Is a Picture Worth 1000 Words?

In spite of many requests from friends and family, I was reluctant to post an album of my photos from Bangalore and my travels around India on Facebook. The reasons were two fold: first, I’m genuinely bad at social media (my friends and family can attest), and second I was wary of posting an album that unrealistically glamorized my life here. Of course I know people would rather see a photo of me riding an elephant up to the Amper Fort in Jaipur than of a cow eating garbage outside of my apartment building. Nonetheless, the latter is much more my daily reality.

Instagram is often criticized for creating a highly curated version of our lives; similarly, Facebook is credited with creating new forms of social anxiety as we are constantly comparing ourselves to our peers. Consequently, to give you more insight into my actual life in India, I thought I’d share the bit behind a few photos. A picture may be worth 1000 words, but I find even a picture cannot capture the noises, the visceral smells (good and bad) and the vibrant colors of India. 

Tiny temples: Little temples of primary colors are woven throughout the city, between dry cleaners and electronic stores and everything else that has popped up in Bangalore post the call center / IT park boom. Some mornings you will hear ceremonies. Other days, processions and parade floats will halt traffic. What about the pile of rocks in front? Mountains of construction supplies line city roads as the city continues to expand. The unspoken rule: watch your step. 

Our best attempt at hiking: Nandi Hills. We embarked on a 3 AM wake up call and a 2-hour bus ride to Nandi Hills with hopes of seeing the sunrise. Upon arrival we discovered that not only was this acclaimed hiking trail less than ¼ mile, but it also didn’t open until 6 AM. Meanwhile, we had arrived at 5:15 AM. Sunrise was at 5:48 AM. We waited on line in the unexpectedly chilly dawn. As we stood on the border of the road, chaos ensued for the next 30 minutes among the cars that waited to enter the park. Manual cars were rolling down the hill leading up to the entrance and motorcycles were playing chicken, revving their gears to get up the steep hill and around the turn. Standing single file, we held our breath as each car drove in our direction before making a quick turn away from us and towards the parking lot. With the help of the brevity of the “hike,” and an overcast day aided by a bit of smog, we caught the remnants of a hazy sunrise.

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Indian men’s photo-shoots. Selfie sticks may be ubiquitous at tourist spots, but why bring one when you can take 5 friends, wear coordinated outfits and go on a photo-shoot at fill-in-the-blank world heritage site. I’ve been curiously observing this phenomenon for months and without fail, at every major tourist sight that I’ve visited (and some picturesque parks as well) I’ve spotted a group of young men snapping photos. Typically, these shoots with involve two phases: group photos with a series of coordinated poses reminiscent of prom and headshots that usually involve gazing off into the distance. It’s a form of entertainment and vanity that never fails to amuse me. 

Ulsoor Lake. With the sun rising over the water, Ulsoor Lake is my favorite place for a run in Bangalore. The park is gated with a path that spans about a mile. Along this path, I’ve observed the most eclectic group of people exercising each morning. From women in burkas speed walking to teenagers in saris at the workout station, I love the lake from a people watching perspective alone. However, the lake itself also perfectly encapsulates the contrast of beauty and filth in Bangalore. Not pictured in this photo is the mountain of garbage that borders one side of the lake. While piles of garbage and terrible scents hinted at the potential toxicity of the lake, the problem became too big to ignore the morning the city work up to thousands of dead fish in the lake. Garbage is a structural issue in India, walking around Ulsoor Lake and through this city can be a visceral reminder. 

And, sometimes – a picture is worth 1000 words.