demons, and magic, to more profound monism.
Anything can be worshipped: a rock, a lizard, a penis (lingam), a person as a god, or a god as a person. There might be one god, many gods, or no gods
at all. [1, p. 27-28] In other words, it's both polytheistic and monotheistic, and has no unitary doctrine [30, ch. 1].
The two most popular epics are the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the latter 15 times longer than the Bible. Upanishads are Hindu scriptures
that form the theoretical basis for the Hindu religion ; Veda is the oldest literature of Indian thought and viewed as sacred; and there is no single holy book.
The most important gods are Vishnu (the preserver) and Shiva (the destroyer). Brahma is the god of creation.
The most popular god on the other hand is Ganesha (the one with an elephant's head and riding a mouse - but elephants are afraid of mice...?), and even other gods worship him. [1, p. 31] There are 330 million gods
total, according to the scriptures (Upanishads). One of them is Buddha, the founder of a completely different religion, who denied the existence of god.
The Hindus don't mind that and believe he was an incarnation of Vishnu. That's Hinduism for you.
"You believe this shit?", I inquired one of the girls with an affectionate smile, just to be told off.
It is rather difficult to comprehend - trying to understand it by comparison to, say, Christianity, doesn't help (for example, rituals
are much more important in Hinduism than in Christianity or Islam). In fact, it might be
best to treat it as a family of religions, or even a way of life.
Still, I can't help but think that all of that makes the unsophisticated oh-so omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient you-name-it God of the three Abrahamic religions, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism,
look rather pale by comparison, if not simplistic.
Hinduism, as any religion, can of course be seen as a way of controlling masses. [30, ch. 2] Indian society is divided into four castes:
Brahmins (priests; the highest caste), Kshatriyas (warriors, rulers), Vaishya (skilled traders, merchants), Sudras (unskilled workers; the lowest caste).
One can think of the caste system as the guild system of medieval Europe, but gone bad. Once you're born into a certain caste, that's it.
Nothing can change it, not even wealth. Initially not set in stone, the basic hierarchy of castes is now pretty much undisputed. [30, ch. 1]
As we have seen, the whole Hindu cultural framework teaches obedience and loyalty, and assigns roles to people that they have to accept and can never change.
It is worth pointing out that the word caste is of European origin and is not precise: it describes two different Indian terms (varna and jati).
The caste system is not unique to India; in this case it seems however to have its origin in Hinduism. [30, ch. 1]
These poor boys posed for us - attacking each other and nearby cars with their sticks. The drivers didn't care.
People have tried to escape the injustice of the caste system though. Egalitarian religions, such as
Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, or Jainism, all oppose castes, so conversion has been seen as a way out. But not
necessarily a widely recognised one. You may convert and consider yourself above the caste system, but others may not respect that.
European proselytisers, such as William Carey, tried to get the Brahmins
to convert, but they - being the highest caste - had little reason to embrace a religion that would make them
equal with everyone else. [30, ch. 6]
Surprising fact: the most Hindu country in the world is... Nepal (by percentage). 
In the picture, Birla Mandir, a Hindu temple in Varanasi. There are many Birla temples across India, and they were built by the wealthy Birla family. 
Before going to India I was warned not to buy anything to eat in places like this one. We were all quite paranoid about hygiene,
equipped with various drugs just in case, antibacterial soap, and so on. We brushed our teeth with mineral water (I gave that up
after one week), drank 40% alcohol (I also gave that up after one week), slept in silk liners, and refrained from putting our fingers in our mouths (that was
the worst, for me anyway).
One of us got sick after all. My other friends all agreed he would quickly die, and that we should leave him in Varanasi, where he would be burnt like everybody else.
But I was the one who said no, and I am proud to say, I saved him, because he miraculously survived the disease. That's, at least, how I remember it!
Of course, not all food is street food. Most food is prepared in the kitchen, which is considered the most pure place in the house. [32, ch. 5] I was told a story of a Muslim boy who was allowed to visit
his Hindu friend, but not to enter the kitchen - wrong religion, sorry.
It is difficult to pinpoint a moment in time when India became India. India as we know it, meaning the Republic of India,
became independent (from the UK) in 1950, 3 years after British India was partitioned into India and Pakistan , but of course
its history reaches very ancient times.
The largest area under one rule in India (until the British arrived) was united by Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE. Ashoka was more
than an emperor; he was an advocate of human and animal rights, banned hunting, and even created what we would today call national parks,
for preservation of certain species of trees and wild life. Very impressive. [1, p. 15] 
In the picture, Agra Fort.
India used to be a colony of the Dutch, Danish, French, Portuguese, and of course the British (for over 300 years: 1613-1947).
It is argued that the British legacy in India is
the belief in unity, democracy, the rule of law, and a certain equality beyond caste and creed.  The British left behind roads, canals,
and rail tracks; they also trained Indians to maintain them and build more. The Indian Administrative Service was created based on British bureaucratic
institutions and, apparently, while slow and unwieldy, it is to this day what holds India together. Vaccines were introduced, and doctors were
trained as well. The British banned slavery  as well as sati (widow burning) and thuggee (ritual robbery and murder) [1, p. 19],
which I will describe later.
They created foundations for a good education system, if only for those well-off. And they gave India the English language.
On the other hand, the British rule ruined the Indian economy, as all the changes implemented in India were designed to benefit Britain.
They took over land and resources. India was turned into an agrarian country, and people were driven from cities back
to the countryside.  Indian products were purchased at low prices, and taxes were high, leading the country to poverty.
Illiteracy rates increased. Finally, millions of people died of famines that could have been prevented.
But perhaps most importantly, the British became the common enemy, allowing Indian people to feel like one nation, and unite. 
This, again, was shot in one of the Delhi slums. At some point the atmosphere became a bit unpleasant. We were spat at, someone threw a few rocks at me,
someone else splashed some liquid on me, no one was smiling, and they told us to leave. I feared the worst, but the liquid turned out to be just water.
Still, after leaving I washed my hands, arms, face, neck, and legs with antibacterial soap. Then returned to the hotel to wash the rest.
Perhaps this is an appropriate place to describe thuggee. They were well organised gangs of professional and specialised assassins,
who travelled across India, altogether for a few hundred years. They would join travellers, gain their confidence, and travel with them, sometimes
for hundreds of miles. Then, at night, they would murder them all in a ritual manner, usually by strangling. 
Then they would depart, leaving no traces, and making the whole thing look like an accident. All in the name of the goddess Kali and money.
Indian people belong to at least four distinct racial groups, they speak 325 different languages (15 are official,
and practise over seven religions (sometimes more than one at a time). [1, p. 5, 11]
Sadly, with this diversity comes some nasty stuff too, as racism is very much alive in India.
Generally, the paler your skin, the better. This is traced by some back to the ancient times,
where newcomers from the West, the Aryans, paler people, conquered the indigenous peoples, who were darker,
and subjugated them turning them into slaves, calling them Dasas.
And so, even today, the poorest people in India are usually the darkest. 
Holy cows on a motorway.
Is Hinduism a local religion, an Indian one, or a religion that reaches out to everyone? Hinduism did become
popular in the West in the 19th and 20th century (see Vivekananda, the Beatles, and Hare Krishna movement [32, ch. 5]), and then,
curiously, it returned to India in its modified form, to influence the original Hinduism (the so called pizza effect ) [32, ch. 6].
A good example of that is Gandhi himself, who studied law in London, and who returned to India with an image of Hinduism influenced by the West,
to argue for women's rights and against discrimination; or Pandita Ramabai, a Brahmin-born social reformer who campaigned for women's rights and
better education.  This movement seeking to introduce regeneration and reform to Hinduism is sometimes
referred to as Hindu revivalism or neo-Hinduism. 
So, if you are another spiritual-experiences seeking, scarf-knitting hipster travelling across India, wearing your thick framed glasses (no offence),
chances are it is a Western product that you are being sold, after all, disguised as a traditional and purely Eastern thing.
Men preparing meat in Jaipur.
Speaking of Indian food - it surprised me to learn that curry is actually an 18th century Western concept, not Indian. Many Indian people
have no idea what curry is! Indian restaurants don't even serve it, unless they cater for foreigners. The word curry has
become a general term for almost any meat or vegetable cooked with a spicy gravy that originates in India. [1, p. 164] 
Indians use the term masala to describe a mixture of spices. 
Coming back to British policies in India, there is one event, which proves that history is written by the victors.
Sometimes referred to as the Forgotten Holocaust - the 1943/44 Bengal Famine, was a tragic event made possible by ruthless British policies,
that led to 3 to 5 million deaths due to starvation.  While people had nothing to eat, and dogs and vultures were devouring the
nearly dead, India was forced to keep exporting rice out of the country. Winston Churchill personally opposed sending food to India
that would combat starvation. 
As previously mentioned, that was only one famine out of many.
The girl in the picture is wearing the scarf not for religious reasons, but to protect herself from dust and pollution,
and didn't mind taking it (and other clothes - just kidding) off.
Fun fact: there is no sex and no nudity in Bollywood films. Kissing has only been allowed after the end of the 1980s. [1, p. 209]
Hinduism is a bit vague on the question of sexuality, but it does not seem to be obsessed with it and terrified of it the way Christianity and
Islam are.  There exist erotic temples (e.g. Khajuraho ), and then there is the Kama Sutra, an ancient Hindu sex manual. Still, Indian society
is rather conservative sexually, which I will explore in the weddings gallery.
People of India are generally superstitious. Horoscopes often play a very large role when it comes to marriages,
but auspicious and inauspicious days are decided also for business or administrative purposes.
When Queen Elizabeth visited India, her plane had to land at 5 minutes to 12 or 5 minutes after 12, but not at 12, as planned.
Also, in Jaipur our driver explained the meaning of his pink necklace, made of a string with several knots. "I used to have,
you know, mental issues, but then I sought help, and a certain holy man gave me this necklace, and now the issues are gone!" "Well, if you believe what you just said",
I thought, "you should probably still seek help!"
In the picture, a wedding procession.
The Indians would often ask me to pose for a picture - with them or just me. Sometimes they didn't ask, they just took it (or filmed).
Sometimes they approached me clearly terrified,
and mumbled the photo request with a trembling voice, to which I always said yes, and then they would take a picture with shaking hands.
I was always smiling to them and tried to be as reassuring as possible, but they were still stressed out.
Anyway, I like it when girls are wearing beanie hats. When I asked this one whether I could take a picture of her, she was visibly reluctant,
until her father shouted "Yes!" and ordered her to pose. This is how men cooperate, regardless of age, race, or nationality.
It's very beautiful.
This is a small school in Abhaneri. The children couldn't speak English, but when my friend wrote weekday names on the blackboard,
they clicked, and began chanting a song about weekdays, to our amusement.
As a side note, one of the books I read before going to India promised I would be approached by a young boy
who'd like to practice his English. That indeed happened! He asked for the meaning of one mysterious English word: gotta.
The dot on a woman's forehead is called bindi and means... little. Not even that she's a Hindu.
Widows are not supposed to wear one, that's all. [1, p. 33] (I used to think it was only for married women, but I was wrong).
Fun fact: most Indian village women wear long skirts and saris without underpants, which makes it easy for them to relieve themselves
"without any loss of modesty". [1, p. 199]
Woman digging through rubbish in Jaipur, surrounded by pigs and cattle. She proffered her hand, begging for money.
Curiously, some people refuse to be given money for nothing. They want to sell you things, but won't accept money for free -
they avoid the degradation of begging.
By the way, I thought those were wild boars! That's because someone told me those were wild boars - the bad guys of my childhood, half of which I spent in a forest.
So I was so incredibly careful there, "This is no joke, mate, these are wild boars, dangerous animals that know no fear!" And they
were just hairy pigs...  The locals watched me with amusement.
If you're a foreigner in India, you can actually experience more India than its citizens, because you are outside the cultural
context and ordinary boundaries. You have more freedom to move, both geographically and across the hierarchies. The people are
so nice and friendly, and you are welcome almost everywhere, always greeted with a smile (and sometimes with brooms).
I felt so much more natural and relaxed than in the Arab countries I recently visited, where many men looked at me as if they wanted to see
me with a hole in my head, or at least a cut throat (but most women were nice).
With a foreign passport you hardly have any limits in India, especially clothed in the might of the white face. Quite sad, when you think about it. But useful.
Indian traffic is absolutely mad. There are too many people and too many vehicles, and everyone is honking all the time. All the time.
Honking means: watch out, I'm coming, careful, get out of my way, I'm overtaking you, yes, no, my car is bigger than yours. Over 130,000
people die in road accidents every year! But then that's only 11 per 100,000 inhabitants (Egypt is 42 per 100k). 
Traffic rule #1: Bigger vehicle receives priority.
Traffic rule #2: Obviously more expensive car receives priority even if it's smaller.
Traffic rule #3: The cow always receives priority.
All Indian drivers brake for cows - but not all brake for pedestrians! Lanes and lights are just rough guidelines. According to NY Times,
"India overtook China to top the world in road fatalities in 2006 and has continued to pull steadily ahead, despite a heavily
agrarian population, fewer people than China and far fewer cars than many Western countries." 
India felt like a safe country and no one harassed me or my friends, but the roads, man, the roads...
Oh, and they don't use indicators, they just wave with their hand when they want to turn. If they can't reach the other window - they don't
And then I suggested "Let's go to the rat temple!" We spent 17 hours total on various cars that day, and by the end of it
I was indifferent and broken. Several hours of those 17 were in a car with no seat belts, speeding through the night, almost having 3 head-on collisions,
and hoping the tata trucks appearing from nowhere were on the correct lane. At night due to their lighting they look like smiling skulls approaching
you at a very high speed. How appropriate, I thought. I was wondering what would kill us first - another vehicle or the pollution that was violating
our car from the inside.
The following day we went to Karni Mata, the rat temple south of Bikaner.
Karni Mata was a female Hindu sage, worshipped as the incarnation of the goddess Durga.  Mata means 'mother', it was added to the names
of those worshipped as mother goddesses.
The rats in the temple are treated as sacred and given protection in the temple. There are 20,000 black rats there. If you step on one and kill it,
you have to replace it with one made of solid gold (Run!).
Then there are albino rats, just a few. Rat Brahmins, you could say. They are believed to be the manifestations of Karni Mata herself and her four sons.
If you see one - it's good luck.
I was approached by a young man in the temple who said: "Double good luck for me today, I saw a white rat and a white man!"
In a workshop in Jaipur.
I remember being approached by a polite young man, who asked "Excuse me, I do not want to embarrass you, but your fair skin is so beautiful,
and my dark skin is so rough and ugly. How do you do it, what cosmetics do you use?" My jaw dropped and I was silent for a while.
"... I'm not embarrassed",
I said embarrassed, and assured him his skin was more than fine. Still, I ended up telling him about all the cosmetics, and he
scrupulously put their names on his mobile phone.
No matter where you go, as long as you remain in urban areas, these rickshaws (called 'autos') circle around you like vultures.
While this low life form in the traffic hierarchy is not too fast and not too safe,
and it generously contributes to pollution, the rickshaws are vital to city transport, and get to places where cars won't fit.
You're offered a price that is at least twice the one a local person would get, but if you have enough time and patience you can
reduce it a lot by bargaining. In Delhi I had a few drivers competing for me (I mean the ride) and I organised a small auction.
The decent offer of 90 rupees won.
This guy wouldn't go away. He swore to protect me against "aggressive monkeys who had badly bitten a British tourist just the day
before", but I told him a million times I didn't need help. I could protect myself - I had biscuits with me, and it's not difficult
to bribe a monkey with one. In the end he demanded
money, which I refused to offer, and in the end we settled on a chewy. Then, on my way back, I was slightly anxious he would return to seek revenge,
and probably with an army of monkeys (something like Hanuman from Ramayana ), so I kept the biscuits ready just in case, but I never saw him again.
Speaking of strange encounters, one of the persons I met bowed dramatically in front of me (he almost touched the ground with his head), and then touched my knees, which apparently is
a gesture of respect. But one of the guys next to us didn't have his leg below the knee, so I thought "They're looking for a replacement!"
This photo exemplifies the Indian woman. There is no occupation in India where women are not involved: they are miners, they work in quarries,
construction sites, farms. Usually they are paid less than men for doing the same job, and it is not rare for them to work while pregnant or nursing
North India, where I visited, has stronger Muslim influence and perhaps that's why society there is more feudal and patriarchal. [1, p. 71] 
Quite surprisingly though, low-caste women are supposed to have more freedom that high-caste women, who are married at a younger age, more
often suffer from sati or purdah (covering the whole body, which is not exclusive to Muslims, and is often associated with wealth
and high status, so some women do it willingly). India is a country of paradoxes, so patriarchal societies and polyandry exist in India as well. [1, p. 73]
Having a daughter is seen as a cost, as women are paid less, and dowry drains family resources. Therefore many unborn girls are aborted just because
they are girls. A 1986 research showed that out of 8,000 abortions following a gender-test in Bombay 7,999 were of females fetuses [32, ch. 7]
It is difficult to say to what extent Hinduism is responsible for this situation; there are many powerful goddesses after all, but then it always depends
on a particular interpretation. Menstruating women were denied hearing the Veda [32, ch. 7], and Manusmriti (Hindu scripture) explicitly said
women should not be independent. 
India is not a safe place for women - they all disappear from the streets after sunset. New Delhi is the rape capital of the world, and the police
often blame the victim. A woman is raped every 20 minutes in India, and that's only the reported rapes.  Among top 19 economies in the world (excluding EU),
India is the worst place for women (worse than Saudi Arabia). 
Then there is 'eve teasing' - a euphemism used to describe sexual harassment in public, somewhat implying it is the woman's fault. 
Interestingly, if you watch any Bollywood music video (they are all the same), you'll see a man pinching a woman until she falls in love with him.
And there is bride-burning: if the groom
and mother-in-law are not pleased with the dowry, they set the bride on fire, and the police classify that as a kitchen accident (statistically, one woman is burnt every hour! ). [32, ch. 7]
Sarojini Naidu (1879-1926), a leader of the women's movement and Indian National Congress, said: "Educate your women and the nation will take care of itself...
the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world." [32, ch. 7] I previously mentioned a similar quote from Christopher Hitchens in my Bedouin gallery.
I danced before my Giridhara.
Again and again I dance
To please that discerning critic,
And put His former love to the test.
I put on the anklets
Of the love of Shyam,
And behold! My Mohan stays true.
Worldly shame and family custom
I have cast to the winds.
I do not forget the beauty of the Beloved
Even for an instant.
Mira is dyed deeply in the dye of Hari.
-- Mirabai 16th century Hindu poet. 
Previously I mentioned the four castes of Indian society. But there are also the Untouchables (or the Dalit),
people of the lowest status. These people are outside the caste system,
and sometimes referred to as two-foot cattle.  They constitute roughly 16% of society. 
While the 1950 Constitution of India made all citizens equal, it did not abolish the caste system as such
(neither did it improve the status of women much [32, ch. 7]),
and so it persists in its oppressive nature. Only one generation ago, the Untouchables had to wear bells to signal
their impure presence. [1, p. 61]
I have previously mentioned conversion as a way out of the caste system. It has also been seen as a way out
of Untouchability - 80% of Indian Christians are Untouchable. [32, ch. 7]
Another alternative is secular humanism, seen as a moral creed based on the present well-being of humanity,
perhaps as defined by Sam Harris in The Moral Landscape.  India is a secular state  and there are plenty
of atheist and secular organisations that promote rational thought and scepticism, debunking various
miracles, godmen (gurus who claim to possess paranormal powers), levitating, and other supernatural claims.
Unfortunately, religious people prove, as usual, very offensive, and atheists in India face charges of
blasphemy whenever a miracle turns out to be, say, a failure of the drainage system (e.g. Sanal Edamaruku and
the leaking Jesus ).
There indeed seems to be some progress for the Untouchables, to some extent due to positive discrimination by the Indian government.
What's more, K. R. Narayanan, the tenth President of India, was Untouchable. [32, ch. 7]  There is also a magazine
called Dalit Voice, "characterized by strong anti-Brahminist, anti-caste and anti-racist stance, advocacy of
liberation from Brahminism, and polemical tone". 
This girl is Untouchable. I met her outside a temple and asked to pose in front of it, but she refused
to enter the temple area. I couldn't at first understand why, until a passer-by explained she was not allowed
to go in because of her low status. She just sat there in the garden outside, resting before returning to her
menial work. No sign of rebellion, she just accepted her fate.
Even today, in rural areas, the Untouchables can be murdered for disobedience and violating the customs, regardless
of what the constitution says.
B. R. Ambedkar, the chief architect of the Indian Constitution  and an Untouchable, who saw no equality in Hinduism and converted to Buddhism,
famously said: "I tell you all very specifically,
religion is for man and not man for religion. To get human treatment, convert yourselves... Convert for securing equality.
Convert for getting liberty... Why do you remain in that religion which prohibits you from entering a temple...
from drinking water from a public well? Why do you remain in that religion which insults you at every step?" [32, ch. 7]
I took the photo, shook the girl's hand, and left.
We can love each other
If you can shed your orthodox skin.
Come and touch, we will make a new world -
Where there won't be any
Dust, dirt, poverty, injustice and oppression.
-- Neerav Patel, Untouchable poet.
Speaking of which, this is the Burning Ghat in Varanasi. A body is carried to the river, where it will be dipped, then left on the stairs to dry,
and then burnt in a burning pit like the one in the picture, just to end up in the river as a pile of ashes. This is the preferred method of burial among most Hindus.
I previously mentioned sati - widow burning. Throughout centuries some women would willingly - or not - burn together
with their deceased husbands. Ancient Greeks (1st century BCE) who witnessed that practice, suggested it was to prevent
women from poisoning their husbands.
Some women did it under pressure to prove their devotion, but some did it willingly, as after death they would be worshipped
as deities. Although sati was banned many times throughout history and is illegal now, it is practised to this day,
albeit very rarely. It is now illegal to even witness it - as much as to encourage it. Brahmini women have always been forbidden
from committing sati, and anyone caught assisting in self-immolation of an upper-caste woman was guilty of Brahminicide.
It seems that the whole idea of sati comes from a misinterpretation or misunderstanding of what the scriptures
are actually saying. 
In India you're never alone, and the people prefer a closer physical distance from each other than in Europe. It can be a bit overwhelming at
first, but one gets used to it after a while. Even if you seek solitude in a park, someone will soon sit down not further
than a spitting distance away from you.
In the picture, a baby in the town of Abhaneri.
In the Middle East I had to beg people to pose, and they almost always refused. In India I had to beg people not to pose,
and taking a candid picture was next to impossible, as I was watched closely at all times and by everyone. People in India love posing!
In the picture, a family in a tent, in a slum in Jaipur.
Women buying jewellery in a shop of rather modest dimensions.
India might be considered a Third World country, but it is worth remembering that the middle class there is much
better off than in the West. Do they even know there what it's like to bailout a bank?! In fact, India might end up
bailing out Europe. 
A girl named Krishna talking to a friend of mine. Her English was quite good. It turns out that
most Indian speakers of English use is to talk to each other and not foreigners - it has become a pan-India link language for
educated people. [1, p. 234]
Then some speak this strange form of English to foreigners, which I often couldn't understand at all (or even recognise
as English), which has a heavy Indian accent and intonation, strange words and pronunciation that varies across different
parts of India. Example: Ju bant room saarbees? (You want room service?) [1, p. 234]
Then there are words pronounced in a Spanish-like manner, with an 'e' in front of them: estrait (street) or eskool (school).
Certain grammar forms and words are archaic and obviously learnt from old books ('sad demise' rather than 'death'). Also,
some English words mean something different: hotel often means restaurant, military hotel means non-vegetarian restaurant,
gay means carefree, and wine shops don't sell wine.
Interestingly, if you learn a bit of Hindi, you can communicate with the locals more naturally, and they will like it
that you've put the effort; you may get better prices and break the ice more easily.
Still, if you want something done, it's apparently much better to use English - which is seen in India as the language of power.
As you can see in the picture, India isn't just old buildings. Here, the Lotus Temple in New Delhi, completed in 1986. 
This kid has his lips and teeth stained with what probably is ice gola, a kind of ice cream. Adults on the other hand chew and spit out gutka,
a mild stimulant with tobacco, paraffin, flavourings, and more. 
Okay, bye now - thanks for visiting and do expect more galleries to be uploaded soon.