Exposures


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The Camel In All Its Glory

Text by Patty Simon

Pushkar, India

The first camel I saw was standing by a public bus – it was ironic as both are used for transport. Little did I understand what was coming. The Pushkar Camel (and horse and goat and cattle) Fair started in the early 1900s. It is part polo pony selling, part cattle and camel trading, camel contests for best decorated camel and best camel dancer, and it has an amusement park complete with Ferris wheel.
I am first boarded on a camel “cart” with my friends to ride to the fair. We then stop in the middle of thousands of camels – babies, with light and dark hair stick close to their mothers. They are hobbled but even that does not stop them from stampeding so you have to be careful. Some are given punk haircut designs and are combed out by their barbers. Some have anklet bells, brocade saddle blankets, beaded netting and just like the bangle bracelets worn by women, the camels are adorned with rows and rows of necklaces of bright colors.
But up close and personal, the camel gives off such an air of dignity! They hold their heads high as they cart our heavy weight around or when hundreds of obsessed photographers are shooting them from every possible angle trying to achieve that one National Geographic shot.


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Fancy Versus Real

Text by Patty Simon

Pushkar, India

We were excited to go to the Pushkar Camel Fair. We were staying in a tent camp but was curious about the quality. Well, my wish for fancy flipped.
We arrive at a beautiful camp in a fruit orchard, decorated in the Martha Stewart goes Indian style. The arrival was welcoming and gracious. You could tell it was very fancy. But as we check in and they don’t find our name we knew we were at the wrong camp. The poor kid that was our baggage handler had to slog our bags through the desert sand back to the car. He got a big tip! Now where?
We arrive at a much simpler destination. A few painted walls, a few plants in the dining room, and the setting was on agricultural land growing spinach. The tent was good enough and did have hot water.
So the lesson is – “Don’t judge a book by its cover!”
By the second night, we were dancing hand in hand with the local dance troupe. I had one of my best vegetarian meals of all the trip. The staff was warm and friendly but not overdone looking for tips. It felt like home.
I will take real over fancy anytime!


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The Black and White Stripe

Text by Patty Simon

Pushkar, India

On our fourth trip to India I see the progress in development. But, I also am amazed that time still stands still. Evidence is seen in the road work. I see all the big rollers and paving machines found in the States, along with women in saris sweeping the debris with straw brooms. Driving from Pushkar to Jodhpur, I notice endless hand painted black and white striped curbs. All I can imagine is a man sitting cross legged with a turban on his head painting first black and than white forever.
I guess it is a new form of meditation!


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The Little Boy in the Yellow Shirt

Text by Patty Simon

Pushkar, India

Dick has taught me that one of the most beautiful moments on a trip is the serendipitous bumping into and connecting with one stranger.
The little boy in the yellow shirt came up to us like any other hawker at the camel fair – a fair that lures hundreds of foreigners to come see more camels than you will ever see in any one place in your life.
He was selling jeweled writing pens in a package. Now, all of these young entrepreneurs are clever and persistent but this little guy was different. Not only was he a math wiz with all the negotiating (our group all graduated from Harvard Business School) but he learned to sell in 5 languages. He parroted his sales pitch in all five. He was all of ten years old.
He followed us all over so we made a deal with him. We gave him a tip and made him our guide under one condition – he could not sell us anything. He liked us and we liked him so we spent the day with him.
He had that extra smart intuition – knowing when to push and when not to… when to be a salesman and when to be a friendly kid.
We all fell in love with him. Oh, how I wish we could send him to school to become the successful businessman he had the potential to be, if not the next prime minister.
Instead, I bought him dinner, gave him my love card and, of course, bought the pens. We saw him the next day and was so sad to leave him.


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Sweeping to Where?

Text by Patty Simon

Haridwar, India

Ok, this is my secret confession.
I have a very hard time with all the garbage I see everywhere.
I never want to talk about it because all I want to do is honor and respect the culture. Who am I to judge or question why this happens?
But on this visit, it was confusing. I see the trash as always but when I look closer I see children with huge bags looking for plastic (usually all the water bottles we tourists use!) that they can sell and recycle. I see young men each morning in the market cleaning out gutters under the stalls. I see sweepers around the shrines sweeping to where, I don’t know. I see signs telling the locals that an ordinance is going to be passed forbidding the use of plastic bags. And I even see an occasional garbage truck pass by – though too small to do much good and I question who uses it. My confusion gives way to the idea that to change a whole culture’s psyche about where to put trash takes time and I am seeing the beginning. Prime Minister Modi has put a priority on starting a huge initiative cleaning up the sacred Ganges River – a very smart idea as it affects every person in this country.
I keep thinking about the “No Littering” campaign in the US and how skeptical I was that it would work. It worked and because of this my confusion has changed to celebration. Maybe the next trip to India will be a cleaner one!


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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?