Exposures


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Welcome to Exposures.co

Exposures.co is about our (Patty and Dick Simon) travels and Exposures. We are seeking to be exposed to other countries, cultures, people and perspectives, exposing others (those we interact with on the ground ‘eyeball-to eyeball’ as a dear friend says) AND we expose others to our experiences and learnings through the words and images on this blog. There is also a photographic metaphor – in order to achieve the ‘right’ exposure (which is in itself a subjective decision and choice) you balance speed (shutter) and depth (of field via f-stop – how ‘open’ you are) often trading off breadth as you determine what to focus on.

The url is .CO, as in COexist, COoperate and COllaborate, (rather than .com .org or .net).

We hope you enjoy and look forward to hearing your thoughts, ideas and comments!

Patty and Dick Simon


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Bitesize

Text by Patty Simon

Haridwar, India

‘ve written about the very moving experience of visiting an ashram watching over a 1000 sadhus being served a free meal with gifts included. This happens every night. I was standing on the balcony watching each Sadhu eat the same food in different ways. One would tear up their bread in tiny pieces. One would eat the bread whole dipping it in the Dahl. One would refuse the bread and only have rice. One would only have yogurt. I mentioned this to Sanjeev, not thinking too much about it. He laughed and said, “Oh, that is all about the condition of their teeth! Nothing else!”
My lesson – “Never take anything you see for granted while traveling!”


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Color, Color Everywhere

Text by Patty Simon

Haridwar, India

“Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink” – does hold true for for me on the Ganges River, but…
“Color, color everywhere but not a drop to paint” is what I want to write about now.
I keep broadly thinking about the top ten unique aspects of this incredible country, for me, as an artist, the top is color!
Bright colors adorn every woman and every shrine in this country. Add bangles and beads and brocades and gold leaf and jewels and you get the picture. There is not one dull color in all the country. Color has no price tag and transcends all social classes. It is one big celebration and unifier.
I asked what the underlying meaning was for all the bright yellows, neon oranges, shocking pinks, rich blues and lime greens.
Happiness… Celebration… Vibrant energy!
New York City and Boston, are you listening?


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What is a God/Goddess in India?

Text by Patty Simon

Haridwar, India

Hinduism is complex, colorful and chock full of long complicated tales. For me, the names are unpronounceable… the meanings overwhelming.
So, one day, I simply asked our guide, “How many gods and goddesses are there?”
33 million! What? Did I hear correctly? “Can you actually name them all?”
Our guide laughed and answered, “You see, everything and anything can be a god!”
He went on to say that anyone can put special godlike meaning into a person, place or thing. He tells a story where a family made a shrine on the side of the road to celebrate a moment of good fortune. Another family walked by and saw the shrine. They did not know the original purpose but knew it meant something so they decided to make an offering hoping to double their own good luck. And so it goes on and on!


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Ancestry Papers – Ashes & Bones – Eunuch Blessings

Text by Patty Simon

Haridwar, India

One day I found myself standing on a bridge in Haridwar, looking down at little vignette scenes only found in India.
One scene showed men sitting cross legged on a platform writing in long thin ledger books – 500 pages thick – recording and updating genealogical histories of families. This practice (only found in Haridwar) is handed down from family to family and no one knows when it started – could be thousands of years. This info includes those who immigrate abroad.
Another scene showed a husband with marigold garland performing a puja with incense burning just before taking a red bundle of ashes and bones and slowly releasing his loved one back into the sacred Ganges river. He then performed an act of charity by giving the deceased clothes to the poor.
My favorite scene was quite a show. At first it looked like any pilgrim gathering at the Ganges… grandparents, aunts and uncles and little children all dressed up and enjoying themselves. Looking closer, I see two little boys in the laps of loved ones crying while having their hair shaved off by local barbers with straight razors. I held my breath hoping I would not see blood. What was this all about? Our friend Sanjeev explained this is a tradition with all boys before the age of 5 to bring good luck in carrying on their ancestry. Looking even closer, I see a transvestite dressed in a deep pink sari (our guide calls a eunuch), giving their blessing over the child’s bald head. It was explained that people born with both the masculine and feminine have an even higher energy that is respected and sought after. He did say, though this is true, they still have very hard lives.
We walk away thinking – this is just another typical day on the Ganges.


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The Bed

Text by Patty Simon

Haridwar, India

Dick and I were very excited to have dinner with Lily, our sons friend, who is now working in Delhi. We asked her how she was settling in. She said she could only afford an apartment that was unfurnished and had no kitchen appliances. She said, so far, she only has a bed because it was an all day affair. She had to go across town to the market and  find a bed builder who custom made her a simple bed. Arranging delivery must have been a sight to behold. Having been to the market myself in all the crazy traffic, I imagined Lily’s bed tied precariously on a bicycle rickshaws dodging in and out between people dogs, the sacred cow, cars, motorcycles and potholes. I wondered how many people were knocked over to get Lily a place to sleep.
Fast forward to a tribal village named Gujarat outside Haridwar, where we visited once nomadic families raising cattle, who are now given land within the national park. The only furniture they possess in their stucco homes is a bed woven in beautiful designs.
Fast forward again in the city where you will find the bed outside merchant stalls for reclining and makeshift tents of the poor.
I came to realize that home is where the “bed” is! One needs nothing else.


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Pondering Beggars

Text by Patty Simon

Haridwar, India

I spend a lot of my time in India walking the streets looking at beggars or, I should say, looking at the poor.  I am very interested in learning their stories, just like I do in Boston with the homeless. How does a human being find themselves so destitute?
India is much more complicated than the US because of its own social order, colonial history, religious beliefs and economic problems around huge populations.
But, none the less, I am still trying to understand not only their lives but my responsibility to that life… especially when they ask me for money.
One day I asked our guide about the beggars we were walking by and their answer surprised me. “Begging is a sin. These people are not trying to help themselves. They want something for nothing. And, furthermore, it is a sin to encourage them to keep begging.”
I kept rolling this around in my head as I do in the US. I have learned the matter is much more complicated – poverty, lack of education, mental health and disability, and lack of familial support system. But in India, another issue is “karma” – their faith telling them they were meant to suffer for past life transgressions.
On the flip side, we visited an ashram which feeds over 1000 sadhus a night. Not only do they get good food but new clothes and even cash from wealthy families. Sadhus decide at some point in their life to give up all material things and ties to family. Basically they give up everything, even the right to be cremated. So, they are considered holy and worthy of gifts.
Both these groups are given things. Both these groups are needy but for different reasons. So, who are we to judge? I see these people and my heart just wants to take over and relieve their suffering. My intellect kicks in and reminds me I can’t help everyone but I can still try to help in some small way.


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The Cure for Grey Hair

Text by Patty Simon

Haridwar, India

At home in Boston, I distinguish myself apart from most of my friends because of my grey hair. I have been called my daughters grandmother several times and one my husbands mother (Dick, my husband, is my age with no grey hair!). In a culture where most women dye their hair, I stand out. I stand out also in India surrounded by all the beautiful women with their coal black hair.
On this trip, I began noticing many older people with grey hair… partially grey because they use red henna  to “dye” their hair. Why that particular color? Are they trying to go punk? Is it a fashion trend? Is it a sacred marker?
I got many answers. One person said it caused a cooling effect (useful in hot unairconditioned summers). One said it was simply fashion.
I guess we are all the same in the end!

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