Tag Archives: Travel

Havana Calling

havana

Freshly painted pink car in Havana – © iStockphotos.com/Christian Bernfeld – Source: http://www.timeout.com/travel/features/392/20-great-things-to-do-in-havana

This post comes a little belatedly, not because I didn’t know what to write, but because I was/am busy finishing up before I depart to feed my soul for two whole weeks.

That’s two weeks without working on my thesis, or thinking about deadlines, or marking papers, or answering questions to concerned parents who unknowingly turn up the stress factor by affectionate nagging.

That’s two weeks of engaging with an unknown place and people and experiences through creative writing and photography.

Godammnit, I can’t wait!

But le sigh. I have to finish a mountain of work before I get on that plane.

So on the eve of 23rd April, I completed four years of being a blogger. Ta-da!

What did I do that day? Nothing substantial. Meaning, no celebration as such. But possibly worked on a thesis chapter, as I have been doing every day now.

So here’s the lowdown. I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but I haven’t been publishing much lately. Not because I haven’t been sending my stuff out, or writing anything at all (Oh, but I have! So. MUCH.), but because I have been aiming higher.

By higher I mean I have been sending my work to journals where I truly want my work to be seen (won’t take names. Don’t make me! Not yet…). The result has been that I have also been getting a lot of rejection letters. Not form ones. Actual letters with feedback where most of them say:

We appreciate the chance to read it. Unfortunately, your piece was not selected for publication. We sincerely hope you will submit again in the future. 

ps. Thanks for the chance to read this. You do a great job of capturing voice in this piece. It made the shortlist for this round.

It made it to the shortlist! Atleast on three different occasions. Which means I am getting something right. In this essay on academics/writers and fashion, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says as much. She calls it “progress of sorts”. That’s where I am right now.

I have also been fashion blogging. It’s a one year project (not just for now. It just is.). It has been evolving and frustrating and fun and all kinds of mixed feelings. From a post every week, I have dissolved it to every alternate week just because it is too much work. Mad respect to fashion bloggers all around. Also, just like my little sister, if anyone else is wondering WHAT THE EFF IS THE POINT? You will find out in a year, when the project’s done.

And for those of you not in the know, my second MA thesis has a creative writing component. Which is really parts of my work-in-progress novel. And, for which, I was allowed to take Carolyn Smart‘s fiction and poetry workshop classes over the past eight months.

In fact, Smart is so awesome that she even edited a short story for a competition. I didn’t make it in, which sort of broke my heart, but it just makes me want to work harder on the story. It will find a home elsewhere, I am sure.

So, there you have it. This is what it has come to after four years of blogging online.

Not a writer yet, but getting there.

Meanwhile, HAVANA CALLING!

2 Comments

Filed under Writing about writing

So, now I am a photographer. Le-git.

“So, now you are a photographer,” said my mom, when I called her to tell her the news. As if winning a contest of some sort adds to my credibility of being a photographer.

“Yeah… I guess so.” I said with casual nonchalance.

Flashback to end Feb:

Friend: Hey, there is a photography contest at Queen’s. You should enter something.

Me: When is the deadline?

Friend: Today! I just got the email.

Me: Forward, please?

It was a Monday and I had so much lined up. There was my class at 10am. Then, a meeting with a student. And then, those books I had to hunt down at the library for a presentation I was doing on campus the following week (on Bollywood Item Girls, which is a whole other story by itself)… I wasn’t even sure if I would have the time to send anything in by their 11:59 pm deadline.

But I did. Five minutes before the clock struck 12. Me, the last-minuter. Living life on the edge.

The contest, organized by Queen’s University International Centre, was in its 5th year. Open to both undergraduate and graduate students, the demand was for “international” photos. We could submit a maximum of 2 images in 2 different categories.

A week after the submission, while I was in Edmonton for a conference, I got an email. Congratulations, it said. From 250 photo submissions, both of my photographs had made it in.

While “Fervour” won second place in the “People and Culture” category, “Together, we can” won first place in the “Critical Global Issues” one.

A bit about the photos:

Fervour (Varanasi, India):

"Fervour," Varanasi, India.

“Fervour,” Varanasi, India.

Taken at the evening prayers on the riverbanks of Ganges in the city of Varanasi, this photo of a young priest in the midst of his daily prayers, along with many other priests, is a regular occurrence. However, it was the look of devotion on his face, even amidst the rituals, that I had to capture a photograph of that expression.

Together, we can (Kolkata, India):

"Together, we can," Kolkata, India

“Together, we can,” Kolkata, India

While on a photowalk with a local photography club, “Kolkata Weekend Shoots,” I found myself in the largest wholesale market in Kolkata, also known as “Kolay Market”. While leaving the claustrophobic ambiance of the market, my attention was arrested by the shouts of these four men who were struggling to carry a huge load on their heads. I was both amazed and paralyzed by the sight.

The photo represents the hardships of the working class in Kolkata.

Today at their Gala exhibition/event, I got a bunch of gift certificates (read: m-o-n-e-y) and huge blown up versions of my winning photos. I have to admit it. The blown up versions have me most excited about winning this contest. If you are a student and an aspiring photographer in Canada, you know it’s goddamn expensive to blow up your photos.

So, am I a photographer?

Yeah, I guess so. (I am just doing what I do best. The duck-water thing.)

If you happen to be in Kingston, Ontario, check out the photos (along with other winning photos) at the Queen’s University International Centre on the Queen’s campus. They will be displayed (along with their descriptions) for the next two weeks.

Leave a comment

Filed under anecdote, photography

West Coast Tales: Homeward Bound

Homeward Bound

The holiday is over. Your bags are packed. Heavy with your new possessions.

You look around the hotel room one last time. There will be no coming back for forgotten items.

As you leave the room and hear the door close behind you, you are not sad.

You know that there are many more tales waiting for you.

Photograph: Copyright Sanchari Sur

Leave a comment

Filed under Travel, West Coast Tales

Day 8: And down the Man-Made Hole we go…

Yes, we really are under the ground

Alice was lost and bewildered precisely because she went down a hole without a tour guide. Fortunately, Seattle’s Underground Tour at the Pioneer Square not only came with a tour guide, but a quirky sarcastic tour guide at that.

But wait… 15 feet below the surface. 90 minutes of history. Not exactly my idea of “fun”.

I was never excited about history lessons. My earliest memory goes something like this:

A grade three classroom at Pratt Memorial High School in Calcutta. Little Mrs. D’souza teaching us about Harshavardhana (or, better known as Harsha), a king who ruled North India in the middle of the 6th century. Me in my white shirt and green tunic uniform sitting inconspicuously in the corner, making silly rhymes to kill time.

But this underground tour came with the “untold” stories of the founding fathers of Seattle. A city that burned down to the ground once and was built twice over. A city whose failed sanitation system had the streets flooded with faeces. A city whose greedy mayor was more concerned about sucking out money from its people rather than remedy the situation. And, ironically, was elected mayor yet again.

Let’s just say this was a history lesson that did not have me day-dreaming.

The brainchild of Bill Speidel, this tour started in 1954 as an attempt to prevent the destruction of historical buildings around Pioneer Square. Speidel was onto something, as this tour is currently one of the highlights of Seattle.

But history or no history, when the time was up, and the tour guide led us out of the musty underground filled with the ghosts and memories of a forgotten era, I was happy to be back in the real world.

Yes, Alice, you have my sympathies.

Photographs: Copyright Sanchari Sur

Under the ground...

A "Crapper" (that's how they were marketed back in the days)

Watch Your Step

2 Comments

Filed under Travel, West Coast Tales

Day 7: “Material Girl” Goes Shopping

 ‘Cause we are living in a material world
And I am a material girl
You know that we are living in a material world
And I am a material girl – Madonna, “Material Girl”, 1985.

When I first heard Madonna’s song “Material Girl” at the age of 12, I was clueless as to what she was harping about. I don’t consider myself the proverbial material girl. You won’t see me jumping on the ever-changing fashion bandwagon and throwing out half my closet every season.

Yet, being a Canadian, resisting the allure of shopping in the States is futile.

It’s no secret that Canada has a smaller market, higher taxes and duties on imported goods, and larger profits. Where do the consumers go? Across the border, of course. Shopping beyond the border is what we dream of. The latest fashions at lower prices can be quite a drug.

Even then, Canada’s government has Canadians in a tight leash.

Only $50 leeway is allowed, if you stay for 24 hours beyond the border. $400, if you spend 48 hours.

The best thing to do is to actually go on a holiday, spend 48 hours, and shop.

So, this material girl – only under the occasional circumstance of being a Canadian in the States – went shopping with crisp $20s rustling in her purse asking to be spent. I always say that if you are a Canadian in America, do as the Canadians do.

 Not going would have been a cardinal sin.

To know more about “Why Canadians Shop in America“, read this article by Diane Brady.

Leave a comment

Filed under Travel, West Coast Tales

Day 6: A Walk to Remember

The Water

Having driven down in a rented car from Vancouver to Seattle, it makes complete sense driving down to the Waterfront for a relaxing evening. It is possibly the smartest move for the day. For more than one reason:

  1. I am tired
  2. I want to click some good photos
  3. I love the smell of salt in the air

Unlike Toronto downtown, getting a parking spot near the Waterfront is as easy as saying “boo!” to a goose (from a distance, of course, lest it chases you; but I digress…). There is an overpass  (referred to as the  “viaduct” by the locals) right near the Waterfront under which there are rows after rows of parking spots. And the best part? It’s free after 6! Tell me of one free parking spot in downtown Toronto, and I will take you out for ice cream. Promise.

Apart from tons of places to eat and curio shops to spend hours at, the Waterfront is cluttered with scenic views of the water, ferries and moored yachts.

With the sun just an hour from sinking and the cool air playing hide-and-seek with your hair, walking along the Waterfront is ideal for unwinding after a long drive. And when hunger calls, I will step into Fisherman’s Restaurant on Pier 57 for some hot steaming fresh seafood.

Care to join?

Photographs: Copyright Sanchari Sur

Under the Viaduct, Seattle

A view of the city from the Waterfront

A Bookworm's Haven, Waterfront, Seattle

The Dusk

1 Comment

Filed under Travel, West Coast Tales

Day 5: Suspens(ion) above Capilano River

 

Capilano Suspension Bridge from a distance

Gingerly, she took a step forward. One foot at a time, she decided. The bridge wobbled and creaked under her feet.

“I can’t do it,” she said.

“But look at the others. They are all doing it!” her family urged.

She looked up, across the 450 feet gorge. The bridge didn’t look strong enough to hold that many people, but it did. She wondered how. She peeked over the railings and looked at the shiny sliver of the Capilano river, glittering in the sun. Mocking her from 230 feet below the feeble bridge.

Fine; I can do it, she decided quietly.

Holding onto the railing with both hands, she took one step at a time.

Halfway through, she stopped. For photographs. How was she supposed to smile while the bridge wobbled from side to side? What if it toppled over?

“Nothing will happen! Just smile!” they reassured her.

She forced a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. She wished this ordeal over.

Again, it was time to move forward. One step at a time.

“Yes, I did it! Thank god I don’t have to do that again!” she exclaimed jubilantly, as she reached the end and stepped onto solid ground.

“Oh, wait till you have to cross it to get back,” a passing stranger smiled as he stepped onto the bridge.

Photographs: Copyright Sanchari Sur

Capilano Suspension Bridge, North Vancouver

2 Comments

Filed under Travel, West Coast Tales