Damn. I could really kick my younger self for not caring more about my photographs..
After getting a message from a photographer friend last night asking me about some of my past travels I realized that out of all the places I have been to in the world I don’t think I have any photos from any of those trips *I could cry* And then I remembered that I did upload some of my photos from a trip to India to facebook years ago and that you can now download those uploaded images. Granted at this point I was only able to retrieve small res pics, but who cares. Memories are memories right?
Anyway so about 6 years ago I signed up to go on a trip to India with about 40+ other people my age who were interested in or currently studying medicine (yes long before I was photographing babies and families I was once studying pre-med with the hopes of becoming a pediatric reconstructive surgeon. Surprised?). We spent three weeks traveling around to Old Delhi, New Delhi, Jaipur, Mumbai, and Rishikesh. A day before the trip I was out shopping for a new camera to take with me when I got a phone call from my mom.
“Um, hey Suzzane what are you doing right now?”
“Just buying a new camera. I want to be able to get some really good photos of the trip.”
“That’s funny, I just got a call from your student coordinator. She’s in New York, at the airport, counting heads and you’re not there.”
“WHAT?!?!?!” *commence meltdown in my purple saturn*
I hung up the phone and literally made a U-turn right in the middle of Golf Road in Schaumburg, and hightailed it home (go figure, my mission to buy a new Nikon D300 was scrapped and instead I brought along my old Canon film camera from a darkroom class I had just taken in college. In hindsight, I am pretty happy it turned out this way). I furiously packed my bags while simultaneously crying and yelling at myself, and my mom comes in to break the news that there is really just no way I am gonna make it.
“The coordinator said you can use your insurance to get your money back from the trip and the flight.”
“NO WAY. I am going, I don’t care what I have to do.”
My mom sighed and said, “I thought you’d say that. You can still go, but it’ll cost you extra. The insurance wont cover missing your flight so you can keep your original flight to New York tomorrow, and the travel agent said she can get you on the next flight from NYC to India with a layover in Paris.”
“Yes!!!!” I jumped up in the air victoriously.
“It’ll cost you an extra $1800.”
*insert frustrated tears and yelling at myself again*
“I don’t care. I’ll put it on my credit card. I AM GOING.”
And so I went. By myself across the world for the first time, and ya know, it wasn’t so bad really. Oh, except for when there was a freak storm over New Delhi and they had to re-route the plane to some remote landing strip in the desert where we just all sat on the plane and waited. For THREE hours.
When I finally got to India I took a cab to my hotel and was placed in my room with a roommate (who also turned out to be one of the most incredible women I’ve ever met in my life), and the trip went from there. We visited all the cities I mentioned, my favorite of which was a smaller city called Rishikesh – considered a holy city and much less crowded than the bigger Delhi or Mumbai. There in Rishikesh we got to participate in a holy Aarti ceremony and even go white water rafting down the Ganges river (which interestingly enough started off with a dead body floating down the river past us, I kid you not). We visited mosques in Old Delhi, jewelry making stores in Jaipur, and walked through the crowded HOT as hell streets and flea markets. We took the train for hours through the countryside in India, rode on elephants up a mountainside, saw the Taj Mahal, and we even visited some Ayurvedic medicine factories, local wellness clinics and hospitals to get a feel for the medical care system of the country as compared to that of the U.S.
But really the best part about it all was the friendships I made and the way in which it opened my mind to other cultures and lifestyles (one of just many small moments of unfolding of my mind). I remember coming home and thinking how everything felt so superficial to me, I felt like I lived in a world I didn’t belong for a little while.. like no one here understood what it was like out there the world, it was strange feeling but something I have always experienced when I travel elsewhere and then come back home to the states. I guess when you see things like sick children that haven’t eaten for days all stacked up on top of each other in a tiny ‘hospital’ room with no A/C and it’s over 100 degrees outside, or hold a child that is literally dying in your arms of HIV and malnutrition, your life perspective changes a little (those are both real experiences of mine).
On a lighter note, one of my favorite memories in India was our last night where we all got together for a good-bye dinner. When we arrived to our destination we split off into groups of 4 and were carried in these beautiful silk covered carts by camels to a place that looked like a castle and, well, it was an amazing way to say good bye to each other and India. I have never felt more connected to a group of people, and if any of my friends who were on that trip see this, please know I think about you all the time and I would love nothing more than to get together again or even go back to India once more together (as if we could ever recreate how magical that whole trip was..).
With all that being said, here are some of my favorite photographs I took on the trip (see below). It’s so funny how things work out for the best.. as I mentioned earlier in the post, when I left the camera store in a panic I didn’t have time to get a hot new digital camera so I just ended up taking along an old 35mm canon camera I had leftover from a college darkroom class. I stuffed as much film in my luggage as I could carry and didn’t think once about exposure or technique, I simply just snapped pics away as I saw them and didn’t focus on what I was taking so much. Sometimes I really miss those days..
above: my roommate and I at the last dinner.