I am shooting a feature on coal mining in the state of Jharkhand and to my surprise I lost my phone. Sort of. For those that know me this is far from a surprise. It’s an expectation. In two years I have gone through five blackberries, an Iphone, and half a dozen misc. gateway phones. Every few months I a scurry about trying to recover phone numbers as I can never remember to back up my phone book. At least this time I’ve done that. It’s been nearly 24 hours that I have been untethered to the world outside of my current surroundings. It’s the longest I have been without a phone since I was a teenager. It’s weirdly relaxing to know that no one can reach me(other than by Skype, email, or AIM that is and only when I am at the hotel) for the next two days. I am spending my time wandering open coal fields and meeting nice people as I learn about life in Jharkand where nearly 400,000 people are supposed to be moved off of land that sits on top of burning coal fields. I’m not looking to see if I missed a call or a text. I’m taking my time to make pictures and not stressing about my visa or where my next assignment is coming from. I am focused on my surrounding and realizing how lucky I am not to have to live like this. My issues with visas, work, money, and my future are pretty trivial in comparison. I tend to take for granted that I am loved, nurtured, and get to do what I’ve wanted to do since I was 10 years old. I just wish I did not loose another phone to remind me of that. As we wander around the question is posed to Rajan our fixer about toilet and sanitation issues facing the village we are shooting. What he says me makes me chuckle since he delivers his answer so sweetly and matter-of-factly. It turns out one person’s bath room is another’s blog title.
I may be the world's worst blogger. After three weeks my Sunday is over. I took a little more time off than I intended and have been spending my time drinking, partying, eating rich food, hanging out with friends, and looking a pretty girls. To say the least I have not been shooting much. It's the polar opposite to being in a funk. I have just been letting myself live a little(okay a lot). All I have I shot recently a little more on kushti. Despite the fact that is is fun and kind of interesting I think I am moving away from it for a while. I'll revisit it later but for now my heart is telling me to get to work on something of greater substance. A long Sunday has been nice but I think it may finally be Monday and I need to get back to work.
I have had a pretty busy couple of weeks. I have been to an different state every week since the start of the elections here and I am really tired. A few days ago I helped my friend Sanjit light portrait of a CEO for a matrimonial website where this picture was taken. I look like such a man of leisure lounging on his estate in this picture. The sad part is it only reminded me of how tired I am. Since I don't have an estate of my own with a pool to lounge by I did the next best thing an exhausted photojournalist could do. I took the day off. Keep in mind it is 110(f) here. II went to the pool, took a swimming class, flirted with a pretty blonde, grocery shopped for a dinner party, and had several beers and dinner with Sanjit and Suzanne.I pretty much fucked off the entire day. No archiving, no editing, no shooting, no research, just an day off. After weeks of politicians, rock throwing, flash bangs and tear gas, writing, archiving, researching, shooting, early mornings, and late nights, I think I earned a little break. Tomorrow I am back to work. Today can be my Sunday.
It's been a busy week since coming back from Kashmir. I've been to one embassy or another to work on a j-visa to Pakistan, hosted a new friend, prepared for the Stumping Grounds gallery show, and spent a couple of mornings at an akharas (wrestling gym) to shoot Kushti. Kushti, is a traditional style of Indian wrestling that takes place in a clay pit on a soil mixed with ghee(denatured butter). Each wrestler is responsible for tending to the soil as well as adhering to a strict regimen of exercise, a diet of mostly milk, almods, ghee, chapattis, and eggs, and celibacy that is meant to give them both physical and spiritual strength. It's been fun to watch. I'm trying to get back to a promise I made to myself in an earlier post that I would do more portraits. I'm also working on a short multi-media piece that I hope to have finished before heading to Pakistan next week. I'm crossing my fingers. I have been behind on my archiving, captioning and photoshop work the last couple of weeks and really need to catch up. I've had more fun working and living here the past few weeks, but I really need to get back to the grind.
In Kashmir covering the fourth stage of India's election. It's been four days of long days of shooting, walking, eating, drinking, the more shooting, walking, eating drinking, and then more shooting eating, drinking, topped off by a pretty wild day of tear gas, rock throwing, and angry threatening rock mob. What more can you ask for? Despite all of this, Kashmir has given me some of the friendliest and giving people I have ever met, the most beautiful mountains I have ever seen, and the best time I have since being in India. Srinagar,how I love you.
Today I got a nice surprise. I am in both Time and Newsweek's Asian and Middle East editions. I have been hitting the pavement pretty hard the last two months working on a project and trying to cover the election issues a bit(see below). I got a double truck in Newseek and half a page in Time. To say I am over the moon is an understatement. The ego boost helps but it's really good to get the sense the I have good news judgement. After being sick for the better part of the week and suffering a great deal of heart ache this is the sort of thing to lift the spirits.
After all the ramblings on politics and elections for the last two years, pretty apparent that I like elections. Hell, I love elections. I honestly believe in the idea that good government can make a difference. The idea of by the people, for the people means something to me. In my mind, if there is access to the polls, to health care, and to education that the playing field is leveled for all of us. No matter what our station is life is. Rich, poor, black, white or what ever. I'm not sure if India is the place for me in the long run but I am enjoying seeing it go through this transition. It's the world's largest Democracy and I am getting a front row seat to a pretty heated election. I don't quite understand all of the issues or parliamentary politics, but by putting myself on a familiar story in unfamiliar territory I am helping myself understand my new "home" a bit better.
I have always thought that my greatest talent was the ability to make friends. I have been kind of lacking in that department since I left New York. I've been so moody lately that you can see the dark cloud over my head clear as day. As luck would have it a few people from home are in town and a few new people have stepped up to the plate to help me though the transition. I usually only post work that is"serious' but we had a great time taking pix of each other, drinking, laughing and catching up. I feel I get a little more creative when I have other people to bounce my ideas off of. It's good to hear other voices sometimes and not just the one in my head. I need to remember that no man is an island.
THESE FRIENDS OF MINE - Images by Keith Bedford
Like I did not get enough of fashion in New York. My agency said I should go and make features of fashion week since it's always good for sales. I've covered fashion week for 9 years in New York and was never that much of a fan. This is about the same but as my pal at a world wide wire service put it New Delhi fashion week is like a high school musical while New York is like a big Broadway show. I'm not that cynical. While production value may be lower the clothes seem pretty nice and they did have free Grey Goose. Hooray for Alcohol!!!! Sponsoring Fashion Weeks worldwide since 1989.
A title that is heavier than it really needs to be but I just watched Battlestar Galactica and that was the episode title. Rip-off I know but I hate coming up with titles for blog posts. It kind of fits my mood as New Delhi has been rough. I feel like I can't get a moments peace or things to work properly. I am trying to lower my expectations and learn patience. I found a flat share so I finally got out of the cell of a room that is Hotel Bright. They really need a Best Western or some other mid-range hotel here. It goes from shit hole to five star with very little in between. But after moving into the flat with dreams of a hot shower and a good night's sleep I found my shower does not work and it's 5:30 as I write this.
Sleep has been a big problem for me since I left New York that just keeps getting worse. The good is that I am always exhausted when I put my head on the pillow and drift off pretty quickly. The problem is that I usually fall asleep around 1AM and find myself wide awake by 5AM. I'm spending the time refreshing my photoshop skills and skulking the neighborhood at night. I am so tired of being in a dark place here. I've been sick, run over, sleepy and lonely. I think I am back in Bikaner next week to follow up on the cancer trials and train story. I need the diversion. Work is slow right now and being able to do something for myself is a lift I need. Right now I miss friends, love, comfort, and medium rare hamburgers. I am also stubborn and am really trying not to let this get me down.