Wide Eyed in India: Pt. X

Saturday.

After many days of activity, this day of unwinding was thoroughly welcome. 

Cold showers & 30's jazz & a blessedly present breeze soothed my mind into quiet reflection.

I found myself in Hyderabad once more, in an apartment high enough up in the hills to catch a little of the breeze that proved so elusive in the lowlands. 

The neighborhood was one of the wealthiest in Hyderabad...which is to say that four story palaces found themselves competing with tiny, tarp-roofed shacks & apartment buildings for supremacy. 

Midday came with North Indian style Thali shared with my incredible host Sean at a nice place in the neighborhood...and even finished off the meal with a milkshake! ....Or....well...a scoop of ice cream in some milk. Basically the same thing I suppose. 

With rather more food than I was accustomed to in my belly, we headed out for an afternoon of right proper tourism at the seven tombs of the Mughal Dynasty that once ruled Hyderabad....

Along the way I befriended a really sweet family that timidly came up and asked for a photo...after a quick snap and a bit of conversation, we went our separate ways. It's a shame though, they seem to have forgotten to write me about it... 
Shortly after two rambunctious middle-schoolers proceeded to do the same thing, but with much less veiled enthusiasm!

I went back up into Sean's neighborhood for the latter half of the afternoon,
 ending up wandering until dusk; making portraits and taking pleasure in the simple act of moving. 


Wide Eyed in India: Pt. IX

Friday.

My body was a husk.

I felt....light. Airy almost. Like I would blow away, chaff in the first gust of wind. 

Sickness takes its toll, regardless of how strong the will.

So I spent Friday healing. Not quite ill and not quite well.

Just relieved. 

The day wore into afternoon, and the sun's beams mixed with skeins of gypsy swing, pushing

their way into my limbs, itching for movement.  

Honks and shouts urged me on, and before I knew it my feet carried me out the door....

Wide Eyed in India: Pt. VIII

Woke with a pounding head that beat in time with the pulse of the city beyond. Quiet until afternoon, then we were off to the huge primary school the kids from the Ongole children's home attend, led by Sean, an affable natured, pale blue-eyed guy from California who runs CCH, a much larger children's home organization that Orphans First partners with. Naturally, our arrival caused sheer chaos at the school.... I think I shook hands with and heard the names of well over 100 kids, all eager to try out what they'd learned in their English lessons. 

I made my way through the open air classrooms, trying as hard as I could to remain discreet, and predictably failed utterly. The teachers kept admirable control over the kids with nary a raised voice, but classes still tended to grind to a halt whenever I walked by. After quite a bit of improvised communication primarily composed of halting words and hand gestures, I managed to get a few of the classes to ignore me as best they could....though one teacher just decided to let the kids have a photo-op instead. 

Shortly after all the Ongole children's home kids had been met, we drove back to home where the children lived to await their return once classes ended. The Ongole home was in a quiet little village perhaps an hour outside of the city proper, tended by a young couple with children of their own. 

Dusk turned into full dark as we made our goodbyes, sipping on gifted coconuts and sprite.

Enough adventure had been had for one hazy-headed day, so we made our way back to the noise and crowds of Ongole to flop into beds for the last time before the return to Hyderabad...

- To be continued -

Wide Eyed in India: Part VI

Woke to see the moon setting over the mountains. It mimics the sun here, setting amber and magenta, and leaving behind an ashy blue. I rubbed the weariness from my eyes and rose to film the Grace Home kids as they left for school... their friends called them famous, stars for sure. 

It's funny how each new photo I look at comes as a fresh surprise. I feel at times like an outsider looking in, each scene showing up in emulsion and pixel in a subtly different way, tugging at the seams of reality in a sense, and yet still truer than the warping of memory.

I think we as people don't want to admit that maybe, quite possibly, we aren't seeing things clearly That... if our view present is skewed, how much more variation from fact  must grow in the mind?
How will I see things, looking back upon these moments in time I've captured?
Will I remember....I mean truly remember? ...the smiles and the sighs, the aches in my head and the aches in my heart.. I feel as though I leave the part of myself that will best comprehend this adventure in India, perhaps never to return. 

Evening found us taking all 21 of the Guntur home kids to, ironically enough, Domino's Pizza.... which was right next to the town KFC. Globalization never ceases to amaze me. Anyways, great quantities of pizza were consumed (after being liberally coated in chili powder & hot sauce, of course), 

The evenings' success was lauded with celebratory toasts of orange soda and group photos of most of the group (missing a few key conspirators unfortunately). 

Wide Eyed in India: Capsaicin

Capsaicin is a colorless toxin that causes a painful burning sensation when it comes into contact with the skin, and can even cause chemical burns in it's pure form. 

You're probably familiar with the substance in a more innocuous way however, as it's the chemical responsible for the heat of a chili pepper. 

By now you're probably wondering at the point of this segue. Perhaps this explains it a bit better:

 

Yes, those are chilies. Millions upon millions of Guntur Chili Peppers, dried in the Indian sun. On the way back from the afternoon of meeting the children's home alumni, we stopped off at a massive processing facility and market where hundreds of men and women sort and bag and sell the surrounding countryside's signature crop. 

The very air seared its way through my lungs, as an involuntary cough shook my frame. Those who work in this humble profession endure this for years, working with bare hands and feet, hardly noticing the burning.

As used to the peppers effects as the workers are, they still cough. The body has limits of what it can grow accustomed to. I'm told this place turns into a kind of hell in summer, as temperatures soar to 110 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. 

Truly a remarkable place. 

Wide Eyed in India: Part IV

....Woken by birds and undulating voices calling worshipers to services as the Sunday sun bathed my bed in a shaft of gold..

I rode out to a small church in a village just outside of Hyderabad, listening to gentle voices rising and falling, a moment or and hour passing to reach a final crescendo of song.

 This was a reunion of sorts, as a number of men and women who had grown up the children's home which had once been housed within the church came to see my traveling companions, Janey & Louis DeMeo, the founders of Orphans First.

 

The reunion stretched into the afternoon, and I ended up filming interviews with each and every one of the alumni.

 

 

As the afternoon wore on, people filtered away, leaving behind the building many had grown up in. The old home had been empty for some time, but the lightest of impressions of the life once held within remained.