3 – 3- 1, A Time And Space Experiment

Want to see what the world is like at the same time but across three different countries? Take a look!

The Girl Next Door

I will start out by explaining what 3 – 3 – 1 is. ‘3 – 3 – 1’ stands for ‘Three people, three places, one time’. It is a time and space experiment of sorts. It goes like this – three people living in three different places click a picture at the same time of the day, agreed upon beforehand. These pictures (along with a short introduction to them) would show just how different the lives of people can be, in spite of existing in the same world at the same time.

The idea of this experiment was born some time ago, when two bloggers known to me were discussing about a picture one of them posted. The two bloggers got fascinated by the idea that two people can be leading such completely different lives, at exactly the same time. Out of their discussion was born the idea of doing…

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Country-less

<rant>

It’s sort of tragic to think that since my country and that of my boyfriend has placed so many restrictions on us being together that we’ve had to ‘flee’ to a country that was not even on our Top 100 places to see before we die list. We’ve made the best of it and the country has been very kind to us but it isn’t home. 

And employment opportunities for both of us are limited aka I hate my job and his 5-4 teaching job leaves him with no energy for anything else. 

You may say I’m nitpicking but when you’ve moved countries to be with each other but only get to see each other for 3 hours a day, it sort of defeats the purpose. It doesn’t help that we only came here to buy some time before we moved somewhere more permanently. Time, unfortunately, doesn’t change visa rules and no matter how much I beg the universe, my passport isn’t likely to transform itself into a free-pass to the world. 

For the sake of doing something, and this time in a more desperate rage, I am shamelessly sending out my CV to every country/agency/recruiter. Gone is my fear of rejection because after a few degrees of it, you stop feeling as disappointed. 

I’ve also been spending hours day-dreaming about giving up everything and becoming a volunteer recluse in some island or forest where visa rules only come in the way once a year. 

In the growing intolerance in the world, I wish countries would view people genuinely in love not as a threat but as people who could genuinely make a difference. Happy people are less likely to spread misery? 

Sigh.

</rant>

P.S. If anyone knows anyone who will hire a third world girl with mad skills, willing to relocate ANYWHERE in the world that will have me, let me know :) 

3-3-1 – A time and space experiment

The first edition of 2-2-1 saw a collaboration between Norm from Classical Gasbag and myself. The idea was to capture the differences in culture, geography, traditions across various time zones. Luckily, the two of us weren’t the only ones who liked the idea. We’ve had a few volunteers for the project and while logistics will always be a nightmare, you will see more posts in the months to come.

Just to reiterate, the point of this collaboration is not to have a well-curated collection of flawless photos but to capture emotions, flaws and the flow of real life at a set time across borders and across the limits of time.

Say hello to Norm, the Classical Gasbag, and the creator of this series!

Indiana Lafayette USA
Morning on the farm

When it is 7 p.m. in Bangkok, Thailand it is 8 a.m. in Lafayette, Indiana, USA. From where I live it is only a few miles to downtown Lafayette and even fewer miles into the country. I considered going downtown to take a picture, but didn’t want to interfere with all of the people who were trying to get to work on time. I know that the traffic here is nowhere as congested as it is in Bangkok or any other major city in the world, but a rush hour is relative to what you are used to. So I opted to drive a few miles south and west of Lafayette to take a photo of a rural scene.

I originally planned on stopping in a little town named Romney to take a picture of an empty, abandoned old school house, and I did. But I was there too early; and since we are trying to take pictures simultaneously, I drove out into the country. In passing through Romney I realized that about 95% of the traffic there was by people like me. That is, they were all passing through. It seems that Romney is only a destination for people who live there. I wonder if it has always been that way?

Anyway, here is my picture of a farmhouse and outbuildings in the 8 a.m. morning sun. I hope that you like it.

This week, we are joined by Sayantan from Know-All’s Box, a blog I follow not just for its lovely photography but also for the enthralling tales he spins one static photograph at a time.

Kolkata India

 

We decided upon 5:30 pm Indian Standard Time, Friday evening. That time, I am usually in office. So, I had a geographical limitation. I had to take the photograph within walking distance of my office, and I did not have the service of my trusted DSLR to take the shot. So, apologies for the really poor photograph. However, I will try to redeem the situation by pointing out some of the things which I have tried to capture in the shot, and their significance to my hometown, Kolkata.

You will find 3 gentlemen standing in front of something which is overflowing with small packs hanging from invisible strings, while a yellow coloured car which is probably more in place in a city like Havana, passes by in a blur. And in the background there is a building which has the words “Forum Courtyard” written on it.

And in these 3 elements, I find the contradiction which probably defines the city today.

The contraption with the overhanging tarpaulin sheet, I actually one of the thousands roadside tea-stall which one can across the city. Kolkatans have learned to love their tea, thanks to the city’s vicinity to the famous Darjeeling, which is in the same state, West Bengal. Usually, you will find such stalls in the vicinity of offices and malls, as people working in these places love to take frequent breaks from work to have tea usually accompanied with cigarettes. You will also find them selling the odd omelette, instant noodles, cakes and chips, to feed the perpetually hungry bengalis. You can witness many storms being brewed over a tea induced adda, the favourite “timepass”of bengalis! All the Starbucks and Costa Coffees of the world cannot compete with the charm of the road-side tea stall.

The yellow coloured car is the good old Ambassador Cabs which you can find only in this city of India. Modelled after the British Morris Oxford, it is a car fast disappearing from the city, as people opt for the technologically superior Japanese, Amercan and German cars. The yellow coloured cabs are also fast disappearing, as the Ubers of the world push the old world cabs out of the market.

And looming in the background is the first mall of the city, Forum which opened back in 2003. You will find the latest and finest brands of the world selling inside. I dont really need to explain much about the mall, because malls across the world are essentially the same.

What’s interesting to me is the stark difference of the mall with respect to the average tea-stall and the rickety Ambassador Cab and the glitzy mall.

And then there’s me! 

Asiatique Bangkok Thailand

I was excited about the time and date chosen because it was a national holiday and I knew I would be out and about, doing something exciting. That’s not usually my style on holidays, preferring to melt into the couch on my time off but mum was in town and it was Songkran – Thailand’s New Year.

During the course of the day, however, I started to realise just how well we curate our experiences in order to appear the most ‘cool’, ‘exotic’, and ‘unreal’. I took a billion photos, keeping in mind the angle, the light and the story that would go with it. When the time finally arrived, I was doing something I hadn’t planned for the day. I was on a boat.

We were just strolling around a riverside mall – mum and aunt were tired and just wanted to grab a bite to eat. We had just missed the sunset, another great photo-op. Disappointed that life didn’t align itself in the way I wanted it to, I stopped looking at the time.

Just as we were heading home on the boat, the lights of the mall and the various food stalls came on like many twinkling stars in the sky. I asked my mum what time it was, she said it was 7pm.

Sometimes, you just don’t need to manufacture a good time. It just happens.

If you want to participate in this series, leave a comment and we will get back to you.

Songkran – Or How I Learnt To Dodge Water Guns

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I don’t deal well with heat and humidity. Yes, I am from a tropical nation but I am delicate, okay? I am just not built like the cactus I want to be. Sometimes you just don’t get the body you want. That’s not to say I can handle the cold (I wear three layers of jackets in office!) but don’t judge me. Not everyone is dealt with a perfect set of cards! And life is not gin!

I found out just how hot it can get here in Thailand when my mum came to visit. It was a short impromptu visit during the worst best time of year and I wanted to fit in all my favourite spots into what little time I was given. During that time, I’m pretty sure I have permanently melted small parts of me into some of the more famous tourist destinations in Bangkok.

While I was making my plans, fellow Bangkokians filled me with tales of terror regarding the incredible Songkran – a festival so monstrous, people chose to summon their inner hermits and stay at home for a week in a row. It didn’t help that people shook their heads when they found out it was my first Songkran. They just clicked their tongues and said hmmm.

WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN?

What is this Songkran madness?

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We decided to opt for a more traditional Songkran and went to visit the temple of the reclining Buddha – Wat Pho

Songkran is the Thai New Year – simple enough – but we get 3 days off to celebrate it (cut down from 5 from last year because of the drought Thailand is facing!). The hottest month of the year signals a mass exodus – banks are closed, restaurants are a hit and miss, 90% of the Thais go back to their hometowns to celebrate the New Year with their families.

How do you celebrate Songkran?

This is a completely biased point of view because I was one of the few people (in ratio, not in number) to have stayed back in a now isolated city. When the streets are nearly empty and everyone is in holiday mode, what do you do? You chuck buckets full of ICE water on unsuspecting people just casually minding their business and walking on the road. Oh, you’re in a taxi? So cute! You will still get gunned down on one side while they paste a white powder on your face through the other window!

I am playing the grumpy smurf here. Unfortunately I think technology has sort of ruined spontaneity for us. Always worried about a phone/tab/laptop getting destroyed, it’s easy to forget that people throwing water at you while the whole city has shut down is fun. SO much fun that there isn’t a single grumpy person on the street.

Despite the fact that everyone’s carrying an enormous and intimidating water gun, everyone’s smiling, everyone is dressed in a cheerful neon coloured Hawaii shirt, people of all ages are dancing, laughing, and having really over-the-top mock fights that make your Grinch like heart grow 20 times its size.

There’s not much to love about a concrete jungle on a normal day, but Songkran transforms the city into a place where you suddenly feel a certain sense of comradery.

Traditional Songkran

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One of the many Buddha shrines at Wat Pho

While throwing water at each other is what everyone remembers Songkran by, water is that important to this festival as it is a traditional symbol of cleansing. What people tend to forget is that Songkran is also a religious festival with its own set of fascinating rituals. I was lucky enough to visit the Temple of the Reclining Buddha – Wat Pho – during the main festival day. It was the first time I had ever witnessed something so enormous – not just in size but in magnitude.

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  • Bathing the Buddha – As a traditional act of cleansing, Buddha statues are bathed with water collected in golden or silver bowls. 
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Monk cleansing devotees with a broom and cold water. Some of them received some tough love with that broom but I can’t, for the life of me, figure out how the monk chose his suspects.
  • Making Merit – Sort of like a pilgrimage, making merit entails visiting 9 sacred temples during the time of Songkran and making offerings and offering prayers. 
  • Rod Nam Dum Hua – Or the National Day for Older Persons is celebrated during Songkran. The younger generation offer presents to their elders, they pour scented water on to the elders’ hands and ask for their blessings. 

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  • Building Sand Pagodas – Technically a part of making merit, building sand pagodas are an integral part of the Songkran tradition for extremely interesting reasons. It is believed that over the course of the year, a lot of temple sand leaves with you by sticking to your shoes when you leave. So, once a year, Thais are invited to bring back some of the sand and build a Stupa instead as a way of returning what was once taken. 
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Ancient garden scenes at Wat Pho
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A lot of traditional dances were presented by school children at the Wat Pho premises
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Peering at modern Bangkok from the ancient part of town. The Temple of Dawn Wat Arun can be seen on the right (under renovation). Chao Praya River.

Why Wai?

McDonald's Wai
Image Source: http://bit.ly/22nutW1

There were 5 monks in office on Friday. It has been 6 years since the office moved to this location and they renewed their contract for another three years. Thailand’s biggest festival, Songkran, is this week and so they used the occasion to get the office blessed. As the monk strolled around office, blessing it with holy water, I stood up, as you do when someone of a high status passes you by.

I got told off immediately. I heard panic cries of – ‘Sit down, sit down!’ So I did, in a confused daze. Turns out that unlike with any other religion that I’m familiar with where you stand up as a sign of respect, in Buddhism you make sure that when a monk passes you buy, he towers over you. Being only 5 foot naught, I easily was a few inches taller than him.

There’s other etiquette that’s just as important. Being Indian, you unconsciously pick these up as you go long. For example, you never sit with your legs outstretched in front of you. All Indian kids know how to sit cross legged on the floor. Other things you can’t do in the presence of holiness includes yawning, giggling, chewing loudly, showing off your shoulders etc.

Thailand is full of polite gestures and words, the most interesting of which is the Wai. Apart from ending each sentence with a ká (female) or a kráp (male), you also enter or exit a conversation by folding your palms together in a greeting. It is right in the center of all Thai etiquette and looks sort of like a Namaste but depending on the placement of your hand, it shows their status in relation to you.

Thai Wai
Image Source: http://bit.ly/1SIDnZa

With your hands pressed together and with a slight bow, here’s how you greet these people.

  • Monks – Thumbs between eyebrows, index fingers touch forehead.
  • Teachers, Older People – Thumbs on the tip of your nose, index fingers between your eyebrows.
  • Peers – Thumbs touch your chin, index fingers touch the tip of your nose.
  • Everyone else – do a normal Namaste, hands in front of chest.

You get a hang of it once you’ve been here long enough. When we first moved here, I made a fool of myself multiple times. One of the stories is how when a waitress asked me if I wanted a glass of white wine (they don’t pronounce the last syllables and so it sounds like wai wai), I ended up bowing a billion times instead of saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’. More to follow, I’m sure.

Hope you are all well.