“Sir, can I help you Sir!” Before I even got the chance to find out where my train to Bangalore was departing, a really funny little man took care of me like a true director. He pushed people out of the way and guided me straight to my seat. I gave him my last coins, and there I was; second class. Next to me were sitting two man; a shy, thin one and a heavy weight. The opposite side was taken by a young family. Their little daughter got all the attention; mom and dad had hardly any contact. The father spoke a little English and while driving, he became sort of an interpreter, although nobody was really talkative. On every station where we stopped, people entered the train, trying to sell stuff, polish shoes or whatever for a little money. On one of those stops a leper came crawling in. He looked up at me with his one eye; the other eye was dead-white. Then he stretched his hand towards me. I shivered. It was just a stump; no fingers; and a few coins in the middle. I grabbed my wallet. The smallest money I had was a 10 rupiah bank-note. My travel-companions looked as if they were struck by lightning. I asked if anyone could change my 10 rupiah bank-note into smaller money. There was someone with two 5-banknotes; but that was it. The leper was still looking at me with his one eye. I gave him a 5 rupiah bank-note. Everyone trembled. He lay all his coins on the seat; but I didn’t want them. Then he crawled out of the train, while the whistles for departure blew. None of my travel-companions spoke a word to me after this.
Bombay, 02:00. The cab-driver didn’t speak a word English, but when I showed him the name of the hotel I had booked, he nodded his head… We drove and drove. Outside it was horror. People sleeping naked in the open air; weird agglomerates of shelter-roofs made of corrugated iron, plastic and other, tied together junk. People, kids, dogs, chickens and little fires underneath them. And then that awful smell. The cab-driver started to make noises and gestures which gave me the unpleasant feeling that he hadn’t the slightest idea where to bring me. “Victoria Railway Station”, I said, because I knew my hotel was somewhere close to that station. And we drove on. Suddenly he stopped and pointed at a huge, old building: Victoria Railway Station. While I showed him the address of my hotel, three noisy guys came towards us. Fortunately one of them spoke a little English and they managed to explain to the cab-driver where my hotel was. Great guys! According to my little diary, that I traced this morning, I entered my hotel-room around 03:45. The boy that brought me to my room poured me some water; and then he waited. After a small tip, he left the room. I switched on the rusty ‘airco’. It made a terrible noise. So I had to decide: heat or noise. I chose noise, because it sounded a bit familiar, like the engine of the Boeing that had brought me to this place.
Next morning I walked to Victoria Railway Station, to buy me a train-ticket to Bangalore. It took more than an hour; and the extreme airco almost gave me a cold.
While walking through the streets of Bombay, a police officer joined me. He offered me a banana and asked where I was from. Then he asked whether I wanted to buy some drugs. I said no and immediately he crossed the street and disappeared. Astonished I moved on.
How things can change. About a month ago I complimented a post with shots from slides, including the fingertips that held the slides, with the original way of presenting (old) slides. I ended up my comment with saying that it would take too much time to digitize my old slides and that they would not show-up on my blog. 2 Weeks later I visited one of my best friends who (unfortunately for our friendship) was packing his stuff to head for Kuala Lumpur, where his wife had found a new job. He wasn’t in the position to take a lot of belongings and he asked if I was interested in his DiaFilmScanner. So I took the thing home and digitized a couple of slides the next day. I wasn’t smashed by the quality, after I had imported them into Lightroom. Hardly any dynamic range. But when I switched to B&W, the shots started to gain some ‘old-on-the-road’-character, which I liked. And it is also fun to re-live an old trip while going through slides I haven’t seen for many years. Here is the first one. It was taken in Bombay; and the first thing I saw when I stepped out of my hotel, the morning after my arrival. On the other side of the road were lots of junk-sheds like these in the dirt; and: people were actually living in them …..
(looks best full screen; click once; and once more on the image and then F11)