India Exposed By Clive Limpkin

Award-winning photojournalist Clive Limpkin shares some extracts and photos from his book, India Exposed….

A fisherman struggles through water hyacinth to his Backwaters boat

A fisherman struggles through water hyacinth to his Backwaters boat

For most first-time visitors to India, it’s a gamble whether this overloaded, overpopulated, over-cooked, overlooked, anarchistic madhouse will have you vowing never to go near again, or booking the next trip — no matter what the cost. When friends ask for one good reason to visit, I offer them a billion — it’s the people. Whether because of the Hindu belief in karma, or due to acceptance of caste lot, nowhere else do you get so many disarming smiles or waves in warm greeting. These salutations come not from those seeking your tourist dollar but from millions upon millions with nothing to their name who act like they’ve just won life’s lottery and want you to share it. And maybe they have. Each visit to India brings a small but perceptive change to personal ambitions and Western material priorities, downgrading the urgency of another raise, a bigger car, or a facelift. India is the real world—and most of the time, it smiles at you.

Matching this enveloping welcome is a serendipity of surprises that I’ve met nowhere else in the world. The jaw-dropping frequency of unbelievable sights and experiences makes you laugh out loud or burns your conscience.

Palm fronds are sailed across Lake Vembanand at dusk

Palm fronds are sailed across Lake Vembanand at dusk

Rajasthan’s Golden Triangle is the go-to region with its incredible colours, costume and variety. But with popularity comes tourism and with tourism comes crowds, traffic jams, begging and inflated prices.

Yet for those that seek the real India, there is nothing to beat a leisurely cruise of the Keralan Backwaters in a converted rice boat, as here you are gently passing within touching distance of real Indians leading real lives and all without the blight of tourism. Serenely quiet, serenely smooth, this is the sweetest way to discover India.

An overloaded mudboat

An overloaded mudboat

India is home to some 28, 000 elephants that live in the wild. Spending twenty hours a day eating 10 per cent of its body weight, the Indian elephant uses six sets of teeth over its sixty-year life span. India also has about 3, 800 elephants in captivity, 800 of them in the state of Kerala, where they are most revered. Festooned with richly embroidered caparisons, they take pride of place in festivals and religious ceremonies. Many Hindu temples have their own elephants, donated by devotees.

India Exposed – The Subcontinent A-Z by Clive Limpkin is published by Abbeville Press and available from Amazon.