Snapshots of urban life

For something different I though I’d share a few photos of urban India, 2013.

I spent 24 hours passing through Delhi on my way from Orissa to Uttar Pradesh.

Across India trees are both protected and hunted. There is a growing movement to protect trees in urban areas as an anti-pollution measure. Delhi even has a Tree Ambulance that roams around helping trees (supposedly). However, deforestation still occurs across India as land is converted to farmland or used for mining and rural households search for firewood.   At the nice hotel where I stayed in Bhubaneswar I woke early one morning to see a poor woman cutting down one of the branches from a large tree in front of the hotel – she was there at the crack of dawn before the guards arrived.



AC units on a building in Delhi



A common scene – motorcycle parking lot. More and more vehicles “ply the roads” of India- many of them motorcycles.


This Jeremy Scott collection seems utterly out of place at the Delhi Adidas store. The idea of wealthy Indians in India wearing clothes styled after the totem poles build by pacific northwest Native American (“Indian”) cultures (like this and this) is so strange.



View of Connaught Place, Delhi, against the ever-polluted sky.


A relaxing dinner solo in Delhi at Sidewok.


Delhi now boasts a few Starbucks – a the only coffee shop in India I’m aware of where I can add soymilk to my drinks. It was mobbed… but a delightful treat for a vegan in a foreign land – and a very attractive place to rest and work, too.






Yesterday we came to Lucknow for meetings (a 1.5 hour drive from the TERI guest house and office in rural Uttar Pradesh). Here’s a classic view of a cow walking though a very busy urban street. These cows generally survive by eating trash left on the street. I find this to be a ridiculous double standard for a culture that believes the cow to be a very sacred creature.



And finally, a reminder of home – Durham, NC


A Day Away: Puri

On Sunday, I took a day trip to visit Puri, a nearby town that is very holy to Hindus.  We didn’t visit the famous Jagganath Temple, since we couldn’t go inside, but we did visit the lovely beach.  I was skeptical (and so was the lonely planet), but my friends here have found an incredible place – an off the beaten path restaurant that has private beach access.

It’s a 20-30 minute walk through a beautiful national forest to reach the beach with A., A. and A.:

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And a truly incredible beach it was. Beautiful (other than a fair amount of trash washed up from the ocean), and an army of crabs each time a wave receded:


We didn’t see another soul except for these fishermen and our friends.



Twas a fantastic afternoon relaxing on the beach

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Except for the two dead turtles than I found on a walk with A1.  One empty turtle shell was sad- but the second was heartbreaking, particularly because it still had a turtle in it.  And I was reasonably convinced that the turtle was in the process of digging a hole for it’s eggs when it had been bludgeoned to death, since its head and shell were bloody, and it was very much in egg-laying pose.





And then a slightly delirious walk back for a late lunch:


Wonderful trip.  RIP turtle friends… I’m sorry about whatever happened to you.  But also quite impressed about the secret existence of this beach.

The restaurant was full of Indian patrons, but only our group of foreigners were on the beach.  I’m not sure whether to believe it- but my friends say that the restaurant owner only lets foreigners go to the beach, since Indian tourists would be calling him on his cell phone and telling him to bring them things or throwing trash on the beach, whereas the foreigners just fend for themselves and are more respectful to the beach.  I can imagine this being true, but still quite interesting to find. I can’t help but be glad that this place is not in the lonely planet or similar tour book. What a traveling conundrum – with hundreds of tourists, this beach would have a completely different feel…but to willingly keep it secret also seems to go against the traveler’s code of sharing discoveries.

Ancient Temples in Bhubaneswar

Last Sunday I took a tour of the major temples in Bhubaneswar (at least the ones in the Lonely Planet).  They are beautiful!  Wish I could have gone inside, though…. If a temple has a red flag on top, it is “Live”, and only Hindus can enter.  The ‘dead’ temples (archeological sites) allow visitors to enter.

Lngaraj Mandir – 54m high- dedicated to Tribhuvaneswar (Lord of the three worlds), from 1090.  Non-Hindus aren’t allowed in 😦 but they have a viewing platform I could stand on and take pictures, after making a donation.  My Lonely Planet says “The granite block, representing Tribhuvaneswar, is bathed daily with water, milk, and marijuana”. ?


Jess on the viewing platform:


Statue outside the temple:


Pile of trash being burned right outside the temple- look at all that inorganic carbon! The “trash” was mainly coconut rinds from offerings people made at the temple.  It was just all piled and then lit on fire.  Very, very, stinky fire.


Here’s the main gate to the temple (below). There is a long line of people waiting to enter, and the people seated in the foreground are begging.  Love the guard caught mid-yawn, and the two guard’s identical leg positions.


Bindu Sagar. – this tank is supposed to contain water from every holy stream, pool, and tank in India.Unfortunately, it was like one giant algae bloom.


Parsurameswar Mandir – Shiva teample from around AD 640.  Also not allowed in, so went on the roof of a neighboring building.


There’s a tank outside the temple where women bathe in clothes (far left) and men bathe in just an underwear wrap (far right).


Mukteswar Mandir – one of the most ornate temples in Bhubaneswar, full of intricate carvings.


Another temple – either Siddheswar or Kedargauri Mandir.


Raja Rani Mandir – Nagarani (snake queen!) carvings