Passionati

Photography & Art

Don Alney re-interprets the Bombay Skyline

My father, Don Alney, working from the top of an “old Bombay” skyscraper has interpreted a skyscape that portrays Bombay, Mumbai -whatever the hell you want to call it – and has tremendous truth to it. It shows the immenseness, the density, the construction, the obscenity (read: Ambani private residence which is the massive structure to the right of the image) and much more. Part Blade Runner, Part Dhobi Ghat – to me. I see the work of a man that is taken with a scene that shows the globalization of India, the massive divide between the rich and everyone else, and the romance of a city that has its own stories, its own fairy tales, its own tragedies, its own myths. This is a side of the city that is separate, in its solace and in its growth skywards, and yet only a tiny fraction of what happens there.

Duncan Alney is equally inspired by Wyclef Jean, Brian Eno, and Kieslowski. He’s living the American Dream with his wife Angela and their cats Boogie, Pookie and Zooie.


Derby Hats 2011 – The bigger the better

Our style maven, Margit Fawbush, brings us the scoop from Churchill Downs

The much anticipated first Saturday in May is a treat for people watchers and horse-racing fans alike. Yes, I love watching the ponies run (and placing a few bets as the Juleps grease my pocketbook), but mostly, I love the hats. Here are a few that stood out – both in a good way and well…it’s a matter of opinion. But I can tell you with confidence that these ladies looked long and hard for just the right chapeau and spent a pretty penny. And in honor of the die-hard Derby fans who take a more tongue in cheek approach – I’ve included a shot of a long-standing annual favorite – she’s got spunk!

Margit Fawbush is an aficionado of restaurant experiences, boutique hotels and is currently seeking the perfect Gin & Tonic.



Don Alney’s POV: Himachal Pradesh – a Dream from a Poem

Village Headman's Wife by Don Alney

My Himachal odyssey is complete, and I head for Chandigarh to catch my flight home.

I reflect on my fleeting sojourn through this state in India, and softly, very softly, like a paper lantern on a night wind, I relive my journey, my eyes feelin disconnected to my body, yet linked to my heart. I realise that I have been exposed to an awe-inspiring kaleidoscope of scenic splendour, serenity, and serendipity. I have seen the sparkle and heard the murmur of mountain streams. I have walked on narrow pathways through lush forests exploding in a thousand shades of green. I have watched glorious sunsets behind towering peaks. I have stood in ancient temples and heard the haunting whispers of their timeless silence. However, my most deeply cherished memories of Himachal are the laughter and camaraderie, the graciousness, and the warm hospitality of its gentle and happy people, which I was privileged to share.

And somewhere in Himachal, I lost my heart.

by Don Alney

If you enjoyed this check out

The Cold of the Rain and the Warmth of a Tree

Don Portrait

Don Alney is a freelance travel writer and photographer, seeking the ‘forever moment.’ Email don d at vsnl.com. Check out this stuff here.


Through John Bragg’s Eyes: Vienna

Vienna by John Bragg

Vienna is a fantastic city.  Whether you want to visit a restaurant like Brezel-Gwölb that claims to have invented the pretzel, eat world-famous Sachertorte cake at the Sacher Café,  visit the 700 year old St. Stephen’s Cathedral, learn the history of the Lipizzaner Horses or tour the Schönbrunn Palace, there is plenty to see and do.  It’s a bustling, clean city that is very inviting and easy to get around by tram, buses, subway or your feet.

John Bragg travels the world. He’s a photographer by vocation. He’s a story teller who catalogs his encounters with architecture, food, and people. His work has been featured in national and international publications.

www.johnbragg.com
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Through John Bragg’s Eyes: Santorini

Thira, Santorini, Greece

With all of the reports about Greece’s financial problems in the news, I thought I would post a photo from my trip to Greece.  The island of Santorini in Greece is fantastic in October.  The temperatures were in the mid 70’s and the tourist season is winding down. Five days of my ten day trip to Greece was spent on this island and it was time well spent.  There is a reason this is the most popular of the Greek Islands.  The villages are dramatically perched on the top of the cliff and they overlook the volcano and the sea.  I stayed in the village called Thira, but it’s a relatively short hike to get to the other villages.  And there is an amazing sunset view in the village of Oia.  It was funny trying to navigate around the outskirts of the island because they didn’t seem to care too much about street signs.  So, trying to follow a map was comical.  But, it wasn’t really frustrating because there weren’t a lot of road options anyway.  I spent time on the black beach (called this because the sand is black volcanic sand), rode a donkey down the side of the cliff, and ate plenty of greek salads and drank my share of Mykonos beer.  A side note on the salad: a true Greek salad consists of tomatoes, cucumbers, green bell peppers, red onion, kalamata olives, olive oil and a slice of feta cheese.  No lettuce on this salad.  If you ever have a chance to visit Greece be sure to spend at least a few days in Santorini.  Opa!!


John Bragg travels the world. He’s a photographer by vocation. He’s a story teller who catalogs his encounters with architecture, food, and people. His work has been featured in national and international publications.

www.johnbragg.com
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David Lehman: When a Woman Loves a Man

When a Woman Loves a Man by David Lehman

When she says margarita she means daiquiri.
When she says quixotic she means mercurial.
And when she says, “I’ll never speak to you again,”
she means, “Put your arms around me from behind
as I stand disconsolate at the window.”

He’s supposed to know that.

When a man loves a woman he is in New York and she is in Virginia
or he is in Boston, writing, and she is in New York, reading,
or she is wearing a sweater and sunglasses in Balboa Park and he
is raking leaves in Ithaca
or he is driving to East Hampton and she is standing disconsolate
at the window overlooking the bay
where a regatta of many-colored sails is going on
while he is stuck in traffic on the Long Island Expressway.

When a woman loves a man it is one ten in the morning
she is asleep he is watching the ball scores and eating pretzels
drinking lemonade
and two hours later he wakes up and staggers into bed
where she remains asleep and very warm.

When she says tomorrow she means in three or four weeks.
When she says, “We’re talking about me now,”
he stops talking. Her best friend comes over and says,
“Did somebody die?”

When a woman loves a man, they have gone
to swim naked in the stream
on a glorious July day
with the sound of the waterfall like a chuckle
of water rushing over smooth rocks,
and there is nothing alien in the universe.

Ripe apples fall about them.
What else can they do but eat?

When he says, “Ours is a transitional era,”
“that’s very original of you,” she replies,
dry as the martini he is sipping.

They fight all the time
It’s fun
What do I owe you?
Let’s start with an apology
Ok, I’m sorry, you dickhead.
A sign is held up saying “Laughter.”
It’s a silent picture.
“I’ve been fucked without a kiss,” she says,
“and you can quote me on that,”
which sounds great in an English accent.

One year they broke up seven times and threatened to do it
another nine times.

When a woman loves a man, she wants him to meet her at the
airport in a foreign country with a jeep.
When a man loves a woman he’s there. He doesn’t complain that
she’s two hours late
and there’s nothing in the refrigerator.

When a woman loves a man, she wants to stay awake.
She’s like a child crying
at nightfall because she didn’t want the day to end.

When a man loves a woman, he watches her sleep, thinking:
as midnight to the moon is sleep to the beloved.
A thousand fireflies wink at him.
The frogs sound like the string section
of the orchestra warming up.
The stars dangle down like earrings the shape of grapes.

Note: thank you Swapan for sending this to me.


Lovely “Billy Collins” poem you can’t miss

Here is the most beautiful poem I’ve read in a while. Thanks to my pal Swapan Seth for sharing it.

Forgetfulness
by Billy Collins

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.



Cows, Alp Horns, Chocolate and that Stinky Cheese


Processional of cows through Appenzell, Switzerland by John Bragg

In late August and early September the cows process from the mountains through the town and are guided by whistling and singing herders wearing formal traditional attire.  The cows are wearing either massive cow bells or flowers.  It’s a pretty entertaining site to see.  One of the other funny experiences I had while in Appenzell was while purchasing some of the local cheese called Appenzeller.  Before I even set foot in the cheese shop, I was overwhelmed by the smell emanating from the shop.  There was a very pungent smell akin to smelly feet.  My friends and I forged ahead and stood inside the shop and we stood there just laughing.  I couldn’t believe how they could work in this place.  But, part of the experience is to eat like the locals so I purchased some cheese for a picnic we were going to have in the Alps.  We took the bag of cheese with us on the train and it was funny watching the people who were considering sitting across the aisle from us.  Several people looked at us and smelled the cheese and went and sat somewhere else.  Finally, an elderly woman sat across from us and proceeded to look out the window…….with her finger covering her nostrils.   Priceless.  The cheese is simply called Appenzeller and you can find it in finer cheese shops.  It’s great stuff and the kind I have bought in the states doesn’t smell that bad.  Try it some time.   My all time favorite Swiss cheese is Gruyere.  Try the cave-aged kind and you will understand what truly great cheese tastes like.

John Bragg travels the world. He’s a photographer by vocation. He’s a story teller who catalogs his encounters with architecture, food, and people. His work has been featured in national and international publications.

www.johnbragg.com
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Clintel Steed: Portrait of Stephanie

Portrait of Stephanie (oil, 72×52) by Clintel Steed


New York Art: Catherine Lepp

Based in NY, Catherine Lepp’s work in at once intriguing and complex. Passionati’s Angela Alney caught up with Catherine. Here’s how it went.

Catherine Lepp - Belly

Catherine Lepp - Ceiling 1

Catherine Lepp Ceiling 2

Catherine Lepp - Flying

Catherine Lepp - Kick

Catherine Lepp - Whirlpool

Catherine on Catherine:
I see the open water as the last truly unquantifiable and ungovernable frontier. Its controlling tides dictate our ebb and flow and its rhythms remain beyond our authority. The flux of water questions our senses and threatens our equilibrium, as it also challenges our survival instincts. Of all the elements, water seems to have the most emotional impact upon the human psyche, as the perception of ourselves can change as rapidly as the water around us.

I am presenting an exploration of this psychology of water through abstraction and figuration. In particular, how a figure deals with the complexities of water and its unpredictable force, whether it is a figure trying to stay afloat or survive a wave. To date, my images have been probing the memory of figures within water, and how to translate that idea into paint and mark making. I am searching for ways to convey the sensation of swimming, floating or surfing through colour and line. My figures emerge from the water and dissolve below, as feet and hands and heads push through the water towards the air or are distilled and distorted by the refracted light underneath. The figures are un-located in their environment, they are not held by a shoreline, but I am trying to pin down their movements with paint and to capture moments in time with shifts in space and colour.

My first paintings were conceived as diptychs, as concurrent moments of time and memory in the water. These were to be viewed on the ceiling to remove the figure from the vertical plane, thinking of the Baroque and Rococo paintings where figures fall from a limitless sky. Recently, I have been working on drawings on a long scroll, where the figures exist in a time line of their movement in the water. The ink drawing is suspended in the white of the paper, held by the narrative of the scroll. The images are abstract in construct and concept, but figurative in interpretation, they are slow to read, the line a metaphor for the mystery of evaporation, of how things can be read then disappear.

Passionati:  Which artists have influenced you?

Catherine: The artists that are in my mind as I create these paintings are Joan Mitchell, Francis Bacon and Michealangelo. How they deal with figures in landscape, appearing and disappearing with the line or mark.

Passionati: What musically inspires when you are creating your work?

Catherine: I like the randomness of my iPod on shuffle, I have 3 days worth of Dub from my brother in the UK, Scientist, king Tubby and Lee Scratch Perry. I listen to lots of British music & radio stations from Jarvis Cocker to Shirley Bassey.

Connect with Catherine

Catherine Lepp near water


Philadelphia knows how to party!

Magical Musical Marvelous Mummers

Philadelphia knows how to party. And on no day is that clearer than each January 1st, when scores of burly brutes (the same ones who normally pound cheese steaks and brews screaming E-A-G-L-E-S: EAGLES!!!) don themselves in bedazzled costume and clown face playing fantastic music while strutting down Broad Street in the Mummer’s Parade.

It’s quite a sight, and afterwards, everyone skips down to “Two Street” (the local term for the stretch of 2nd street between Washington and Oregon Avenues where many of the Mummer’s Clubhouses are located) to imbibe in the revelry and magic of a Philadelphia tradition started in the 17th century – and exclusive to our fair city.

Check out the pics below, and, next year, come experience the magical musical mayhem yourself!

"It's heavy," this Mummer said to me as I took his picture, "and the wind really sucks."

This beplumed Mummer stopped strutting to pose with fans along the parade route (at Spruce and Broad streets)

The Captain of each Mummer's Club is always out in front, the first one to strut!

Music and Marching

C6:Face mask for added effect

Feathers, sequins, saxophones, oh my!

Willing to Work

Slappin' the bass while struttin' the strut

Post-performance revelry on 15th and Locust streets

Mummers perform at the Judges Stand in front of City Hall as the wind whips up confetti

Three Mummers whoopin' it up after performing. They assured me that their solo cups "just had water in them."

Mummertime!

Costumes often cost thousands of dollars...

Daddy Mummer, ready to party.

In front of the Mummers Museum on "Two Street" - party on, Philly!

Down on "Two Street" after the Parade, the real party begins.

– Kate Dalbey (Click Kate’s name to follow her adventures via twitter)


Photo Essay: Bridge to Zadar

Zadar Passionati

Photograph is of a pedestrian bridge that brings people to and from the historic walled port city of Zadar, Croatia.  Shot in Sep 09.

Photograph by Richard Boyle


Don Alney: Payyambalam Beach

Payyambalam Beach

Payyambalam Beach (c) Don Alney

Instead of Don writing this time, he wanted us to ask you, the reader, where this picture takes you, what it says to you, and how you feel when you look at it. We’d all love to hear from you either here or on the facebook fan page!

– Photo by Don Alney


VooDoo Music Experience 2009:: Photos

Voodoo Experience commonly known as Voodoo Fest (mostly by locals) is a multi-day music festival in New Orleans, Louisiana that was originally held on Halloween weekend in 1999, it has since moved between the weekend before Halloween and Halloween weekend throughout the years. The festival returned to Halloween weekend in 2009.

Headlining this year’s festival were Kiss, Eminem, Jane’s Addiction, Widespread Panic, and The Flaming Lips. Eminem announced on his Sirius satellite radio show, Shady45, that the Voodoo Experience would be his only performance in 2009.

photos by: Adam Yale


Eva Mendes billboard: too sexy?

So there’s some controversy about the new Calvik Klein billboard that features actress Eva Mendes, in revealing lingerie, draped around model Jamie Dorman. The billboard takes up the entire side of a building on the corner of Houston Street and Lafayette Street in Soho, New York City.

What do you think? Is it too sexy? Is it pornography?

Evan Mendes Billboard

© GARDINER ANDERSON / CARLOS VILA/Bauer-Griffin

– Duncan Alney


Hotel Boudoir by Greg Perez

Greg Perez' new series Hotel Boudoir start here.

Greg Perez' new series Hotel Boudoir starts here.

Inspired by film noir and his love for the feminine form, Greg Perez has created sheer magic and has shared the first frame of his soon to be published Hotel Boudoir collection with passionati. It’s designed to capture the magic of photography from their 30’s, not to mention it makes a pretty wickedly tasty gift for a significant other.
Greg-Perez-by-Duncan-Alney

Greg Perez is a Cuban-American. He’s the happiest guy I know. Invested in his work 100%, he’s a process photographer. Painstaking in his approach, and committed to aesthetics and bringing his value system to his images. Greg Perez is on the rise.

– Duncan Alney


Arches National Park – Delicate Arch

See them in the whispering light of a gently warm sunrise, or the blaze of a fiery sunset: the spectacular configurations of Arches and Canyonlands National Park conjure up a sense of the incredible, and the enchanted. The particulars of plants, animals, and traces of human presence pale in the desolate, overwhelming splendour of gigantic and impossibly sculpted rock formations. Sandstone archways, gorges, spires, domes, crags, conspicuously isolated hills and plateaus tease and fire our minds, stimulate reflection, and virtually beg for protection.

Delicate-Arch-Don-Alney

Delicate Arch (c) Don Alney


Delicate Arch is a secluded reminder of a long-gone geological epoch. It soars above the edge of a canyon, and stands framed against the stunning background of the La Sal range of mountains on one side, and against the deep blue sky on the other. It has become an iconic sign of the park as well as the close-by town of Moab. In fact, it has become a symbol of the entire Canyon country, and the state of Utah. Towering spires, pinnacles, and massive rocks precariously balanced on the brink of incredibly inadequate foundations, compete with the arches as stunning displays of nature’s idiosyncrasies.

Don Portrait

Don Alney is a freelance travel writer and photographer, seeking the ‘forever moment.’ Email don d at vsnl.com. Check out this stuff here


In Person: Rajina

rejina

Rajina’s about the things that matter. Whether it’s family, friends or helping a stranger. Unfailingly happy anywhere. She’s inimitable, hip, and everywhere at once, with the power to bring out gut laughter from those around her.

Despite living and working in social media, I’m still significantly driven by people I know in person. Whether it’s the subtle nuances of their eyes or how they own a room when they walk into it, it’s their personal charisma that I love – regardless of whether it’s high or low profile. Here’s the first group of people I know, presented how I see them. They’re people I admire or love, in their own way. The images were selected to tie in specifically to how I see each of them, individually.

Duncan Alney


Lauren by Greg Perez

lauren-by-greg-perez

Agent provocateur Greg Perez is redefining himself and the people around him.

Greg-Perez-by-Duncan-Alney

Greg Perez is a Cuban-American. He’s the happiest guy I know. Invested in his work 100%, he’s a process photographer. Painstaking in his approach, and committed to aesthetics and bringing his value system to his images. Greg Perez is on the rise.

– Duncan Alney


Escape to Jaisalmer, India’s fortress city in 5 minutes with Don Alney


Don Alney travel story Entry Way

Peerless and irresistible, the fortress-city of Jaisalmer towers tall and proud, in lonely grandeur. To me it is reminiscent of a many splendored phoenix, arising from the burning sands of the Thar Desert, and ready to soar into the pale blue of the desert sky.


Jaisalmer possesses some of Rajasthan’s most exotic yellow stone mansions, most of which are situated along a lane which, seen in the early morning sunlight, seems carved out of burnished gold. Built during the 18th and 19th centuries, the delicate latticed windows and skilfully carved walls, the superb stone carvings and the architectural magnificence of these havelis, are the siren songs that have lured countless tourists to Jaisalmer. Of its many lovely mansions, there are three, which are sheer poetry, in stone. However, the indisputable piece de resistance is the celebrated Patwon-ki-Haveli. The beauty and the grandeur of these mansions narrate a saga of hard sandstone yielding to the chisels of skilled sculptors, brought all the way from Jodhpur. The magnificent buildings soar five storeys in their ochre-gold splendour. Their graceful pillars, remarkably designed corridors, elegant chambers, delicate latticework windows and breathtakingly carven balconies make Jaisalmer a thing of beauty, — and a joy forever.


Don Portrait
Don Alney is a freelance travel writer and photographer, seeking the ‘forever moment.’ Email don d at vsnl.com. Check out this stuff here


In Person: Lindsay Manfredi

lindsay2

The one and only, Lindsay Manfredi.

Lindsay Manfredi

She’s talented, with a story to tell that is bound to be raw, sexy, and full of surprises. Lindsay is
ready to launch. Essentially, she’s in love with life. Find her on twitter.com/lindsaymanfredi

Despite living and working in social media, I’m still significantly driven by people I know in person. Whether it’s the subtle nuances of their eyes or how they own a room when they walk into it, it’s their personal charisma that I love – regardless of whether it’s high or low profile. Here’s the first group of people I know, presented how I see them. They’re people I admire or love, in their own way. The images were selected to tie in specifically to how I see each of them, individually.


A DAY ON KERALA’S ENCHANTED WATERWAYS

A small house boat - Kollam

It is claimed that Kerala is the third most popular destination in the world. It has something special to woo every visitor, — from lush green forests, beautiful blue hills, superb wildlife sanctuaries to clean, golden beaches and palm fringed backwaters. My prime focus is on the placid beauty of Kerala’s southern Backwaters, which are unique and exclusive to this state. It is a luxuriantly verdant, somnolent and wet landscape which, mercifully has not yet been assailed by the style gurus, and transformed into a model of 21st century chic.

The Backwaters are instrumental in shaping the life style of its inhabitants and in addition, provide an extraordinary means of transportation. Kerala’s ancient, unusual geographical legacy has remained largely unchanged over the slow passage of many centuries. It is a labyrinth of shimmering waterways consisting of countless dreamy lagoons, gently curving waterways, wet and vividly green paddy fields, swaying palm trees, and a singularly gentle, happy people. I happily surrender to the siren song of this unique corner of India. I am equally delighted to find a conspicuous absence of the hassle and aggression that invariably confronts most tourists, in Northern India. The coastal Kerala I know is friendly, laid-back and fun, and its people have learned to harmonise with nature, and live off its generous bounty.

My cruise from Kollam to Alappuzha is a singularly exhilarating eight hours journey through places exploding in a thousand shades of green. It is my first, fascinating encounter with a verdant Venice, where nature, instead of man, has created the glory.

I hire a small houseboat, which has a single bedroom with an attached toilet and shower, an open upper deck for lounging, and a kitchenette. For company, I have two oarsmen and a cook, who minister silently and unobtrusively to my needs. On enquiry, I learn that most Kettuvalloms or houseboats, are built in the nearby boat-building town of Alumkadavu. Originally, these were used as cargo carriers, but have since been ingeniously adapted to fashion some of the most luxuriously furnished means of transport. A few of these giant crafts are 80 feet in length. Constructed with great skill and care, these houseboats consist of two bedrooms with attached bathrooms, an open lounge, a kitchenette and a crew comprising oarsmen, a cook and if required, a guide. The cuisine available on board is enriched with exotic tropical vegetables, fruits, cereals, seafood and herbs. The meals are garnished with the distinctive aroma of pepper, cardamom, chillies and cloves, — spices that lured explorers like Marco Polo and Vasco da Gama from across the seas. It is a holistic, natural fare and follows the tenets of Ayurveda, but is tailored to suit individual preferences.

Our little boat whispers through calm waters, along shallow lakes with shorelines thickly wooded with coconut palms. These are frequently dotted with cantilevered, Chinese fishing nets. I am informed that this system of fishing was imported into Kerala from China during the 13th century, while Kublai Khan’s marauding Mongols were ravaging much of Asia.

I sit on a deckchair, a straw hat shielding my eyes from the sun. The soft, soothing murmur of calm waters and swaying palms gradually unwinds my tightly coiled nerves, and I willingly surrender to the magic of the waterways. With the silent grace of a swan, our craft moves smoothly along narrow, sun-dappled canals. Through half closed eyes, I see coir, copra and cashews being loaded into boats. I watch peddlers in small canoes moving from canal to lake, to lagoon, to canal, vending their wares from house to house. I lazily observe and marvel at the picture perfect, simple and smooth lives of these happy people who fish, and play and plant and harvest and sing, in a seamless, unending cycle of simple needs and simple solutions.

A small group of children swim near the shore. They wave out to me and I wave back. I note that one of them is scarcely three years old. At my look of enquiry, one of the oarsmen laughs and remarks that here, life revolves around the water, and children learn to swim before they walk. Often they learn to manage a small boat before learning to cope with a bicycle. I laugh in response, and throw a handful of cellophane wrapt sweets, onto the shore. The children whoop in delight and scramble ashore after the goodies. I chuckle and reach for the glass of chilled beer thoughtfully placed at my elbow, by the smiling boat attendant. I convey my thanks with an appreciative smile.

While my eyes take in the rustic life passing by, my palate is pampered with backwater delicacies, by the houseboat chef. The lunch consists of kappa, meen curry and rice. The hot red fish curry with steamed tapioca is not only mouth watering, but makes my eyes water, as well. However, that does not stop me from taking a second helping. Cool, tender coconut water and a scoop of its soft white flesh, go a long way in soothing my outraged tongue. The meal is rounded off with a generous helping of payasum, a sweet, rich milk delicacy prepared with vermicelli, dried fruits in a rice paste. It is Kerala’s favourite dessert, and is prepared in scores of flavours and garnished with raisins and fried nuts. A brief half hour siesta on the deck, and I feel revitalized, with all the batteries of my body and mind fully recharged.

I find it incredible when, in quick succession, I pass a church half hidden in a thick grove of coconut palms and, barely a minute later, a temple nestling close to a mosque. I have known for a long time, but never really appreciated the fact that Kerala is a crossroads of various faiths. It is a place where Christians, Moslems and Jews planted their first markers in India. Later, I shall see a plethora of beautiful churches, mosques and temples, and in Kochi, an incredibly beautiful 16th century synagogue. It is a remarkable lesson in happy co-existence.

Evening draws near and the western sky puts on a magnificent display of colour and light as the thin, scattered clouds, are tinctured with numerous shades of gold, crimson, coral, mauve and deep blue. As the sun sets in a blaze of colour, I realise that the magic of the backwaters reaches the pinnacle of its glory, in the shimmering hours before dusk.

From somewhere not too faraway, the wind carries the rich strains of a boatman’s song. My heart joins in his song and, nursing a glass of single malt in hand, my thoughts drift in a euphoric half trance of serenity. The world prepares for the night hours as the sky reluctantly relinquishes its rich palette of colours, while the dark velvet of the night tiptoes across the firmament.

My mind is lost in wonder at the incredible numbers of stars swarming across the night sky, and my heart is overwhelmed by the lyrical sounds of the night. Stillness blends with stillness, and the darkness whispers to itself. I feel overwhelmed by a sense of intense serendipity within and around me, as I continue my enchanted voyage.

Life can be so simple. And beautiful.

© DON ALNEY

Website  www.donalney.com

Facts File

GETTING THERE:

By Air: Airports at Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode link Kerala nationally and internationally.

By Rail: Connections are available from all important cities in India.

By Road: Services from all tourist centres in India. The Kerala Road Transport Corporation and private bus services provide transportation to just about anywhere in Kerala.

BOAT TRIPS

The normal State ferry leaves Kollam for Alappuzha daily. The State Water Transport Service Ferry also departs from Kollam at the same time.

For those who desire more space on board, the Alappuzha Tourism Development Co-operative Society operates boats that leave on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The backwater trip starts in the morning. It takes a little over eight hours. Shorter trips are also organised from Kochi.

SHOPPER’S PARADISE

Kerala’s unique shopping offers include the renowned Aranmula mirrors. These are fashioned out of metal and produced at Arunmula, a small town near Alappuzha. The mirrors are made with a special alloy of copper, brass, lead and bronze. Once upon a time, these were an essential part of royal households. However, today these ornamental mirrors are rare, and only two artisans and their families still make these priceless objects de art.

Other souvenirs include carved wooden figurines, bell-metal products, handicrafts, coir-products, and antique arts including paintings, brassware and wood works.

While shopping, do not forget to nibble at the piping hot banana chips sold straight from the frying pan, and available at most roadside kiosks.


In Person: Joey V

Joe Vuskovich: the essential bon vivant

Joe Vuskovich: the essential bon vivant

Joe Vuskovich

Joe is the quintessential bon-vivant & lover of humanity. Beyond the brand called Joe – there’s a man. Optimistic, passionate, quietly contemplative, humble, and with the power to spread joy around him.

– Photo and story by Duncan Alney

Despite living and working in social media, I’m still significantly driven by people I know in person. Whether it’s the subtle nuances of their eyes or how they own a room when they walk into it, it’s their personal charisma that I love – regardless of whether it’s high or low profile. Here’s the first group of people I know, presented how I see them. They’re people I admire or love, in their own way. The images were selected to tie in specifically to how I see each of them, individually.