On a sunny Friday afternoon somewhere in Brooklyn two of the adventurers work with machine precision to complete and deliver the first gallery application for The Seven Percent. A heart pounding bike ride into Soho and a few close calls later, the package is delivered on time. On the road back to Brooklyn one of the adventures has a moment to look back and reflect. From the first second it was conceived, walking out of the opening of Mired in the Bayou, to the defeating layover in Istanbul after a month spent in India. The other adventurer is at home editing down the final quotes and doing some reflecting of his own. The road trip from New Delhi to Jaipur was the first thing that came to mind: 7 hours of swerving into oncoming traffic, dodging semi trucks loaded 3 times their maximum capacity.
We realized that we were meant to tell these 15 people’s stories.
We can’t wait.
On Thursday very early morning, fresh like two pink bhang-ed roses, Mike and Reed headed back to Ganesh’s house to take his portrait. Here is an outtake from the shoot.
When they came back, they had a bit of time to dedicate to our Indore favourite activity: using any amount of free time to take naps. And so before we knew it it was time to head to Sukwant Singh’s steel factory to interview him – of course after having lunch together, since there is hardly any minute in this trip when we are not being fed like white fat turkeys.
Anyway this time it wasn’t the food to leave us in complete awe, but this instead:
Sukwant’s steel factory.
Incredibly beautiful, and terrifying at the same time. A mix of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, Dante and English industrial revolution. Heat, fumes, and incandescent steel passing through the huge machine to become rods: it was absolutely incredible.
Mike looked like a child in a chocolate factory. Which lead to the conclusion that steel factories are better than dreaming of shooting ranges and having bhang for Mike. (Now I could make some really bad joke about the steel factory and him being a “still life” photographer, but I am so much better than that.)
Anyway, Mike was completely at home inside the factory, not to mention that he knew a whole lot about what was going on around us. Because, he says, he has worked in a steel factory when he was young. Can you believe it?
Yeah, neither can we.
Reed and I were impressed too, although I was also a bit scared from all that metal and sparkles and machinery sound, while Reed wasn’t. Because he is one tough chap.
So on Wednesday we woke up shortly after 3, which should be illegal by the way, and proceeded to Delhi’s airport impressive T3 to board our flight to Indore.
As I (Nalis) went through the security check, the lady who was frisking me looked at my boarding pass and asked: “You going to Indore?” To my positive answer she continued, with a mix of skepticism and surprise: “Why?”
Long story, Madam Ji, and for lack of a better answer I replied “business.” Which is sort of true.
The process was smooth and sleepy, however Mike showed to be more Italian than myself when he had a (very controlled, Mike style) freak out watching Reed and I get donuts and coffee while they had – goodness! – already opened our gate. But we made it to gate and flight, donuts and all, and at 7 am sharp we were were enjoying fresh air and sunrise walking on the tarmac to enter the world class facilities of Indore airport.
A short drive after, we were finally able to give an answer to the question of why we had flown to Indore: to see Daly College. “You won’t stop taking pictures,” warned Rashmi, welcoming us in the campus where we were staying.
She gave us thirty minutes to freshen up and have tea, then summoned us to the school principal’s bungalow where we had fantastic breakfast and conversation with Mr Singh, the principal himself.
We also got to meet his dog, the first of a long and amazing series of Indore dogs.
As we discussed The Seven Percent more in detail at the breakfast table, it became evident that visiting Daly College’s campus was not the main purpose of our trip to Indore, although only sadly so, because the only tour of the city we had left us with the impression that the school is one of the most interesting sights in town, and certainly the only one to have emus on display. Real emus.
(Wondering what an emu looks like? Here is your Wikipedia entry and while you read it consider donating some money to Wiki so all those lovely employees can stop begging and go back to their job of filling your mind with knowledge you can’t be bothered to retain.)
Emus aside, something else in the campus got us pretty excited. Or, to be more specific, got Mike super excited. As she drove us back to the room where we were about to take the first of our two two-hour naps, Rashmi mentioned the presence of a shooting range in the college. Hearing that, Mike couldn’t stop smiling and, with stars coming out of his eyes, he tried to convince us to try it out. I ignored the offer because I am a pacifist and very clumsy. Reed seemed only vaguely more interested, not enough anyway to prefer shooting to napping.
The rest of the morning and afternoon proceeded smoothly. Nap. Lunch. Walk in the campus with Rashmi, visit to the pond, and no shooting. You know that narrative rule saying if there is a pistol (or a shooting range) mentioned in a story at some point there will be shooting? It doesn’t apply to this story, so don’t get your hopes up or you’ll end up just as disappointed as Mike.
Anyway, a second restoring nap, no shooting, and a number of organisational phone calls later, we were on our way to our first shoot with Ganesh, who is related to Indore’s royal family.
And because they know exactly how to behave in front of royalty, Reed and Mike decided the shoot was the perfect occasion to try bhang. What is bhang? Here is your Wikipedia entry folk (and if you didn’t donate before you may want to do it now).
When in India, as they say.
But that’s another story, one that they may (or may not) want to tell by themselves. All I’ll disclose is that Reed discovered he doesn’t much like moving in slow-motion, while Mike seemed even happier than when, earlier in the day, thought we were going to spend some time at the shooting range.
After 6 hours of driving through what seemed like a visual history of mankind, we arrived in India’s beloved Chandigarh — one of the wealthiest cities in the country. With pride, everyone will tell you the city was planned first and then built – so it was an eye opener to see a city in this country that functions so well. On this trip we had the pleasure of working with the charming and well-connected journalist Mahima Kaul… In the background, the doctor began his training as a photo assistant.