I have to admit. I’m a lazy ass New Yorker. On June 22nd, I attended my first Mermaid Parade ever and it’s been around since 1983! After seeing some pics from my photographer friends of previous parades, I realized I had to get in on the action. Getting there early was a real treat for photographers and hopefully the participants. With the purchase of a wristband, Photographers were allowed in the staging area before the parade. Unfortunately, the parade organizers did not limit the amount of wristbands sold so It seemed like there were just as many photographers as there were participants. This led some folks to engage “paparazzo mode”… In some instances, there would be a gaggle of photographers trying to shoot a participant, stepping on one another, shouting directions, calling out vying for a subject’s attention. I even heard one guy say “hey, turn around and show me those tits!”. I understand the need to nail the perfect shot and all, but c’mon, it’s the freaking Mermaid Parade not a porn shoot! Rude photographers aside, I managed to get some cool portraits.
Soon after the parade started, I got a text from “King Neptune” to have a drink at the Freak Show Bar. I convinced myself that it was too hot to continue shooting and spent the remainder of my day hydrating with the King, brother Stone and friends. Special thanks to “The Dark Mermaid” for sharing her sunblock and accompanying me on my very first ride on the Cyclone.
Before departing Gondal for Rajkot, we had one last thing to do. We went to see an ascetic(sadhu) in residence at the temple dormitory. He was a distant relative to a woman in our party. Since the sadhu was unable to see or talk to her because she is a woman and a relative, my friends were chosen to visit with him and I was fortunate to tag along. For those of you who don’t know, the sadhus undergo years of intense spiritual grooming before donning their saffron colored robes. Part of this is learning and living by the “Panch Vartman” or the five principal vows. They must be detached from or without lust, greed, taste, pride and affection. Therefore they cannot look upon or speak to women, attain wealth, touch or handle money, eat food mixed with water so it is tasteless, be humble and completely detach themselves from their relatives. It is believed that through meditation and these detachments, one can achieve enlightenment.
Three of us entered the dormitory and were ushered into a small makeshift office under a staircase where we met the sadhu. He recognized that I was not Indian, so he spoke to us in English. After we introduced ourselves, he knew that we were there to check up on him on behalf of his family back home. Out of respect to him and his vows, my friends did not mention anything about his former friends or relatives. He was gracious, a little surprised and amused that my wife and I were surviving well with the food in India as first time visitors. The chit chat turned into a spiritual talk. He encouraged us to focus on our “Atma”(soul or higher self), to meditate and see God in all things. He advised us to avoid distractions such as technology,alcohol, music, eating meat, etc., pretty much all things I thoroughly enjoy. Even though everything he said made sense to me, I find it extremely difficult to follow his advice. I know one day I will have to try.
After the talk, we thanked him for the words of wisdom and received his blessing. I asked him if i could take his picture and he obliged. He in turn offered me some postcards of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the present Guru of BAPS, writing on a blackboard in Gujarati. I had the writing in the postcards translated later and saw that it was a summary of the spiritual talk he had with us. My friend tried offering him a few rupees but he deferred to his assistant (not a sadhu) who collected the offering for the temple. The below photo is one of my favorite memories of India.
Drivers looking for fares abound in Mumbai. The first lesson of this trip was how to negotiate in Hindi. It’s a lesson I failed because I’m a bad negotiator and I don’t speak Hindi. Luckily, we were traveling with locals who took care of us. In our search for a driver who could comfortably seat six people in a van or SUV, we met Baboo Singh walking along Nariman point. The driver assessed our needs and the discussions began with the seasoned negotiators of our party, “Mama Patel” and her sister. What appeared to be a mild argument full of head shaking, finger counting and some talking over one another, ended with Baboo driving us around for two days in Mumbai “for good price”.
Before I begin this whole blog thing, I just wanted to thank everyone for their continued support in my photography endeavors. Special thanks to David Ortiz, who introduced me to the wonders of G+ and the various photography collectives within. Extra special thanks to my wife for reigniting my passion for photography.