It’s not all about doing nothing

My routine of wake, ensure I hadn’t time to get to yoga, breakfast, beach, shower, dinner and bed was broken up on the Sunday with a morning of photography at Mapusa market, learning to use my Fuji camera and to shamefully ‘fess up to the mahoosive scratch on the lens, which was definitely not from overuse.

My photography lesson was with Francisco De Souza, settled in Goa running his photography business. We eventually met by Mapusa market, once I had a driver who’d been woken up and driven like a demon, doing the usual 40min journey in 25. Thankfully it was a Sunday and early so traffic and risk to life was reduced somewhat.

Sidestepping a most colourful vomit I met Francesco who was radiating energy and passion at 8.20 in the morning. A love of photography and of India was immediately apparent. My camera was up to the job, despite the scratch and after some work recalling the details of aperture, iso and shutter speed we set off to practise. Or in my case cower and go ‘wtf’. Actually, that’s not totally true.   You can’t.  When you’re focussing on trying to remember ‘big aperture, little aperture’ (insert 90s dance move here), shutter speed up or down and then be all artistic in the moment you kind of have to focus on technical and forget getting the photo to look too perfectly pretty. My brain however did turned to mush as I fumbled with the settings, things coming out too dark, too light, and trying to figure out the fix.

Flowers for sale, Mapusa market

However practice does indeed ‘make getting nowhere near to perfect but certainly small incremental improvement’ and after sizing up some flower garlands we moved to the bus station to photograph passengers, sellers and stall holders.  I was still Sally Slo-mo but I was getting the hang of the techie stuff, and slowly figuring out how to adjust the settings.

Didi’s fruit basket
Chillies ready for the pot
Snacks cooking at Mapusa Market

Cisco had a natural ease and seemed to know all the characters working in and around the bus station and the market.  I was introduced to Didi (older sister), a fruit seller who’s slightness belied her bad-ass street seller persona.  After the offer of a chai, she offered to pose for photos, much to the amusement and interest of those around her as well as herself.  I would have loved to have known her story as there is a lot behind her lively eyes.

Fruit seller and bad ass with a big smile at Mapusa market
Sharing a joke with Cisco

Once we had finished at the bus station, we moved into the flower market, and into another challenge of light, shade and asbestos.  The asbestos roof was being removed, and it lay around broken and in piles next to the sellers.  It goes without saying how unsafe that exposure was for all of those moving around, working amongst it, or even worse, clearing it up.

Flower garland making

The colours, the vibrancy were pure India, it’s what draws you back repeatedly to this country.  The richness from the smallest details.  I don’t know if it’s because it’s ‘other’, and I’m from a dull and overcast country but having the opportunity to capture those moments was hugely appreciated.

We moved into the fruit and veg market where the veggies were piled into spectacular displays in the shape of pyramids, rounds or just tidy heaps for customers to peruse and for me to practise my aperture settings. Meanwhile Cisco was exciting the stallholders with the magic trick of the removable thumb. He left to cries from those watching to repeat it, and a hurried flurry of attempts to work out how he had detached part of his thumb.

Across the way and standing by the entrance of the fish market to capture the comings and goings of the shoppers  It was picking up pace, in terms of customers now and it was a non-stop flow of humanity, whether it was shoppers, sellers or porters carrying fishboxes on their heads, weaving amongst the crowds, negotiating a wet and slippery floor.  Walking amongst the sellers you could see baby shark, and other small fish for sale.  Some fish were covered with sand, seemingly to ‘prove’ the freshness of the haul.  Outside was the fishmongers who would gut and clean your purchases, mesmerising to watch the dexterity of the knife handlers.

We watched a roaster of nuts sitting barefoot next to a fierce heat, toasting peanuts.

Roaster at the market
Roaster at the market

Inside the room was sweltering, despite the fan blowing.  However the roaster seemed totally at ease with the discomfort, focussing on ensuring the toasting didn’t progress to burning, monitoring the flame and the heat accordingly.

Ensuring the product is toasted to perfection
Ensuring the product is toasted to perfection.

Back out into the sun, and it was becoming a fiercely hot day, our time was drawing to a close.  We were approached by a young man wanting a photo.  The last shot of the morning.

Final shot of the morning. A young deaf guy.

It was time to say goodbye and a massive thank you for the lesson.  Whilst not totally competent, I was feeling more content to use the camera on manual and set up to practice, practice, practice over the rest of the trip and those occasional ‘lucky’ shots would serve to make me feel a bit better about my ability.  Now just need to figure out if the scratch can be removed….

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