I travelled to Kerala at the peak of summer earlier this year; my second time in as many years. Although this time not only was I travelling alone but had a 50-pound backpack, replete with all my photo gear, strapped on my rather bony shoulders for a photo assignment on cashew nuts. Self-doubt ran riot in my mind the entire duration of my 12-hour train ride. I could barely sleep.
The first day of shoot was probably the most overwhelming of this fun yet demanding three-day shoot, for I (along with three wonderful WSJ staffers from the New Delhi bureau) was thrust in a cashew processing factory the likes of which I hadn’t seen ever before. There was so much going on yet there was a method to this madness. And that’s precisely what I tried to explore the remainder of this (productive) assignment with my trusty D90.
You can see my exploits here – How Cashews Explain Globalisation. Meanwhile, here are some of the outtakes that didn’t make the annals of The Wall Street Journal.
Abdul Kalam Azad, a 22-year-old worker from Siliguri, West Bengal at his shelling station. Azad has been working in this line of work for 7 years and earns about 17,000 rupees (approx. $260) every month. He extracts about 25 kg (55 lb) of cashew kernels from split cashew shells every day.
A Souparnika Export Enterprises factory worker carries peeled cashew kernels for grading.
Cashew kernels fall from the conveyor belt into a receptacle for dispatch.
A worker managing the furnace where the roasting of raw cashew nuts take place. The nuts are roasted for about half an hour and then cooled for around 12-15 hours. They are shelled following the cooling process.
A heap of roasted cashew nuts at a shelling station.
One half of the slimy cashew shell encasing the dry, crumbly kernel inside, falls down onto the workbench after undergoing the shelling process.
A worker at a shelling station shows the (non-permanent) damage endured due to shelling and extraction of cashews.
Workers studiously engaged in peeling testae (red skin) off cashew kernels.
Workers responsible for peeling queue up to receive dehydrated cashew kernels. The drying process typically takes nine hours and is executed with the help of a Borma dryer machine at an average temperature of 80-85° Celsius.
Red Hills, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
“Although the floods has helped us broaden our horizons with regards to preparation for such occurrences in the future, nevertheless, we end up giving thought to disaster mitigation only after we are hit by a disaster.”
K S Kandasamy, IAS
Deputy Commissioner (Works), Greater Chennai Corporation
It was a tense few days for K S Kandasamy the first week of Dec. 2105 as he had to be on his toes what with monitoring rescue and rehabilitation operations from the control room in Rippon Building; delegating tasks to corporation field officers; visiting the affected localities for assessment; and overseeing the relief management and distribution at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium. Simultaneously, help was pouring in from all quarters – donors from all the 31 districts of Tamil Nadu as well as public and private enterprises including the Indian Armed Forces donated around 1,700 tonnes worth of supplies to the Chennai Corporation. Earlier last year, all the insight and hands-on experience gathered during those arduous days was collated into an exhaustive handbook – the City Disaster Management Plan 2016. This 750-page guide contains all pertinent information concerning city layout and infrastructure, disaster-prone areas, emergency phone numbers, the “first line of defence” during a disaster situation, etc. All of this data was painstakingly compiled over a period of six months to ensure an effective management plan is in place to tackle future calamities. This handy guide will be made available for public perusal in the near future.
Please visit BBC to read the rest of the story.
*A joint effort with Karthik Subramanian
K. Chakravarthy, 48, proprietor of Reena National Circus, moments before he takes aim at a target to check the accuracy of his rifle.
Bow & Arrows
Chakravarthy’s better half, C. Reena, 35, is often the only female presence in a testosterone-filled crew. Crew members are recruited from time to time, based on demand, with the help of agents.
Juggling balls, rings and balance board.
Chakravarthy literally has to be on his toes during any time the circus is operating as there is very little downtime between his acts.
T. G. Arun, 29, has been performing for Reena National Circus since February. His act involves dressing up as Michael Jackson and enthralling the crowd by executing all of MJ’s signature moves to perfection.
The lasso act is one of many Chakravarthy’s performances that keeps the audience glued to their seats.
Jiyaul Ansari’s, 33, signature act involves rubbing his face against, rolling over, and stamping shards of glass.
Chakravarthy’s stepson Sani, 16, slumbers on a Sunday morning.
*READ THE COMPLETE STORY HERE*
K. Chakravarthy is a showman par excellence who’s literally grown up under the big top.
Having lost his mother at a young age, Chakravarthy ran away from home at 10. He toiled as a busboy in Bengaluru for a short while, but lured by a colleague at work, who was in search of greener pastures, he became a runaway once again. The kids boarded a train to Hassan, Karnataka, but fate had other plans. Upon arrival at their destination, his colleague scammed him out of the few hundred rupees that he was carrying, and the young and naive Chakravarthy lay in despair at the train station with nowhere to go! Moved by his plight, he was offered a job at the railway canteen.
Just as he was getting settled into his new job, out of the blue comes a train carrying circus cargo – stupendous circus wagons, enormous elephants, ferocious tigers and all that razzmatazz. Amar Circus had brought their paraphernalia to set up camp in the town and after scoring a pass to one of their shows, Chakravarthy was bitten by the circus bug! He ran away (once again!) in hopes of getting a job at this circus and lo and behold he got hired, though at another establishment – Geeta Circus.
From then on, it’s been one hell of a ride for the last three decades at over a dozen Indian circuses: after getting his start as a helper in the kitchen, he progressed to doing group acts, then solo acts, then the acts got a little daring, and then riskier until finally he became a revered name in the business. Everything was hunky-dory until it all came to a screeching halt three years back when he and his missus suffered a major accident while performing one of their signature acts. Despite the grievous blow, he’s managed to pull himself back and founded Reena National Circus last year and has since been toiling day and night to make his baby click with the audience.
Mr. Chakravarthy can be reached at +91 951 497 9550
You have to give Sriram props for his indomitable spirit. For someone who could barely stand, walking was a distant dream. But the presence of a great support system has worked wonders for this 22-year-old…
For the last 20-plus years, Dr Paul Devasagayam has been championing the development of disabled sports in Tamil Nadu. His efforts have brought about a sea change in parental attitudes towards sports and transformed many a life in the process.
Find out more about the two of them here.
Sowcarpet, Chennai, India
Right before Chennai sees in its earliest light, hawkers hasten to secure a spot at the aisles with their ragbag of wares of all shapes and sizes. Hauling in the day’s catch, droves of tricycles swerve across the packed arena, passing the baton to deft auctioneers who will put on a show with skilful yodelling.
Over at the only fishing harbour in the city, Kasimedu is bizarre and magnificent in equal measure. Anybody new to this place can instantly get overwhelmed by the dizzying load of sights and sounds, not to mention the unmistakable pungent smell of fish. Yet, the place is indefinitely plagued by an influx of customers who throng the fish market by the thousands. Equally many are the number of trawlers that dock at the wharf at any given time, serviced by hundreds of kattumarams that ply between the trawlers and the shore fetching fishes and crustaceans in plastic baskets.
Even during the recent deluge that literally sank most of the city, things carried on like clockwork here. And we can see why: A microcosm of India, really, Kasimedu is an ecosystem of sorts where various subsets of people mutually depend on one another. Be it the fishermen in the docked trawlers who pile the never-ending stream of baskets with fish to pass on to fellow fisherfolk who help in getting those baskets to the shore using rented kattumarams, the daily wage labourers who then work in tandem to deliver the commodities to the wholesale dealers, or the hawkers who complete the cycle by disposing of the items to seafood lovers, no group can function without the other.
This unassuming bond is what makes the harbour and its environs tick. It ticked my box too.
Here’s a visual ode to a place that I love as much as I hate the smell of it.