Category: India, 2018

Here we go again, Tribal India

Oct 9, 2018

Okay, ready for this? I leave for India in a couple days and want to set the stage.

I’m not a stranger to India. This will be my fourth trip, two couple-week trips with Carol and friends, the first to Rajasthan and the second to the south. I also spent about five days there on my own en route back from my second trip to Bhutan. Even after this trip, to a new area, though, I’ll have barely scratched the surface of India.

I love India, because it’s so different and because it completely overwhelms all of one’s senses—sight, smell, sound—a swirl of activity that leaves you breathless. It’s a country of extremes.

Because everyone likes a few photos, I’ll cheat by including these, from prior trips.

This trip will be to tribal areas in central-eastern India to observe a lifestyle that may soon disappear (this I’m told by two very well-versed Indian travel agents with whom I’ve become close over the years). My trip was to have been as one of a small group of five photographers, led by two professional photographers. Three weeks before I was to leave, I got into a rather heated exchange with one of the leaders. I won’t go into the details, but ultimately I concluded that I really did not want to travel with him, and we agreed to a cancellation, with a full refund.

I’m sure the leader thinks that, canceling three weeks before the trip, I’d be shit-out-of-luck. He did not reckon with my friend and fabulous travel agent, who had planned my prior three trips to India, Shonali Datta. (If you need somebody in India, you can reach Shonali at I wrote to Shonali on the Friday I cancelled and asked whether she could do something. Within half an hour, she’d replied, saying, “of course,” and by Monday, I had a full itinerary, confirmed, with costs and guides all set up. My would-be group leader is going to be quite surprised when I run into him and introduce myself, because at one point we’ll be staying at the same hotel.

I will be going to visit some of the fascinating minority groups in the central-eastern Indian states of Odisha (formerly Orissa) and Chhattisgarh, including the Bonda, who wear strings of colorful beads instead of blouses, the Bison Horn Maria, who wear a headdress that resembles the horns of a wild bison, the nature-protecting Dongria Kondh, the Muria with their controversial sex customs, the tattooed Baiga, and the diverse Gondi.

This is a remote area, and the prospect of traveling with liked-minded companions held some appeal. Now, I’ll be on my own (with guides and drivers) for two weeks. Not sure how I’ll feel about that, but right now I’m looking forward to it as a challenging, new experience. I’m sure I’ll reflect some on how that’s going, so, stay tuned.

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