The pigeon feeding area

Just outside of our apartment complex in Mumbai is a stretch of sidewalk listed in Google maps as “Pigeon Feeding Area.” What they mean is “large cement pit, covered in excrement, overrun by by pigeons and rats.” Everything in the neighbourhood is covered in pigeon crap, except for the guy under the giant umbrella who sells feed to passerbys needing whatever little karma boost can be obtained from supporting the production of toxic poop.

Looking up at a 747

I was standing around waiting on the tarmac and thought this Thai Airways 747-400 looked pretty impressive from the ground.

The strategic mango reserve

Sarah asked me if I knew exactly how many mangos I ordered. I had forgotten the exact number, but I was aiming for a lot. I clearly succeeded.

For perspective, that bowl is about three feet in diameter.

One of my biggest disappointments of life in Mumbai was the day last year, shortly after our arrival, that I was informed that mango season was over and they wouldn’t be available for another ten months. I wasn’t about to let that happen again, so now we have a freezer full of mangos; a stockpile that will hopefully fill cravings through from August until next May.

The Mumbai Sea Link

As a dense city running the length of a narrow peninsula, Mumbai is known for its traffic congestion. Developers came up with the solution of building a highway out into the Arabian Sea and called it the Sea Link. Both these photos were taken around sunset on the same evening. The light was changing rapidly, leading to two completely different photos.

HMCS Winnipeg in Mumbai

The Canadian flag was flying proudly off the bow of the HMCS Winnipeg, with the domes of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and Bombay Municipal Corporation building in the distance.

A rough start to a vacation

Leaving work to catch our flight to Sri Lanka, we got caught in a massive traffic jam. What should be a 34 minute trip to the airport took over three hours. There’s nothing quite like the sinking feeling of knowing your flight is boarding and you’re trapped only a few miles from the airport.

We ended up waiting at the airport for seven hours for the next flight because we didn’t want to risk going home and getting stuck in traffic again.

The only amusing element was this billboard. I had plenty of time to get a photo since we weren’t moving anywhere.

Wrestler in Varanasi

We wandered to the wrestling training ground, but arrived after practice had ended. One very friendly wrestler didn’t want us to walk away disappointed, so he showed off some of the training that they do.

I was impressed by the ease with which he controlled the giant cement weight at the end of the wooden pole, or the giant heavy wooden pins that he swung around.

It seemed that every exercise worked on not only brute strength, but also flexibility, and strength at the extreme ends of flexibility.

Traditional Indian wrestling, or kushti, is staying alive in places like Varanasi, although I’m not sure it has the following that it used to.

A Sadhu in Varanasi

Sadhu in Varanasi

A Sadhu is a hindu spiritual man who has given up all possessions and renounced the pleasures of life. In many cases, all the pleasures except for smoking ganja, but that’s about being on a higher plane, not pleasure, right?

Morning on the Ganges River

People come from across India to touch the water of the Ganges River at Varanasi, a ritual said to wash away 10 lifetimes of sin.

For many others the Ganges serves practical needs, like a place to do the laundry of the city’s many hotels.

By late morning, the worshiping crowds subside as they escape the heat. Men, as they’re known to do around the world gather to gamble with whatever cash they might have made during the morning’s endeavours.

At a nearby temple, the hair of a little girl is shaved while she chews on a 20 rupee note.

Morning offerings in Varanasi

The day in Varanasi starts, as it ended the evening before, with rituals performed as the sun rises over the Ganges.

Evening offerings in Varanasi

Varanasi is the spiritual capital of Hinduism. On certain evenings, crowds gather as the sun sets to join priests in performing an offering ceremony.

Before the ceremony begins, the priests assist families in making offerings at the water’s edge.

Meanwhile, helpful touts guide visitors to the assembled flotilla of boats that expand the seating and give people a front-row seat.

The ceremony, or Aarti, involves the waving of lighted flames, incense, and flowers before the deities in a spirit of humility and gratitude. The steps leading to the Ganges River bring followers a step closer to the gods.

In a stark contrast to the spirit of peace, I enjoyed watching this woman play a first-person shooter on her mobile phone crouched on the steps as the ceremony was performed.

Getting the news

Men were standing around reading the newspapers laid out by the vendor on the side of a busy roundabout in Varanasi. I’m not sure what the rules for payment are if you only read but don’t take the paper.

Dhamekh Stupa in Sarnath

Dhamekh Stupa marks the place where Buddha gave his first sermon after attaining enlightenment. While nearby Varanasi is flooded with Hindu tourists, mostly from within India, Sarnath receives a smaller but steady flow of pilgrims from around the rest of Asia.

Some walk around the stupa, while other groups pray in the shadow of the large unfinished brick monolith.