The Rudiments of Beauty

Old Man in the Grim and Grime, Taxi Ride to Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport , Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India
Oh, in this ugliness

I struggle to see
The beauty here
In a world
Of grim and grime
Of damage and refuse

The hard task
On this spirit path
Find the beauty
In all things

But there is colour
Form and texture
Elements underlie design

And the dynamic
Of a captured moment

In an old man’s morning

Now I squint
So as to look beneath

The grime an old man’s eyes
See only as the way things are
Unaware of judging mind passing by

Now I detach
From thoughts of what should be
Carefully packed when I departed
Checked through baggage onto Delhi

These judgments then do I unpack
To toss them out, leave them behind
And soon enough detect
A harmony of form, a lively rhyme
There, in this song, the rudiments

Of beauty

From a taxi window
The road to Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport
Uttar Pradesh, India

Taken during travels, 2017

I stuck my camera out the taxi window, snapping over 140 frames in the first 20 minutes or so of the drive from Kashi (Old Varanasi) to the airport. I shot the photo for Absurd (a cow munching on streamers and ribbon pulled from a pile of city street garbage) on this same cab ride. The urban scenery the rest of the way varies very little from these shots. It’s a state of being repeating itself mile after mile all over India.

By North American standards, much of India’s infrastructure is shockingly beaten down, and in desperate need of a thorough scrub with a fresh coat of paint. (To be fair, the pile of refuse, neatly swept there by the army of astonishingly thorough night and morning street sweepers, will soon enough be picked up by the collection crew.)

Largely, I travel in order to discover these expectations and prejudices. I want to confront myself with the various ways my mind and the culture which formed it confines the possibilities and beauty of existence. India is something of an assault on western norms. That’s mostly a good thing in my books, though it can be overwhelming.

I spent the last two days of my trip photographing Delhi’s Chandni Chowk markets. A teeming cacophony of humanity. I’d spent an afternoon photographing there on the front end of the trip and was eager to get back for more. But on the last day it just got to be too much, even for a guy who loves being in the close press of a vast crowd. I kinda lost my mind a bit and ended up at the airport five and a half hours before my flight’s scheduled departure. Even there, I couldn’t relax; wound up like a top about to be released, I kept wandering around the check-in area.

Is it odd that I consider that a rewarding experience?