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Station

Crows call croaked squawks

echoing through a train station

warmed up by morning sun.

When the low

rumble of an

incoming train

begins to sound

louder

and

louder,

anticipation rises

until it speeds

past,

holding people

sitting with legs

swinging out

in the open air.

Just like that,

it’s gone

as quickly

as it arrived

& we sit on

the platform

awaiting our turn

to clamber aboard

the carriage,

letting the railway tracks

take us to

who knows where.

By Jasmine Irving

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Capturing Everyday Village Life in Ravandur

When we first arrived in Ravandur, Kiran, our hospitable host turned good friend, instructed us to take off our shoes before stepping into his home. We added our sandals to the gathering pile laid out across the path in front of the house, next to an intricately drawn chalk mandala with a flowerhead laid in the centre.

The following fortnight was filled with delicious home cooked South Indian food, countless warm welcomes into the locals homes for chai, coffee and traditional snacks and the chance to see skilled workers build mud houses from scratch.

The team of builders let us watch in awe, film, shoot and even join in the building process which went a little like this: one worker was in charge of the cows, holding a stick and shouting instructions, leading them by a rope tied through their noses as they walked in circles across wet mud to churn it up. Next step was someone piling the wet mud into dipped plates with a spade and passing it to another builder who then carried the load on their head across the grassy field to the building site. The mud was tipped out into a pile, thrown up in balls to the builders at the top of the growing walls and squelched into a satisfactory, straight structure.

It was mesmerising watching hands kneed mud like dough into the desired shape for the sun to dry it into a sturdy wall. The whole process had a rhythmic pattern to it with everyone playing an important role in turning an empty space into a house. The rooms themselves are not just any old rooms, they are made with natural materials to be completely sustainable and they have been built by this community of skilled locals spending the days working together under the hot sun.

When it’s time for lunch, rice, dahl and vegetable curry are generously dished out on banana leaves for the workers to eat, always with their right hand as is custom. The women who did the cooking knew exactly what flavours and spices to blend to make the perfect dish from lemon rice with roasted peanuts to ragi roti with coconut chilli chutney. Most of the fruit and veg that they cook with is grown organically on the farm, the compost of what is not eaten going back to the land.

JJ barely went anywhere within the grounds or out in the village without his camera at the ready. People were very happy to have their portraits taken and didn’t seem phased at the lens following them about as they completed everyday tasks or posed in front of their homes. It was a great ice breaker for meeting people because they seemed as curious about the big SLR camera and the foreigners carrying it as we were about them.

Humans have always been fascinated by how others live, with different style houses, clothes, food and an entirely different language. But despite how none of our words from Kanada or English were the same, the universal language of facial expression and hand signs or body language can get a group of people with no matching words to a place of understanding. This is the joy of communicating across cultures when neither knows the other’s mother tongue.

Cows wandered around the dusty roads, people sat outside their houses chatting in groups or simply sitting quietly. Women swept the outside of their houses and poured water to clean the ground whilst kids ran around playing or getting their homework ready. Men milled flour in a dark mill adding it’s mechanical whirr to the other sounds of the village like the rumble of the occasional motorbike engine, distant sound of tuk tuks tooting their horns or birds calling to each other in song.

Because we were so touched by the generosity and welcoming nature of the people in the neighbourhood, on our last day we printed off many of the portraits that were taken on our walks and did a quick dash around the village to give them out. We wanted to leave a little something behind to show our appreciation.

In hindsight we should have given ourselves more time because of course everyone who we handed a photo to then invited us in for chai and food and we had to mime putting our rucksacks on and running for a bus to try and explain that we didn’t have time. Not having time didn’t seem to be a usual occurrence in daily village life. Some of the villagers we handed portraits to were the priest who was there when we did our first Puja at the Hindu temple and Kamalamma, an elderly women we interviewed for a short documentary we made about Kiran’s Ayervedic centre.

We also gave a set of photos to Kiran’s friends Dwaraka and Kavya from the adjacent village, Haralahalli. We could never forget our hearty dinners at their place, getting stuffed full of the best pakoras we have ever tasted in our entire lives.

Ravandur is certainly off the beaten track, and we couldn’t be more grateful to have had the opportunity to spend a peaceful couple of weeks learning to slow down and live simply. It’s interesting how Westerners or indeed, city dwellers from anywhere, can sometimes see these rural places as “in need of development” or as somehow “behind” when actually we could learn a lot from going back to the roots and living like the villagers do. We left with a deep sense of calm and the lack of attachment to luxuries associated with city living, realising what we already knew deep down – that all we need are the basics and if you throw in some good company and natural surroundings then we have more than enough.

All photos by Hogg Photography and writing by Jasmine Irving.

Thunder Lily

 

 

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She bursts into bloom
from a wild and furious storm.
Her fire fuelled by lightning,
voice powered by thunder
roaring from deep within her belly.

Dark clouds bring hard rain
to help her grow tall
rooting her strong into moist soil.

She has no time to mourn the sun
whilst being birthed by the storm.
When she is finally ready
her mother whispers,

“Thunder lily…
From darkness you came
so you will never fear
the full force of creation and
destruction, you will always
know the wholeness of your
self and that the calm light
of day is not the only source
of nourishment.

Do not forget how you first
bloomed into being
wild one.”

Poem by Jasmine Irving

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Holistic Healing in India

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Yoga shala @ Anahata by Hogg Photography

Across the world, communities are coming together to find a more balanced way of life. The stresses of modern day living are taking their toll and people are searching for deeper connections with each other and the natural world. Many are feeling a pull to go back to the roots and lead a simpler day to day routine, getting in touch with a mindful approach to being.

Kiran is one of these people. He has become disillusioned with the typical capitalist model of economic growth and projects centred around profit so he returned back to his home village after working in the city. He had a dream to create a healing space where he could practice therapies based on ancient Ayervedic wisdom. As a yoga teacher, and ayervedic practitioner with experience treating people with injuries, illnesses, disabilities and special needs he wanted to have his own land where people could come to heal.

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Kiran’s Portrait by Hogg Photography

So he founded Anahata healing arts centre, situated in Ravandur, not far from Mysore in South India. His focus is on a holistic approach to health, cultivating balance between the body, mind and spirit with the belief that this will help people to heal naturally from within and prevent certain illnesses developing in later life.

The yoga classes, Ayervedic massage and meditation classes that he runs are all part of finding this balance. Another essential component to holistic health is the food we eat. Organic fruit, vegetables, grains and herbs are grown on the grounds at Anahata and are cooked from scratch to make healthy vegetarian meals. Anahata also has juicing and detoxing programmes to cleanse the body and focus on getting certain nutrients.

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Fresh Produce @ Anahata by Hogg Photograghy

Anahata welcomes local people, international guests and volunteers from around the world, forming a global community. Currently there are various different projects running such as the construction of new rooms, made with natural materials such as mud, water and wood. Kiran says it’s important to be as sustainable as possible in order to work alongside nature and have respect for the environment around us.

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Team work building eco-rooms by Hogg Photography

Another ongoing project is the development of a rehabilitation centre where people can come to get back in touch with their inner strength and work with treatments such as physiotherapy, yoga and massage. For children there is a strong focus on play and sensory stimulation to enable them to enjoy the movement of their bodies and gain confidence in themselves. Kiran says that in the village it can be difficult for kids with special needs to get out and socialise so he hopes to provide a space where they can come and enjoy spending time with others, feeling part of the community.

Kiran, has a lot of experience working in this way and has helped visitors to move forward from pain. Kamalamma, an elderly woman from the local village had damaged both her knees and the hospital said she must get a knee operation for each leg which would have been very expensive. However instead, she came to Anahata and with rehabilitation therapy there and no surgery she found a way to walk again.

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Kamalamma’s portrait by Hogg Photography

Kiran told me that his philosophy is to put people before profit and ensure that all those who need it have access to the right care and treatment. This is why he runs his centre on a donations basis, as well as offering volunteer exchanges through the international site “workaway”.

It’s always inspiring to see people living in a way that is aligned with their principles, working hard to benefit both the local and wider community. Spending time here at Anahata, I have been reminded that another way of life is possible and we can carve a path that is right for us, being sure to take care of our health.

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Cheluva, one of the builders creating eco friendly rooms by Hogg Photography

Written by Jasmine Irving, photo’s by JJ Oxberry Hogg

Filming local projects

We made a short intro video for the healing centre that we are staying with in a village near Mysuru, India. JJ got to put his filming and editing skills to use to promote a great project making a positive impact on the local community. We are now working on 2 other videos, a short film about the centre and a crowdfunding campaign video for their rehabilitation space.

Eco Construction and Community Work

We have just arrived at Anahata healing centre in a rural village near Mysore. We are staying here with “Workaway” on a work exchange principal. This is where you travel by volunteering for hosts in return for food and board.

Currently we are working on a marketing and crowdfunding campaign to raise money for a children’s treatment space at the centre. Kiran, the founder of Anahata, runs his centre based on principles of Ayervedic medicine and he has 5 years experience working with children who have disabilities. The space will be somewhere disabled children and children with injuries can come for rehabilitation, and various treatments such as massage, art therapy and yoga.

Work is also underway to construct new rooms out of natural materials such as mud, water and wood. We will write more about the project soon but for the moment we just wanted to share with you some of the photos JJ has taken so far whilst shooting for the crowdfunding video.

Don’t Worry, Be Hampi

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After a strange feverish travel of 1 taxi, 1 bus, 3 tuk-tuks, 1 train and a boat we finally arrived in the peaceful place of Hampi. I write this sitting in ‘The Laughing Budha’ restaurant overlooking the river and intricately carved temples on the other side. Sitar music with devotional chant is playing on the speakers and despite my travel bug, I’m feeling very calm sipping on lemon & ginger tea.

Arriving here was much easier than expected, the trains are pretty self explanatory and local people have been so helpful if we get lost or have any questions. Backpacks strapped on, we manoeuvred our way off the blue train and onto Hospet station. Following the flow of people moving to different platforms we headed in the wrong direction until a man pointed us towards the exit and started making offers for a ride to Hampi.

We piled into his rickshaw and set off on the rickety journey across busy roads, with the city well into the swing of late afternoon hustle and bustle. Soon enough we had reached the country side and passed banana plantations with their vibrant green jungle leaves flapping in the breeze. A breed of cow I’d never seen before walked with purpose past the road. They had grey, tough skin and low hanging skulls with thick horns balanced on top.

When we reached Hampi, we rolled down rocky, winding roads to reach a river where we clambered into a packed rowing boat. Women in brightly coloured saris washed their clothes, slapping the wet fabric off the rocks and laying them out to dry. Once on solid ground we had to sneak past a pack of growling dogs kicking up dust to mark their territory.

Next, we had a bit of that travelling synchronicity that makes you wide eyed with disbelief yet also gives you a simple knowing smile because things have a habit of fitting into place in unexpected ways. We stumbled upon exactly the person we were hoping to see but were doubting we’d actually bump into. Timo, a guy we met in the hostel in Vagator (12 hours journey away) had left his ID card and we picked it up for him, thinking we’d post it or try to organise finding him. As it happened he was leaving with his bags in tow at the same moment we were arriving with all our luggage and just like that we gave him back his ID card, exchanged news and said our farewells.

And so we ended up here at The Laughing Budha, with a lovely little hut and settled in for the night, anticipation bubbling away for the upcoming days spent in Hampi.

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After a trip to the local doctors I took medicine for 3 days and got better. One day when I was having an afternoon nap JJ came to get me because there was an elephant crossing the river with a man, we sat in awe watching the huge animal plod up a steep, stone staircase in the distance.

We spent the days relaxing, eating delicious food, drinking fresh coconut water and seeing all the local sights like beautiful temples, natural lakes and ruins. Our three friends from home came to meet us so we spent some fun days with them, catching up on our different adventures so far and sharing meals together. It was good to spend some time socialising and having a holiday before getting stuck into out next month of workaway placements where we will be working with local projects in exchange for food and board.

Before we knew it it was time to leave again. I had my last Astanga yoga class with a great teacher I’d met in Hampi and JJ chatted on to some other travellers before we got ready to pack our bags. Leaving on a high, just like in Vagator, we stepped back onto another blue train and spent the night sleeping on a hard bunk in a busy carriage, waking up to the sound of a man shouting ‘chai, chai, chai, coffee?’ doing his rounds for morning teas.

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Mysore here we come.