Sunday, February 19, 2006

India Stories Part 3.1 - Wyatt Is Found

So this is what happened to me when I tried to go to Sri Lanka (the 2nd time from India that I tried) on Feb. 13th 2006:

hey listen, my trip has been crazy, i was supposed to go to sri lanka 1st but never made it, british airways did not put my tripod on the plane to madras so i wouldn't have gotten it till 2 days later in sri lanka and then would have only had maybe 4 days there total which seemed impossible for shooting what i needed to. so short story is i went to a ashram then met up with matt in Bombay which was dope, then to bangalore wher we just pimped out this amazing hotel and didn't do much else except some parties which were fun. we then went to his home land of Kerala for a week which was great and amazing but exhausting. so today monday we drove from 2am for 4 hours to the airport for him to leave for dubai then nyc and me for sri lanka for a week then dubai nyc. so all the computers are down at the kochi airport and the place is so packed you can barely walk anywhere. sri lanka air tells me not only am i not alowd to take 2 carry on bags but i can not take either of my carry on bags on board cause they are too heavy. one being all my camera gear and 2 being all my film, shot and unshot and my computer. neither i really want to part with, but i say ok take the camera bag and i'll take the film on board. they tell me no, it's too heavy. so i'm like damn! i just can't get to frickin sri lanka for anything. by the way, it had been impossible to change my return date so matt offered to buy me a new one way ticket home which was still difficult cause none were available out of sri lanka so i had to fly to india then dubai then nyc. anyway, i tell the woman just give me my money back i'm not going at all. she says you don't have to board but you can't get a refund. after matty and i talk to her, and he calls her auntie and says some stuff in malyali, she agrees to let me get my film bag on board. i just felt like it was the final sign telling me not to go. matty had to go board and i went to indian airlines and they said i could get on a flight in 45 mins with a ticket i already had to bombay, no additional cost, so i said i'm going home and just did it. i arrived in bombay hoping my original return ticket from bombay to zurich to nyc was still usable. i soon find out that i was not on the flight. i had tried to change it so many times that they ended up changing it even though i told them to leave it as is. but, and that is a huge but, Bria at American airlines in Bombay was able to get me back on the flight!!!!! the best news yet!!! and now i have been in this airport in bombay since 12:30pm and am waiting for the flight that leaves at 1:40am. the traffic is so bad here that it makes no sense to go in to downtown bombay and i can't reach the one person whose phone number i have here. so i am here, happy to be going home, to the snow even, hopefully the airport will be open.

India Stories Part 3 - Wyatt Goes Missing by Matty Y

So this is an email that my friend Matty sent out from his Blackberry in India:

Ok fellas, please don't be upset...I think I lost Wyatt Gallery at the airport. Let me start at the beginning...

We had a 10:30am flight to Dubai on monday (wyatt was 10am to sri lanka) working backwards...3 hours early for the flight plus the 4 hour ride to the airport plus saying goodbye to the folks, relatives, and packing up the jeep...gets you to leaving my dad's house around 1am on no sleep sunday nite.

We get to the airport around 6-6:30am...a good hour or so b4 anything opens. When everything does, its a madd rush. Add in that all computers are down and we are dumb tired. Since we are on diff flights we stand in diff lines and I can't pull any frequent flier magic for him. I check my mom and bro in, then see wyatt at the head of the line and looking very distraught. They make him check his camera and are about to make him check his handbag b/c its over the 5kg weight limit. Mind you I haven't yet seen anyone weigh hand baggage. Also, I have 2 hand bags with me and they easily weight 30-35 pounds each. If you call, this sri lanka trip is like the holy grail for wyatt but there have been madd obstacles. After some sweet talking and what not by both of us, they finallu let him go with only checking his camera. He has never done this anywhere and is reluctant to. I stay as long as I can since my flight is apparently leaving in an hour and I haven't gone thru customs yet. When I last saw him, he was getting on a flight to sri lanka...

I go thru customs and get to the gate area. I am relieved they have a duty free shop...I buy 2 liters of JW blue label and get two 1/4 liters free...$135 each!!! I digress...

I find out our flight is delayed 2 hours and wyatt's flight hasn't yet arrived from wherever. Wyatt should be right behind or coming thru any second, but he is nowhere to be seen. Our flight ends up being CANCELLED til the next day (someone had a stroke on board the incoming flight so diverted to mumbai). Still no sign of wyatt and his flight is boarding. I talk to the head cheese and he says 'mr. Gallery decided not to take the flight and took his bags back' WHAT!?!?

The kid has nary any money, doesn't speak the language, has no mobile phone...oh, did I mention he was white in an otherwise caramel countryside? I have him paged but to no avail. I even left a msg and text for amy.

The airline ends up putting us up at a nearby hotel for the next 12 hours. Flight is scheduled to leave here on tues at 2:30 and arriving at 6am in dubai, then catch a 8am flight to nyc (15 hours long).

So I am currently in the hotel writing this and worried sick that I lost/left my boy in india somewhere. He has a ticket back to the states, so my guess is he may try to change it and skip sri lanka altogether...seems like it may not be meant to happen.

Not sure what to do now...on email and celly for the next 8 hours (we are 10.5 hrs ahead).



India Stories Part 2 if you didn't get the email

I thought I’d just share some stories with you, this is really part 2 but I didn’t write part one yet, of me ending up at Sai Baba’s Ashram for 3 days instead of Sri Lanka. I will soon though. But here is what happened after I left the 75 cents a night ashram and took a bus, motorcycle, car, rickshaw and airplane to go meet Matty at the super 5 star hotel the TAJ PALACE in Mumbai. I love going from one extreme to another.

India is great. But it’s such a mixture of rich and poor. I started out at an Ashram for 75 cents a night. Then went to the best 5 star hotel in the country and at the same time was exploring all aspects of Mumbai, from rich to poor. It’s weird, you go these religious places that the guide books recommend and well lets take this Muslim Tomb in the sea for example. It is like a 10 minute walk down a zig zagging cement pier. On the left side are people selling little bull shit items, on the right side is a non-stop line of homeless, armless, legless, crippled, people begging for money. At one point I passed a baby of maybe 1 year or so old sleeping by itself on the concrete, sound asleep with no one around him, just lying there. Other kids are running around half naked playing. Everyone just stared at me as I walked to the mosque, mainly because I had my 4x5 camera over my shoulder but also because I was one of 3 tourists that I saw there that day. The poverty is really startling at times. But people with money, or some money, all have drivers and helpers, which is the norm, and I’m kind of getting use to that here, I like it actually, a lot. People take care of you so much hear, it is amazing. They refuse to let you carry your bags in the airport, or open a car door, anything. And they do it always with a great smile, everything they do is with a smile, except when the police stop you from photographing.

I have had many ‘unofficial tour guides”, these are people that always just end up hanging out with me, strangers, and show me around, and to place I never would have seen and that most tourists might miss. The 1st day in Mumbai, this guy gave me directions to the Friday Mosque, then he said “come on, I’ll show you” I knew at the end of the day he might want some money but I followed him anyway. I knew I could get away if I wanted to but I just went with it. He showed me the indoor market which was amazing, this old British building, most of them are in Mumbai (old British Architecture, and really strikingly beautiful). Then we walked through the streets of the outdoor “markets” where each block was a different item for sale. One block is all silk, the next block all school supplies, etc, at the end of the street was the “Friday Mosque” so I started shooting handheld with my 6x7. By the way the streets were jam packed with people, cars, motorcycles, absolute craziness.

The next day:
When I entered the Mosque area the guard did not stop me, to my surprise, at other Mosques I had to say I was Muslim and give them my first name Wyatt as my Surname (it is a Muslim Surname in Trinidad) (oh, I started telling people I’m from either Canada or Trinidad because when I said the US I got very poor responses and I felt it was putting me in a dangerous spot at times.) So basically, that morning in order to enter the one Synagogue I confirmed my Jewishness to the guard who then allowed me to photograph, then at the Hindu Temple I showed them my newly acquired Sai Baba necklace and then at the Mosque I said I am Muslim Ha Salaam Halaquim (sp) in order to get in. which is all basically true in a sense anyway, just not how they probably thought it.

I couldn’t photograph inside either Hindu Temple or Mosque. So what I did was just set up my 4x5 camera on the tripod about 60 feet from the Temple. I asked someone random guy if I could photograph him, he said no at first. Then this other person asked what I was doing and I took a Polaroid of him and gave it to him. He said “how Much?” I said “it’s free”. Next thing I knew I was surrounded by about 20 people, and I mean surrounded as in elbow distance, all wanting there picture taken. It was impossible to only get one person in the frame. Everyone just huddled around all sides of the camera. But I just kept shooting, one sheet of film and then one sheet of 4x5. 10 minutes later, and right when I was about to shoot the shot I was really waiting for of an older Hindu lady in sari holding the prayer offerings plate that they give to Mother Lakshmi, a police officer walked up and ordered me to stop shooting and told everyone to disperse. People argued with him and begged him to let me to continue but he sternly order me to walk away and actually escorted me away. Then when I was trying to shoot more in the small road around the corner, he came again and yelled at me and walked with me to the main road where he told the traffic officer something to the effect of making sure I leave. I thought it was funny. So then I went to this Muslim Tomb that is out in the ocean that I mentioned earlier. And I set up the camera again and this time I had at least 30 people surrounding me asking for photos, I ran out of polaroids. But I stayed there as long as I could, shooting Muslim men and women, but I can never get the shot I want of a Muslim woman in all black with her face covered but eyes piercing though. Anyway, it was interesting, I was in a situation where anything could have happened and no one would have known. I basically just put myself in the hands of destiny, not that it was an “unsafe” place but it was a place where I didn’t know anyone and a place that I didn’t know anything about. And here I am as an American, living under “Bush the Butcher” surrounded by all Muslims India with my big 4x5 camera and a good amount of money in my back pocket which I forgot to transfer to my front. And nothing happened except that I became everyone’s best friend. At some point I stopped taking photos because everyone wanted to get there photo taken with me! They have photographers there that take your photo in front of the holy mosque or the beautiful view of the ocean and city of Mumbai. People began to drag these guys over to get shots of themselves posing with me. It was crazy, and enriching. Everyday has been in a different way. By the way Mumbai is a beautiful city, very dynamic. I would love to live there for a while.

So now Matty and I are in Bangalore, Silicon Valley of India, where the weather is that perfect Spring weather with deep blue skies but most of the city is covered in a sandy dirty dust. But we are at the Taj West End which is so unbelievably beautiful. It is a huge estate and we have a veranda which is where I am sitting now, listening to all sorts of birds chirping and just relaxing, a first for me. I always feel I need to be photographing at all times while traveling. I though today I might just enjoy this amazing 5 star hotel!

PS: my stomach is doing fine, I know you were wondering ;) the food is great!

Trinidad + India

I'm off for Trinidad tomorrow morning and probably won't sleep at all tonight. This will be my 9th straight year attending Carnival in Trinidad but this year is the first year that we are bringing out our own Carnival Band, Island People Mas. Lets hope all goes well.

I just returned from India last week. It was an amazing 3 weeks, very spiritual. I think I was taught many lessons in hidden ways and I am still figuring them out as I walk around the urban jungle of NYC. Here are some digital snapshots from the trip, I just got the 4x5 contacts back and there are many many exciting and intriguing photos. I think I may have two new projects titled Personal Faith and Believers.