snaps

Football and Coconuts

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In less than 24 hours of returning to Goa, I was itching to get back on the streets and create images. ‘Let’s go to Panjim and roam around’, I asked biwi. She agreed. Panjim is about ten minutes drive from our house (half an hour of running; when I run). We had driven for just 2 minutes when I saw a lot of spectators in a church ground. I wanted to know what they were watching. What festival was on? Irrespective of what they were watching, I wanted to get down and create images.

I asked biwi to stop the car. A local competition was going on. Not a game of football but just the kicking the ball in the net part of it (penalty shot). It was a cloudy evening. It could rain. It rained. The spectators ran to take shelter in the church. And under a broken building on the other side of the road. The players kept playing. The rain stopped soon. I saw something that I had never seen before.

  We had driven for just 2 minutes when I saw a lot of spectators in a church ground. I wanted to know what they were watching. What festival was on? Irrespective of what they were watching, I wanted to get down and create images.

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A group of kids were having a coconut breaking competition. The game goes something like this: two kids participate at a time; one squats a bit and holds a coconut firmly with both hands keeping one hemisphere exposed; the other kid has another coconut that he swings with one hand and with all the force that he can gather, hits the stationary coconut held by his competitor; almost like a hammer hitting a nail, just that both the hammer and the nail are coconuts.

They toss a coin to decide who gets to hold a coconut stationary and who gets to hit first. And then they alternate till one of the coconut breaks. I guess the kid who gets to break the coconut first, wins. ‘Do you have a coin?’ a kid asked me. They wanted to have a toss. I looked for a coin in my bag. I found one. I passed it to the kid. And then I became part of the gang having fun playing this side game. Goans love football. But they love coconuts too.

snaps, travel

Uganda Diary 7 – end of an awesome trip

The last two days in Uganda were spent in Kampala. I had few interviews to shoot on both days (for few hours). In the evening, I took more pictures in the streets of Kampala.

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Streets of Kampala

A school bus gets stuck over a divider. Strangers gather to offer help.

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In spite of significant traffic on the streets, Ugandans are way more civilized on road than Indians are. Few people honk (and mostly when really required) and most vehicles (except few boda-bodas, i.e the motorcycle taxis) show a lot of patience at intersections.

In spite of significant traffic on the streets, Ugandans are way more civilized on road than Indians are.

We met a manager at a cafe called Cafe Javas. He was a Banglorean, working in Kampala since 8 or 9 months. He told us Ugandans were extremely patient and rarely got angry. But when they fought, they fought to kill each other. Shanta and I were happy we never had to deal with a heated up confrontation with anyone.

When we had recently arrived in Kampala, it was intimidating to see so many armed security guys all over the city. But over the course of our stay, we got used to such sights.

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George, a waiter at Cafe Javas introduced us to his son. He had to keep his son around while he worked. Because in Uganda, unlike India, children are not assumed to be mother’s sole responsibility. The value of women in this country can be appreciated to some extent by their dowry culture that is the polar opposite of what happens in India. In Uganda, a guy who wants to marry a girl, has to offer cows and goats (and whatever else he can – dowry) to the girl’s parents, before the wedding can happen!

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George and his son.

On one of our days in Uganda, we read in a local newspaper that the Ugandan Supreme Court had nullified a law which earlier made it mandatory for the girl (or her family) to return the dowry if the girl decided to leave her husband. I asked Jeff (the mayor aspirant of Jinja – about whom I wrote in the last post) what he thought about this Supreme Court ruling. ‘Not good man. Now girls can marry a guy, get the goats and the cows and then leave the guy. Without having to return anything’, he wasn’t too happy. He was not married yet.

Anyhow, so overall these were some great days spent in Uganda. Most of the evenings, I would show my pictures to Shanta and he would show his to me. I am sure I grew up a little as a photographer. I returned to Mumbai few hours ago. I am sitting in the Mumbai airport now as I write this post. The flight to Goa shall depart in just about an hour. And it would take more than few days before I move on from the Ugandan experience.

Entebbe Airport, Uganda

We wait for our Kenya Airways flight at Entebbe.

general

Uganda Diary 6 – when my quadcopter flew away and crashed

Series link: Diary [1],[2],[3],[4],[5],[6],[7]

I had mentioned in the last post that Jinja is a small town close to Kampala in Uganda, from where one of the two major tributaries of Nile begins. Below are few pictures from the street of Jinja.

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There are many Indian buildings in Jinja. Mathuradas above is one of them. A lot of them are abandoned (the owners who fled from Uganda during Idi Amin‘s time never came back to reclaim).

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A street painter who made me listen to a hip-hop song he had recorded, wanted to add me on Facebook. “You can find me by the name of Vatsap. V A T. No, not D. T. T for Tanzania. S…”

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Yes, there are temples in Jinja as well. We went inside and said hi to the priest from Gujarat. He has been living in Jinja for 26 years now. ‘Avjo’, I said before I left.

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Like Kampala, in Jinja too, you see almost as many women on streets as men. Doing more or less the same things.

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The guy above is Jeff. He filed his nomination to contest election for the post of Mayor of Jinja, few hours before I took this picture. Shanta and I were introduced to him a day before by hour B&B guesthouse owner Eliot. At the guesthouse, we had seen some brochures tilted ‘Save the Nile’. The brochures talked about Government of Uganda’s plan to construct Isimba dam in Jinja, and how that would mean, end of the rapids in the area. There are several rapids presently (including grade 5) and rafting is the major tourist attraction here. Shanta and I did rafting ourselves. I decided to make a 3 minute story about this issue. Jeff is a spokesperson of the ‘Save the Nile’ campaign. He believes that though power is needed in Uganda, there must be other ways of achieving the same without destroying such a beautiful natural resource of Jinja.

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Our guide approves of Shanta’s costume.

The day we went rafting I lost my quad-copter. Well, almost. There was go GPS signal and I should not have flown it. But I did. And it flew away. To the other side of the river. Rafting had been over for the day and most of us had finished our lunch and were ready to return. I ran to my rafting guide Yo and asked him to help me. I had earlier interviewed Yo too, for the same 3MS on Isimba dam that I talked about.

Yo grew up in this area and became a professional kayaker. He is 42 years old now. Few years go, he even represented Uganda in 2012 London Olympics (non competitive freestyle Kayaking). He has a wonderful sense of humour. Everyone who came rafting that day, loved him. Some women even kissed him (well, at least one of them). ‘You became a kayaker because there were rapids here. Once Isimba dam comes up, rapids will be gone. The new generation will never know what they mean. What do you have to say to that?’, I had asked him during the interview.

‘There were dinosaurs. And then they died. And then there were elephants. They are still there. Life goes on. The new generation might not learn kayaking. But may be they will learn something else’, he had replied. And now I was back to him to help me retrieve the quadcopter.

All the rafts had already been loaded to the wagon that had brought us to the river. But Yo got other guides to bring down one raft. He left with the other tourists, while Shanta and I stayed back along with all the other guides. They were about a dozen in number. I sat on a raft along with the Ugandan kayakers / rafters. Shanta waited for us at the shore (he did try to get into the raft, but the raft was already floating ahead by the time he could). We crossed the river to reach the other side, climbed up a small hill and ran in all directions in the field that lay in front of us. Imagine me running with Ugandans by the way!

A large portion of the fields had tall sugar cane crops and there was no way we were going to find the quad-copter if it had fallen in the middle of those crops. Thankfully it hadn’t. One of the guides located the local villagers who had found it. They gave it back in return for some money. And though the quadcopter was broken (hopefully it can be repaired), the Gopro worked fine. More than that, I had my rafting footage back. So I can go back home and finish making the 3MS about the dam.

Below is how it looks like, between losing a quad-copter and retrieving it in an African village.

The next day we returned to Kampala so that I could finish shooting few interviews for the 3MS for which I had come to Uganda in the first place. The next diary would be the last. Will write about it from India. The flight back home departs in about 12 hours.

Series link: Diary [1],[2],[3],[4],[5],[6],[7]

snaps, travel

Uganda Diary 5 – a visit to the source of Nile

Series link: Diary [1],[2],[3],[4],[5],[6],[7]

Shanta and I had enough of Kampala. We wanted to take a break. We took a taxi and drove down to Jinja and decided to stay there for three nights. It was about a two hour ride and cost us 150,000 shillings. No, that’s not a lot if you are thinking. :) On the very first evening of our arrival, we did a boat tour around the source of river Nile. White Nile to be specific.

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The boatman told us these restaurants (the huts  you see above) and many other establishments got partly submerged three years ago, when government constructed a dam near a falls close by.

Nile is regarded as the longest waterways in the world. It’s water is used by eleven countries. If you look at the map, there are two rivers – the White Nile starting from Jinja (where we were) and the Blue Nile starting from Lake Tana in Ethiopia, which merge together (as they flow up north) to make one Nile river. Shanta had already been to Lake Tana. So he was very happy that he had now been to sources of both the major tributaries of the Nile.

I was happy enough with just one though. I stepped out of the boat and stood at the source of Nile. It felt good. Dirt from my feet would now be shared with 11 countries up north.

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Two fishermen wanted a lift back to the shore. They were on a rowing boat while ours was a motor-boat. In return for a free fish, our boatman let them hold on to the motorboat, so they didn’t have to paddle.

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The day ended in a nice riverside restaurant where we spent 97,000 shillings on food and drinks. We wished we had spent 3,000 shillings more. And we wondered what else we were going to do for the next two days in Jinja.

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Series link: Diary [1],[2],[3],[4],[5],[6],[7]

snaps, travel

Uganda Diary 4 – a visit to an art residency

Series link: Diary [1],[2],[3],[4],[5],[6],[7]

An amateur street photographer like me, and a passionate photographer like Shanta, roamed around and clicked when we felt like. Oscar called up. He said it was his day to be with his girlfriend, so he could not be with us. And then he said he could still find some time to take us to an art residency. So we went to the art residency. And amongst others, we met a lady who worked for Meera Nair and a photographer from Sudan.

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After the previous day of shooting in a slum, I had wanted to relax, roam around and shoot pictures than take videos. May be that’s what hanging out with a passionate photographer like Shanta does to you. All that Shanta wants to do is take pictures. I on the other hand, moved to wedding photography simply as a means to buy time without losing on financial independence. I was good enough to get work but never bothered to explore photography as an art at a deeper level. I must give credit to Shanta for shaking up the photographer in me a bit last year, when I had met him for the first time in Bangalore. We had discussed photography and photographers and he had shown me some amazing photo-books at his place. He has a library of photo-books collected from across the world. The two books that I went through, had spoken to me. What, I don’t know. But I remember the feeling. Some sort of a gate had been opened. I still didn’t feel like getting in. At least not in a hurry. I had started 3MS recently then. I wanted to learn the craft of video story telling. In fact it is thanks to 3MS that I am roaming around in Uganda in the first place! So not bad I say. The first time I actually went out and shot pictures of strangers living their life was only a month ago. In Goa. But it seems like that day of photo-walk pushed me a bit inside the gate. The gate that had been opened a year ago. The visit to Uganda is making me take tiny steps further in.

Oscar left us to be with his girlfriend after introducing us to  EMA – the photographer from Sudan, I ealier talked about. EMA’s name is included in a list of 18 outstanding young photographers from the Arab world. We went out and had drinks and hookah and we talked about India and Sudan and the rest of the world. And then I took a selfie. Which doesn’t look like a selfie. Shanta and I are getting a hang of Kampala.

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Series link: Diary [1],[2],[3],[4],[5],[6],[7]

snaps, travel

Uganda Diary 3 – the first visit to an African slum

Series link: Diary [1],[2],[3],[4],[5],[6],[7]

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On our second day in Kampala, Pita picked us from our hotel in a Makerere University vehicle. We met the professors there and they took us to a slum area where a data collection was scheduled. I shot videos for my 3MS for most time there but did manage to take some pictures as well. Of the slum children who were very excited to see so much action around. I also realized that children in Uganda love doing flips in general.

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Our second half was free. So we captured more pictures from the streets and bazaars of Kampala. I will let this diary be more about the pictures than text.

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No one arrested us on the second day but we did get bothered by a vendor in a bazaar who told us ‘photography is bad’. He was kind of intimidating but cooled down and things mellowed down in a while. Shanta wondered if for Ugandans, seeing foreigners take photographs is like for Indians, seeing foreigners kissing in public. Most take offense, some just look the other way and few feel like bothering you. ‘Kissing in public is bad’. Different places, different cultures may be? But I was not too sure. Rest of our days would tell us more about Uganda.

Series link: Diary [1],[2],[3],[4],[5],[6],[7]