Benjamuna's Blog

Stories…. with a touch of India….

At Mullick Ghat March 28, 2019

Jumping off the bus that took us to Howrah Bridge, I didn’t know that Calcutta was about to attack my senses. The Mullick Ghat wholesale flower market swallowed us into its odorous frantic belly, and held us in a firm grip until it was time to leave.

We first entered via a narrow footbridge where people – mostly men – were brushing past in both directions; fast and furious, shouting unknown words. There was no gallantry, only a determined rush! So big was the shock that when a faceless man grabbed me – not by the pussy to quote ‘the boss’ of America – but somewhere else one doesn’t like to be grabbed by a stranger, I didn’t raise even a mental brow. The act seemed to belong to the show. I sped forward and grabbed Soham, my guide, by his shirt telling him not to let me out of sight.

Go with the flow, I reassured myself. I was pushed and squeezed from side to side, back and forth, as I made an effort to cross the bridge unharmed. Then we hit the ground and ducked into a maze of alleyways. There was a continuous movement of men speeding through the market, some with flowers on their heads, or on their shoulders, it was like a rough sea. I embraced my bag; what if somebody stole my money, my cell phone – or grabbed my camera. But they wouldn’t have time for that, would they? f

The vendors sat mostly on the ground, some on a dais. It struck me that they looked like birds in nests of flowers. I pointed my camera this way and that, but I felt in the way, I was disturbing somebody’s working day. My photos got blurry because of all the locomotion and every second time I pressed the shutter somebody walked into my picture; they became cluttered with odd limbs and half faces. My strategy is all wrong, I thought.

The early morning had felt so cool and fresh when Soham and I had crossed the Maidan from where we jumped on the bus, now it was hot and humid. “Mind the mud,” he warned and stepped aside in front of me. I hadn’t noticed, but now felt my sandals slip continuously as we meandered past the many-coloured flowers of species I couldn’t always name.

We entered another vantage point to watch the spectacle from above. The millions of orange and yellow marigolds shone towards us, from enormous sacks on the ground or from vendors’ heads. The garlands were slung over their backs like a bunch of snakes, those on the path looked like sparkling coils. In between, shreds of newspaper littered what was left of open space.

Suddenly, a big truck rumbled into the area. In slow motion, the crowd parted and gave way to the intruder who claimed its right and no one seemed to blame him. The truck looked like an enormous animal from a bygone time amongst the people and the flowers which now looked small from above.
“You might think it is all chaos,” said Soham, “but it’s not. Every one knows their place, what to do and where to go.”
        I did believe him.

We left the market and walked into open space, to the beach below the iconic Howrah Bridge where we watched more work in progress, although in a slower motion. Men, and now also women, stuffed big sacks with leaves. Up on the bridge, I could see people walking on the footpath, millions a day, I had read somewhere. My eyes eventually rested on Hooghly river, its traffic had just about come to life.

It was the most amazing start of the day!



Benjamuna cards… May 3, 2012

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I have been making cards for many years. Even so, I have a stack of cards bought from whereever I go in the world. I’m looking for three types of cards: with butterflies for my Swiss friend Nathalie, with old/antique maps – also for Nathalie (and myself…) and those with bicycles. The latter can be hard to find. Butterflies are more or less everywhere, the card industry hadn’t survived without butterflies…

A card for every ocasion….

My own cards are made from photos of flowers, for the most part. When I go to garden centres, I always look for flowers that I assume will look good on photos. I have tried to make good photos of poppies, a favourite, – but no luck really. Another favourite is water lilies, but they are sometimes hard to find in my area.  I know of a pond in the arboretum outside Sandnes, but it’s all about being there at the right time… Last summer, I found the water lilies at their best, but it was raining. Still, I was happy with the photos….

Water lilies in the rain….

I have never really calculated the price of one card, although I do sell from time to time.  In the age of digital photography, the photos itself are not very expensive. But I’m not always able to find the right blank cards in Norway.
Last summer I visited Germany, France and Switzerland – the paper shops (I always google before I go….) are faboulus. Quality and colors – they know how to make them in these countries.  So when Nathalie comes to Norway, I place an order… Good quality blank cards can be expensive, and then there is the work involved of course…

When a colleague passes away, my company has certain routines. My job is to make a “protocol of condolance”. It’s a card with a photo,  and along with a photo of the departed (if possible), a burning candle light – this is all placed on the reception desk so that people can write  their name and maybe some words inside the card. The card is then given to the Family, after the funeral. I often use the same card, a Spanish marguerite with a rain drop, a tear…

I have a collague who is a passionate collector of berries…. especially mountain cranberry. More than she is able to handle, seems like…. So we have made a deal; we swap: I get berries (which I turn into jam) – and she gets cards in exchange!

Last summer I discovered an area – not far away from my house – full of Foxgloves. Fantastic they were. So I have quite a few cards with Foxgloves right now (see below).
And there is also a small Indian collection (also below). I met the little girl in Khondaran last year, it was impossible to take my eyes away from her, so beautiful and so grave…. It’s a favourite portrait!

For the protocol of condolance.

Last summer I spotted almost a field of Foxgloves not far from my house. Every shade… white, pink, lilla….

I tok this photo in Khondaran, I shall never forget the girl’s face….