"The mostly sonorous echoes of worship chants that wash across the city, accompanied by the relentless horns from cars and rickshaws, not sounded in aggression, but more of an 'I’m here'. Beautiful bright warm sunlight (and stunning sunsets). The acrid smell of burning plastic combined with intense wafts of flavourful incense. Rubbish on the street being snuffled up by pigs. The mosquitos. Vegetable curry, every night. Food poisoning from badly cooked rice. Finding a snake in your bedroom that was 'a little bit poisonous'.
"Being taken by your trusted rickshaw driver to his uncle’s textile shop (house) and not being allowed to leave until you’ve bought a custom made suit (although it fits like a dream). The Taj Mahal’s dubious Oreo and playing cards confiscation policy. Bunking down on the night train. Saffron buns and masala chai for breakfast. Not trusting the guide book.
"Peace, no sense of anger or aggression. Maharaja’s palaces, forts and stories of civil wars and debauchery. Being viewed as a walking open wallet. People staring at you, and one another, for as long as they want. Boys and men holding hands as a sign of friendship (in a country where homosexuality is outlawed). Nothing feeling quite finished or fit for purpose. No respect for my sense of order, structure and planning. Freedom found in openness."
These are the musings of Simon Bray, a Manchester-based documentary and landscape photographer who recently visited India, and is now sharing his experience of the trip in a series entitled The Limited Findings of a Westerner's Short Stay in Rajasthan, which is also available in a new book of the same name.
He adds: "India, a place of beauty, devout religious practice, colour, spices, a rich history, and all the things you’ve seen in the films. That doesn’t even come close. This place taught me more about myself than anywhere else I’ve been. It makes you eternally grateful for what you have at home and ashamed to know more of Britain’s colonial rule. A place that really does need to be experienced for itself, although without even a glimmer of getting anywhere close to understanding it."
All images courtesy of Simon Bray