Thursday, November 30, 2006

Rudolph Wants Some Rain, Dear

Nope, There Ain't No Snow Here In Australia

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

I took this shot on Waverley Road this afternoon, just as the mercury touched a scorching 36 degrees. The bright Christmas banner you see here is on the boundary fence of the East Malvern Cricket Club (established in 1922). Slap-bang in the middle of the frame is a gum tree and in the background, on the other side of the oval are several other gums and native trees. You can't see the grass on the oval, but the bright green has been transformed into much lighter turf - evidence of the heat and Melbourne's tough water restrictions. And while the rest of the world shivers in winter, tomorrow is the official start of the Australian summer.

Fright At The End Of The Tunnel

Lisbon Driver Was Stopping All Stations

A Lisbon driver took a wrong turn and headed down a subway tunnel in Portugal's second-largest city yesterday. According to the San Jose Mercury News, the driver, who was alone in his vehicle and was said to be in his fifties, veered down a ramp for emergency vehicles. He drove about 500m on the tracks, forcing operators to halt trains in the tunnels. Emergency services towed the vehicle out of the tunnel, back to where it belonged on the road.

Afterthought No.1: Just hope the driver was not my friend Terry (aka El Tel). Maria, if it was indeed Terry after a big night on the sauce, let me know and I'll bail him - or put him on a train!

Afterthought No.2: Maybe the guy was just an errant Roads Scholar.

Poker Phase

What's The Deal, Dude?

Photograph copyright: DAVID MCMAHON

I took these shots last month, just when these flowers, called red-hot pokers, were at their best in a little park beside the overpass on Kingsway, South Melbourne. I shot about nine or ten frames, but for some reason this is the one I like best. Why? Probably because this shows the entire range of orange and yellow across the bloom, the other pokers in the background to the right and the green and grey-blue of tree and sky above.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Prince Harming

Healthy, Wealthy (And Very Wise)

Very funny comment received from Toronto-based Rene. Reacting to my post Till Debt Do Us Part on 25 November, about the world's richest fictional characters, Rene chuckled at the fact that she gets daily emails from the fictional Nigerian prince. And this is what she said: ``Oh to be a girl again and have a real Prince Charming offer to share his wealth and not mine''.

Faster Than A Speeding Pullet

Don't Be Chicken If You Live On Lois Lane

It's a bird. It's a plane. Or is it a pizza? With Superman Returns about to be released on DVD, Papa John's, a US pizza place, is offering a free pizza to anyone who lives on the nation's Lois Lanes. According to, the company is launching the Superman Pan pizza promotion in Metropolis, the southern Illinois town that calls itself the adopted home of the superhero. There are more than 400 US cities with a Lois Lane. Residents can order online at papajohns.coms - or they can change in a phone box and fly in to pick up their order.

Disc Shockey

The Spine Who Loved Me

Want to slouch? Go ahead. The latest research suggests that we would be far better off slouching and slumping. Today’s advice, reports The Times, is to let go and recline. A team of radiologists has found that sitting up straight puts unneccesary strain on the spine and could cause chronic back pain because of trapped nerves or slipped discs. The ideal angle for office workers who sit for long periods is about 135 degrees. It might make working at a computer impractical but it will put less pressure on the spine than a hunched or upright position. Sounds lilke the recline and fall of the roamin' empire.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Basket Cases

That's A Lot Of Hot Air Before Sunrise, Innit?

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Just before sunrise today, I came off a freeway ramp leading into the CBD and came to a halt at a traffic light. I was fiddling with the radio settings when I looked to my right and suddenly did a double-take as I noticed these five hot-air balloons floating silently in the sky. Not the best position for me. I did not have enough time to get out of the car. And I had a van to my right. I knew I had at least ninety seconds before the light changed. Lunged into the back seat. Grabbed the camera bag. Switched the Pentax on. No time to check the settings. Lined up the balloons. Took the shot - out of the driver's window, with my seat belt still on. Had time for two more frames very quickly, but they were not as good as this one - simply because of the colours of the sky. And you know what? The van (in silhouette here on the right) actually puts the skyline in perspective, with the whalebone roof of Rod Laver Arena to the left. Pure luck. I'm so glad I always have a camera with me. Keeps me, ahem, focused.

Late Reaction Number One: I should have chanted ``Van go, van go,'' to invoke the famous Dutch painter and use the power of my mind (such as it is) to urge the nearby van out of the camera's focus.

Late Reaction Number Two: This post is for my friend and colleague Merrilyn, who always tells me she knows a lot about hot air, er, no, I mean hot-air balloons!

Staring Down The Barrel

Cannon Restorer Brings Out The Big Guns

A 19th-century US military cannon is getting a real makeover, thanks to a Rolls-Royce mechanic who is also a local historian. The 130-year-old cannon has been a long-time fixture in downtown Berea, near Cleveland. The Cincinatti Enquirer reports that the cannon is sitting dismantled in Jim Jaworski's shop, along with two Bentleys, three Rolls-Royces and a 1953 Ford pickup (ute, if you're an Aussie). The American Legion has launched a fund-raiser to pay for its restoration. The plan is to put the cannon in Berea's Memorial Day parade next May.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Santa Pause

Never Mind The Past, Wot About Da Presents?

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

I took this shot at Bracebridge, Muskoka. If my memory is right, I was walking down Ecclestone Street towards the tourism office - but I'm sure Allan Cook will correct me if I'm leading you up the garden path, literally and metaphorically! I never actually got to Santa's Village, but the shot was too good an opportunity to miss. I guess it must have been put up by one of Santa's little helpers.

Country Erodes, Take Me Home

UK's `Naked' Roads Are Just Bare Essentials

They're experimenting with ``naked'' roads in Ipswich, England. No, they're not residential streets earmarked for nudists. They're roads that have been stripped of all traffic signs, signals, barriers and lines. According to The Houston Chronicle, it's part of a study to see if drivers proceed more cautiously on roads with only absolutely essential markings, which could help cut down on accidents in congested areas.

Empty Promise

Yup, There's A Message In This Bottle

An empty perfume bottle has sold at auction for $216,000. A New Jersey woman received the Lalique perfume from her husband in 1939. He'd bought it for $50 at Saks Fifth Avenue. The woman, who is now in her nineties, had held onto the empty bottle and the box it came in. A perfume bottle expert told The Times of Trenton newspaper that only 50 of the Lalique bottles were made, and he only knows of another one that is still in existence.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Silver Meddle

Mate, The Cabs Are Fare Dinkum

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

A Silver Top cab - it doesn't get more typically Melbourne than that. But you're wondering why the company is called Silver Top when the roof is yellow? Historically, the company's taxis always had silver roofs, but about a decade ago the State Government of Victoria decided that all cabs would be painted yellow. It was a logical decision and the State Premier at the time explained that it would be easier for tourists to hail a cab if they were all the same colour - instead of looking for the signs on the roof of the cabs, that were all different colours at the time.

Money For Muffin And The Pick's For Three

They Love My MT `VV'

This from today's bestseller list, publised in `The Statesman'. Look where `VV (Vegemite Vindaloo) is placed! Rather good company, methinks.

1. The Inheritance Of Loss : A Novel - Kiran Desai, Rs 395.00
2. The Innocent Man - John Grisham, Rs 268.00
3. Vegemite Vindaloo - David McMahon, Rs 295.00
4. The Afghan - Frederick Forsyth, Rs 268.00
5. Cat O'Nine Tales - Jeffrey Archer, Rs 276.00

Till Debt Do Us Part

`Daddy' Warbucks On Top Of The Rich List

So you want to know who the world's richest fictional characters are? Look no further than the recent list released by with Oliver ``Daddy'' Warbucks replacing Santa Claus (No.1 in 2005) at the top of the list. Warbucks is, of course, from the comic strip `Orphan Annie' and is rarely seen in public without his bodyguards Punjab and Asp. At No. 2 on the list is the dastardly Montgomery Burns, followed by Scrooge McDuck, Richie Rich and Jed Clampett to round off the top 5. At No.9, one spot above Thurston Howell III is Prince Abakaliki of Nigeria. Never heard of him? Then chances are, you're one of a handful of people in the world never to receive an email from him, seeking to share his inherited millions with you. Ring a bell?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Amitabh Bachchan And My Brothers

All The World's A Stage At Sherwood College

This school photograph, taken in 1958, of the Senior Cambridge class at Sherwood College, Naini Tal, has apparently been doing the rounds on the internet with the subject field ``Guess which one is Amitabh Bachchan’’. It was sent to an old family friend, Leslie Mukerjea (nee Hartnett), a former Miss India who competed in the 1974 Miss International pageant in Tokyo. (As a sporting aside, Leslie is married to former Wimbledon competitor Chiradip Mukerjea, who won a bronze medal at the 1978 Asian Games in Bangkok, Thailand).

Leslie immediately spotted a familiar face in the photograph – my brother Keith, 15 years older than me. Struck by the coincidence, she immediately forwarded the email to my brothers and me. My older siblings, Keith, Michael and Brian all went to Sherwood College, whereas I went to North Point, Darjeeling instead.

Just for the record, the famous actor is the image on the left; my brother Keith is the student pictured on the right. And I must point out that among the many photo albums in our family, we have historic pictures of Amitabh and Keith on stage together, in a Sherwood College production of the play `And Then There Were None’. We even have a poster from the play; I think Keith was one of the school artists who helped produce the poster.

The link goes a bit further, because Amitabh’s brother Ajitabh was in the same Sherwood class as my brother Brian. Another classmate of theirs was a certain Kabir Bedi, who made a name for himself not only in Bollywood, but in Hollywood as well. If memory serves me right, he even played a role in the famous TV soap opera `Days Of Our Lives'. I’m sure each of those classmates has an interesting story or two to tell about the others!

And this other picture, displayed on the left, shows Amitabh (seated, left - but you knew that, didn't you) at a recent Sherwood College reunion. The lady beside him, in the sari, is my sister-in-law, Linda. Behind them in the dark blue suit and red tie, is my brother Michael, a highly decorated fighter pilot and vice chief of the Indian Air Force.

I'm not entirely sure if another distinguished former student, Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, was present at the reunion. Must have been an amazing school, Sherwood College.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Me Tarzan, You Chain

Railing Against The System

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Where's the best spot to park your bike when you're in a hurry? Tethered to the railings, as close to the sign that commands you NOT to park your bicycle there. I was walking around Montreal, in the area known as The Plateau - when I spotted this incongruous sight. My French isn't the best in the world, but even I know that the warning ``Pas De Bicyclette'' probably means ``Don't be a cheeky sod and park your bike here''. And if you're in any doubt, the graphic on the sign shows clearly that it's not acceptable to park a bike there. The light wasn't the best, but by crikey, the picture just had to be taken.

Golden Grate

And Now, A Word From Our Sponsors!

The managers of San Francisco's landmark Golden Gate Bridge are considering accepting corporate sponsorships. According to, bridge officials have hired a company to explore the money-making potential of the world-famous span. They said there would be no neon signs or billboards. Despite toll increases, the famous bridge has been operating in the red.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Ingot We Trust

Open-And-Shutter Case On Golden Pond

Photograph copyright: ALLAN COOK

What can you say when somene sends you a picture as good as this? Folks, it is my very great pleasure to introduce the great Muskokan, Allan Cook. He's an all-round good bloke, marketing manager of Muskoka Tourism and he sings with the Muskoka Men of Song (he's going to complain bitterly about that revelation) and he loves this amazing part of Ontario, Canada, as much as I do. I'll let him tell the story of this great photograph. In his words, then ...

``It was taken over seven years ago on a trip through Algonquin Park. We'd been following (by canoe) the trail of ghost towns left in the park from the years when the Canadian National Railway wound its way through the park's northern reaches and the lumber industry was booming. We had started out from campground among the remnants of the once prosperous town of Kiosk, and this was taken on Cauchon Lake on our first night of the five-day trip.

``I had recently been bitten by the shutter bug, and had just bought a second-hand SLR and I'd brought it along on the trip. We were treated to fantastic sunsets almost every night, and this first one was an especially brilliant shade of gold. I had been trying to capture it and our canoe in a shot together, and had been playing around with all sorts of settings to try to get it right. I toyed with the shutter speed, I fiddled with the aperture, and I wrote down which settings I used on which shots. For one shot, I accidentally forgot to turn off the flash, and I noted `NG (no good) - Forgot flash on'. Of course, that no good photo is the one you're looking at. None of the rest turned out. Thanks again for this honour!''

Barmy Harmy

That Delivery Musta Been The Policeman's Ball

Has there ever been a shoddier first delivery in a Test match? I think Steve Harmison is a wonderful bowler who has a great future for England, but come on, did he bowl that first delivery of the Ashes series in Brisbane today to the batsman - or to second slip? I think even the Barmy Army were gobsmacked by that delivery. Let me know what you think. Maddi, you listenin'? Mudar, Mark, Binks and Harsha, are you blokes paying attention? Add your comments here and tell me what you think ....

Don't Be Such A Tightwad

Bank Blames A Lack Of Interest

A small-town US bank in Tightwad, Missouri, that drew more than $2 million in deposits from around the country because of its unusual name will close on January 31. The Tightwad Bank opened on a shoestring in 1984, but customers are being urged to do their banking at other branches. Part of the problem , according to is population - or lack of it. Tightwad, population 63, has eight more residents now than when the bank opened.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Marching To The Bead

No Yawning, It's An Awning (This Morning)

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

I was at the Nusa Dua resort in Bali, Indonesia, when this shop awning caught my eye. I was drawn to it simply because of the intricate workmanship on the beading, as well as the range of colours against the bright red fabric. It was 1998 and clearly the pre-digital days, but I had an old Yashica F3 that was a particular favourite of mine. Like they say, any camera is good enough - if the light is good enough.

Blog Buster

It's A Site For Sore Eyes

In view of the fact that today is International Self-Indulgence Day (okay, so I just made that up!) I couldn't resist bringing this to your attention. I just got an SMS from my mother-in-law (no, no, I really do love my mother-in-law!) to say that there are some very kind words about this blog in today's edition of `The Statesman', a 130-year-old daily newspaper in Calcutta. In the Unplugged section of the paper is an article headlined Choc-a-blog. It says:

``In simple words, this is an alternative to a traveller’s or a spectator’s diary. From Barbra Streisand to David McMahon, blogging is a great way to while away time and present before the Internet community information that doesn’t find way into media through conventional channels. There are many websites offering you space to blog your views, information and plans.

`` : What a site! David McMahon is from Kolkata and is at present living in Australia. He is a journalist, photographer and novelist. He takes pride in the success of his first novel, Vegemite Vindaloo, more so because it has found a prominent spot at Oxford Bookstore. When he visited the city last month, he made sure the camera did not fail on him. Interest never ceases while you go through postings such as ``A View To A Keel'', ``Waltz, Disney'', ``Anything I Canoe, You Canoe Better'' and ``Join The Dots''. Humour is David’s best friend and he finds interest in whatever his eyes rest on.''

Nice to know. Thank you, whoever wrote those kind words.

Permit The Frog

This Christmas, It's Last Christmas Again

The Crazy Frog will make a comeback in the UK this Christmas when a new song is released onto the music charts - a remix of the Wham single, `Last Christmas'. The single is being released in ``honour'' of George Michael and his 25th anniversary tour. Listen to the new song at

Life In The Vast Lane

Drivers Have Reached Their Cut-Off Point

You know the driver who just cut you off on the freeway? Shame him (or her) on a new website. According to a great story on, two Washington, DC men have created the website, where people can post the licence (well, ``license'' if you're in the US) plates of bad drivers. Co-founder Mark Buckman, a north Virginia computer consultant, told The Washington Post he's outraged by careless, rude or inattentive drivers. He said they have hundreds of messages on the site from drivers venting their spleen. The messages have headings like ``Maniac'' and ``Jerk on the Phone''. The site, however, is not just for complaints. The introduction says: ``Report and flag bad drivers, award good drivers, and even flirt with cute drivers.''

Fir Cryin' Out Loud

Christmas Tree Thieves Are Out-Foxed

In order to hinder Christmas tree thieves, officials at the University of Nebraska are spraying the evergreens with a smelly mixture containing fox urine. According to a report on, landscape services manager Kirby Baird says the trees don't smell in the cool outdoor temperatures. But if the tree is cut down and brought inside, the fox urine starts stinking up the place. Tree-napping can be an expensive problem for the school. It costs up to $400 to replace a six-foot evergreen.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Theatrical Quality

Great Angle, Even If It Ain't Geometry

Photograph copyright: MIKE BRUCE

My colleague Mike Bruce recently spent a year in Prague, where he shot some memorable images and gave us some great blogposts on his site, The Dumpling Diaries, at Since his return to Melbourne, I've been twisting his arm to put something on this blog. This picture (and it is a great angle, isn't it?) was shot during his time in that wonderful city. Here is the story of the picture, in his own words.

``This picture is of Prague's Národní Divadlo or National Theatre. It was inspired by Czech photographer Petr Šálek (website who takes stunning wide-angle panoramas of the city, and did a brilliant day-time shot of this same vista. The National Theatre is Prague's little piece of Vienna. It was built in the 1860s, completely rebuilt in the 1880s after a fire and was the scene of the gala performance of Smetana's opera, Libuše. It stands directly opposite the city's famous Kavarna Slavia (Cafe Slavia) - the landmark, so-called First Republic-style cafe which played host to Prague's and Europe's intelligentsia before and during Communism. It was here where writers such as Vaclav Havel would exchange under tables their manuscripts that were banned from publication under Bolshevik rule.''

Revealed: The Mystery Pilot's Identity

From Pondicherry To Normandy

There was a strangely persistent — but entirely appropriate — French influence through the short life, sudden death and 62-year interim following the burial of Pilot Officer Sayana Puram Duraiswamy Thyagarajan, a Royal Air Force officer killed in World War II.

He grew up in Pondicherry, India, where the early colonial influence was so strong that the French tricolour only came down for the last time on October 31, 1950, four years before France officially handed over the territory to the now-independent nation. And he was on a mission over France on August 25, 1944, when he was shot down. It is a significant date, for it was the very day that Paris was liberated and General Charles de Gaulle led the victory parade down the Champs Elysees.

He was buried in the little village of La Lande St. Léger in Normandy, where his Typhoon fighter crash-landed. For six decades, his grave has been tended by locals in the area, which is 65 kilometres north-west of Evreux. Now he is to be honoured with a special plaque, to be unveiled near his resting place on June 2 next year, in the presence of the Indian ambassador to France and ex-RAF World War II veterans.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Pilot Project

Resting Place Of A Hindu Warrior

Photograph published with the permission of the ASAVN

This photograph of the church in the little village of La Lande St Léger in Normandy, France, was sent to me by Bertrand Goucovitch, secretary of the ASAVN (see my blogpost below, Elegy In A Country Churchyard for details). This is the final resting place of an Indian-born RAF pilot whose heroics are toasted every D-Day. The region is well known for farming, with special attention paid to Calvados, a special Normandy spirit made with apples. Bertrand tells me that each year, on 6 June, a group of surviving Typhoon pilots have a tot of Calvados to pay tribute to those who never returned from hostile skies.

Watch this space for details, to be revealed Tuesday, on the pilot's identity and how the internet played a major part in the search for a blood relative.

Drum And Drummer

For Cryin' Out Loud

The independent mayor of Ujpest, a Budapest district, whose councillors have suspended the local paper and TV station, saying they are biased, is hitting back by employing town criers. According to Reuters, Tamas Derce, the mayor of Ujpest, said: ``I will hire someone who will stand with a drum at busy junctions of the district, and another one with a loudspeaker.'' The town criers will keep working until the councillors reverse their decision, he said. Sounds to us as if there are a few town decriers.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A View To A Keel

Billions Of Blue Blistering Barnacles

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

I guess it's not the sort of sign you want to see when you're looking for a car wash. Especially when you're not towing a boat! This was taken in the Melbourne bayside suburb of St Kilda.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

In Charge Of The Lights Brigade

Watts The Matter

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This photograph was taken on a street in Calcutta a month ago. There were graceful arcs of celebratory lights strung over the thoroughfare and I couldn't resist stopping the car to take this shot. Yes, I know they were just plain and simple lights, but in my mind they made an arresting, memorable image.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Elegy In A Country Churchyard

Tombstone For An RAF Fighter Pilot

Photo published with the permission of Jacques Bréhin, president, ASAVN

This photograph was emailed to me last week - and it is an integral link to unravelling a mystery that has taken 62 years to solve.
The picture is taken in a church cemetery in La Lande St Léger, a tiny town of about 220 people, located in Normandy. On the right of the picture is Jacques Bréhin, president of the Association pour le Souvenir des Ailes de la Victoire de Normandie (ASAVN). On the left is Claude Roussel, who witnessed a sight on 25 August 1944 that he will never forget.
The gravestone between the two Frenchmen is unique in two respects. First, it is the only one in the cemetery that is administered by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Second, it has not one, not two but three languages on it - Hindi, English and French.
Buried here is an RAF Typhoon pilot whose last moments were wtinessed by Mr Roussel, who was just 13 years old at the time. It has taken more than six decades, but Mr Roussel learnt this week that a sibling of the pilot is still alive, albeit 94 years old.
It is an amazing story, testament to the power - and the reach - of the internet. It all started with emails from Bertrand Goucovitch, the meticulous and supremely helpful secretary of the ASAVN, and Jagan Pillarisetti, webmaster of
Against all odds, in a couple of days, a retired air force officer had tracked down the Typhoon pilot's closest relative.

Watch this space for more details to come on this amazing story.

Holiday Snaps

These `Fish' Are A Bit Long In The Tooth

A Filipino man who flew home from Cambodia said he was carrying live fish in his carry-on luggage, until a check at Manila airport revealed three crocodiles, each half a metre long. According to, it wasn't clear how Enrique Yu Castillo, 50, was able to carry the Siamese crocodiles from Phnom Penh to Singapore and then to Manila. Charges will be laid against him, but the reptiles have been handed over to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. There is no truth to the rumour that the man was setting up a photo shoot for Lacoste.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Join The Dots

So, What Colour Is This Car?

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON
This photograph was taken at Federation Square, Melbourne, last year. I was shooting some dawn scenes on Flinders Street when I remembered that a colleague had told me there was an unusual piece of artwork on display at what we call ``Fed Square''. Sure enough, there it was. A Volkswagen Beetle, almost completely covered in thousands of tiny coloured discs. As you can see, in the bottom right-hand corner of the frame, even the tyres and the wheels were completed covered. Only the headlights were untouched. Clearly a case of a slipped disc.

Shelf Life

Not A Single Day Off - In 36 Years!

When's the last time you took a vacation? How about a day off? It might seem like a long time, but there's a man in Oklahoma who hasn't taken time off, not a single day, for 36 years, according to It's one of those neighbourhood stores that even the neighbourhood takes for granted. There has been a store here for 100 years. Darrell Barnes himself spent his first pennies as a sharecropper's kid inside these walls, but when the owner wouldn't let him in one day without money, Darrell made a vow. ``I told him I'm going to buy this store someday. And I did.'' He took over the store in 1970. It is open every day from seven in the morning to nine at night. Then, when he finally closes the door, he bags the ice (that he makes himself) and re-stocks the shelves. Talk about a work ethic!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Eiffel Flower

A Much Better View Than The Paris Hilton

This photograph was sent to me by a gifted young photographer from New Delhi, Siddharth Khandelwal, whose stunning photograph of a traditional clay lamp, or diya, was featured on this blog, under the post title ``Jack be Nimble, Jack Be Wick'', on 1 November.
In the foreground of this shot, in sharp focus, are the pink and red geraniums that grow so freely around Paris and make such a fabulous display in window boxes all round the city. And glistening like tiny crystals on the geraniums are fresh raindrops. In the background, taking up slightly more than fifty per cent of the frame and in soft focus, is of course one of the most recognisable landmarks in the world.
I'll leave it to Siddharth's girlfriend, Reem Khokhar, to take up the story. ``This picture is lovely,'' she emailed me, ``because I think it captures the romance and charm of Paris. The Eiffel Tower is one of the most iconic structures in the world, but instead of that being the focus of the picture, overshadowing everything else, Siddharth took a bunch of flowers as the central point.
``We were desperately looking for a picnic spot somewhere close to the Eiffel Tower, a steady drizzle making us look like a bunch of drowned rats. While wandering around we passed what I think was a houseboat and there were these pretty flowers decorating the outside.
``For a minute we all forgot about the nagging rain and stood there, charmed by the scene. I think it's a soft and terribly romantic picture, the delicate flowers with a blurred, but definitely recognisable, Eiffel Tower in the background. I think it's a delightful take on the essence of Paris.''

Waltz, Disney

Song And Dance For Heart Patients

Italian researchers say heart patients can waltz their way to better health as the energetic but graceful dance was found to be just as effective as bicycling or running on a treadmill. Patients who waltzed for exercise saw the same improvements in their cardiac system as patients who used cycles and treadmills. Researchers say 70 per cent drop out of traditional exercise programs, while doctors believe waltzing holds the patients' interest because it is fun and therefore more effective. Get the band to strike up `The Blue Danube', maestro!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Anything I Canoe, You Canoe Better

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

I took this shot in Huntville, Muskoka. These canoes were just sitting there, beside the lake, in an area with a ``No Standing'' sign and adjacent to some paddle boats. The sign between the racks of canoes says: ``Algonquin Outfitters. Canoe, kayak and paddle boat rental''. Some of the shots I took on this trip were used in the Discovery Guide, a wonderful publication produced by Muskoka Tourism. The slogan of this stunning region of Ontario is: ``Once discovered, never forgotten''. And that's spot-on. It's an amazing part of the world. And I can assure you that you'll never be up the creek without a paddle boat.

Enact Of Congress

Score Points As You Draft ``Legislation''

You've heard of fantasy football and fantasy baseball, but fantasy Congress? If you think politics is just a game, there's now a US site where senators and House representatives can be drafted onto teams that earn points for passing legislation. The site,, was started two months ago by three students of politics at Claremont McKenna College. The site already has 600 players from around the globe. From what I can discover, the story was first reported by Richard Clough in the Politics section of The Seattle Times on 1 November.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Hugo Bops

Shakira And The Moral Fixation Tour

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez welcomed Colombian pop singer Shakira and said he might go undercover to watch the hip-shaking superstar perform. Chavez said he'd donned a wig recently and that not even his bodyguards had been able to recognise him. ``Maybe I'll put on a wig and go see Shakira,'' he quipped. Shakira, of course, is on her Oral Fixation tour. According to the news website, Chavez intervened to allow Shakira to perform to 10,000 fans on the weekend. Chavez claims the singer was unable to find a suitable site in the capital, Caracas, until he granted her permission to use a military air base that was critical to a coup in 2002.

Greece Is The Word

Anybody Seen John Travoltaopolous?

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Okay, there's a bottle of ouzo at stake if you can tell me where this picture was taken. On the main street in Athens, perhaps? On one of the sunny Greek islands, maybe? Perhaps Corfu, the place immortalised in Gerald Durrell's description of about his childhood in `My Family And Other Animals'? It was just a photograph waiting to be taken, I reckon. Whitewashed shop front. Blue slogan painted across it - nice patriotic touch there. Early afternoon shadows. And I loved the blue-grey sky, there as if almost by accident. And the pigeons. So, where was the picture taken? In Melbourne, which is said to be the city with the greatest population of expatriate Greeks outside their own homeland. Just for the record, it was shot on Sydney Road, Coburg, in the city's north. And don't try dialling the number - because it should have a 9 in front of it! Melbourne's had eight-digit phone numbers for more than a decade.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Man Who Found The Me-109

It Must Have Been A Mad Scramble

I've just received an email from A. A. Laxman, which is relevant to anyone who's been following the story of the Me-109 that was found at Gulbarga, India and that is now thought to have turned up (inexplicably, it seems) in the United Kingdom. Laxman, a scientist working in the aviation industry, was the person who tracked down and photographed the Me-109 in Gulbarga in 2002. I won't tell you too much about the story; instead, click on this link to discover how he reported the stunning find (and sent jpeg images of the aircraft's components) to an amazed Jagan Pillarisetti, who heads up the Warbirds site.

By the way, did anyone follow the story late last week about a Focke-Wulf Fw-190 that was salvaged from the sea? I looked at some of the pictures of the salvage operation and I was amazed to see that the swastikas could still be clearly seen on the wings - despite the metal being submerged for 60 years.

Pulling Strings

No, It Ain't Harpo Marks

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON
I was in Quebec City, Canada, walking down towards the famous Mural and the Old City, when I heard the wonderful sound of a harp being played. Now it's not every day you see (or hear) a harp, of all musical instruments. I have a severely recessive musical gene and have never played a single instrument, but you cannot imagine how soothing the sound was. It was being played by a musician named David (funny how I remember the name), who sat playing this beautiful music. I asked, in a whisper, if I could take his photograph while he played. Without averting his eyes, he nodded imperceptibly and I took half a dozen shots, using my film-based Canon EOS 3000, from both sides of the harp strings. His face enthralled me, beacause his features were so peaceful. And if you look carefully at this shot, you'll see that while he is concentrating totally on his music and nothing else, his eyes are fixed on some far-off point of reference.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Anyone Seen This Vintage Me-109?

Oops, Someone's Made A Mess O' Schmidt

I've been following, with great interest, the story of the Battle of Britain-vintage Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Me-109, as reported by Manu Pubby in The Indian Express. Once gifted to the Nizam of Hyderabad, the single-seat fighter has, um, shall we say, ``disappeared''. And if circumstantial evidence is to be believed, it seems to have turned up - rather mysteriously - on the other side of the world.

My interest has been whetted by the fact that I recently accumulated exhaustive research on Spitfires, Messerschmitts, and the pilots who flew them on both sides of the English Channel during World War II. All this was invaluable while I was writing my second fiction novel, `The Jadu Master', a wartime love story that is currently with Penguin India.

While I was wrapping up the novel last year, my brother, a fighter pilot, put me in touch with a friend of his, Group Captain Kapil Bhargava (Retd). The latter is one of an exclusive group of pilots who flew not only Spitfires (55 hours with No.7 Squadron), but also flew Willi Messerschmitt's last design, the HA-300. His experiences can be seen at Bharat Rakshak. It is worth pointing out that in his library at home, Gp Capt Bhargava even has a book on Messerschmitt types, presented to him by the German author, Werner L. Blasel.

Obviously there were some pilots in the Luftwaffe and the RAF who flew and assessed captured enemy fighters and these instances have been fairly well documented. But does anyone else know of other pilots who flew both types? Feel free to leave a comment here if you do.

And keep your eyes peeled for that missing Messerschmitt!

Message In The Grass

A Simple Thank You That Says So Much

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This floral wreath was one of the central exhibits at the Shrine today, in front of the famous marble slab bearing the words, ``Greater Love Hath No Man''. And the second shot was taken beside the forecourt, where scores of poppies dot the turf, each with its own handwritten message. This one says: ``In memory of soldiers from the Hopetoun area who fought to ensure that we are a free country.'' It is signed on behalf of the Hopetoun Primary School. The script, expecially on the decorative capital ``H'', is interesting, because it seems to have been written by someone of advanced years. Perhaps it was written by an old Digger himself. I had to get down low to take the shot in the grass. I knelt on the soft soil. How appropriate.

Friday, November 10, 2006

And In Fourth Spot We Have ....

`Vegemite Vindaloo' On Another Bestseller List

Okay, permit me a moment of pride here. My debut fiction novel, Vegemite Vindaloo, published by Penguin India, has been included on yet another bestseller list. Some weeks ago it was on The Telegraph's list at No.5, in the company of Robin Cook and Frederick Forsyth. But this week, it's at No.4 according to The Statesman. I've taken the liberty of reproducing the list here.

1. The Inheritance Of Loss: A Novel- Kiran Desai
2. Cat O’Nine Tales- Jeffrey Archer
3. The Hungry Tide - Amitav Ghosh
4. Vegemite Vindaloo - David McMahon
5. The Afghan - Fredrick Forsyth

Crowning Glory

The Day Terry Saw The Queen

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Former RAF man Terry Fletcher, now settled in Portugal and the webmaster and brains trust of the excellent Anglo-Indian Portal, posted this memorable comment today, apropos my photograph of the poppies, but it is such a great story that I've decided to include it here, rather than leaving it in the often-underrated Comments section of a weblog. I've included another photograph of Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance as well - this shot shows poppies with personal hand-written notes honouring the fallen, in the forecourt, with the Shrine in the background.

What follows is Terry's story, in his own inimitable words .....

Singapore '71 or '72, yours truly chosen from a cast of thousands to line the graves at the Kranji War Memorial Cemetery as a guard of honour for HM the Queen. On the day, smartly turned out in the best tropical No. 1 uniforms tailored in the UK (despite having the finest and fastest tailors in the Far East at Changi - but that's another story!), HM and Philip turned up, on time, to regally walk between the ranks of grave airmen (sorry, couldn't resist that!) whilst we stood rigidly to attention and eyes to the front.

The spectators were abuzz, cameras clicked and flashlights flashed, and there was the usual jostling to get to the front. One little Aussie sprog shoulder-charged his way to the front of the scrimmage, dragging his distressed mother with him. "Muuuum!", he shouted (imagine this with an Aussie accent). "Shush", replied his mother. "Muuuum, muuuum!", he wasn't going to be 'shushed' that easily. "Shush", responded his mother.

"Muuuum, I've seen the bloody Queen, muuuum!"

Much suppressed mirth amongst the grave-fellas, and HM even allowed the corners of her mouth to twitch a little bit. Actually, we couldn't be sure whether it was a smirk at the comment she'd overheard, or whether she was chuckling at the antics of her Prince Consort who was doubled up with mirthful agony, kicking lumps out of the turf with the toe of one highly polished boot.

A solemn occassion irretrievably lost, but somehow I don't think the ones to whom we were paying homage minded one little bit.

Thanks for sharing it with us, Terry. That, my good friend, is the sort of story that will immediately be spread across the internet connections of the world. Some years ago, it would have been recounted in aerogrammes and letters, but thanks to Tim Berners-Lee and the worldwide web, it will hopefully be shared around the furthest corners of the world - before the weekend.

Say It Ain't Pink, Floyd

Go Directly To Jail. Do Not Pass Go.

The people who run a Missouri jail are taking the slogan ``think pink'' to a new extreme. The place is being repaired after prisoners set a fire and caused other damage in a failed breakout attempt. And when they return, they'll find the place painted pink. Blue teddy bear accents will also be stencilled in.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Remember, Remember, The 11th Of November

Salute To The Fallen Generation

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON
This photograph of a sea of poppies - synonymous with the blood-soaked fields of Flanders in World War One - was taken half an hour ago, outside Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance this afternoon. The Shrine, on St Kilda Road, is a unique part of the city. It honours not just the thousands of Victorians who died in World War I, it honours all Australians, men and women alike, who gave their lives in war. Here, you speak in hushed tones. Here, no one is ever in a hurry. Here, there are many evocative reminders of the generation who never came home. Here, you see many people, young and old alike, with glistening eyes.

The Lie Of The Land

Testing Time For All Saints

Interesting snippet on today about re-formed girl group All Saints. When they were asked if they were really friends again, on London radio station Capital FM, a lie detector test proved their comments inconclusive - with the examiner claiming there was doubt in their voices. Just goes to prove - it's not what you say, it's how you say it.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Montreal's Village People

Great Hairstyle (Gotta Love The Pink Rinse)

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON
These shots were taken at Montreal's Gay Village. It was about 9 o'clock on a beautiful, sunny September morning, about 20 degrees - but I was in a hurry. I was booked on a flight to Toronto and I didn't have a lot of time to spare, especially as I had to drive a rental car to Muskoka in northern Ontario.
I had spent 48 hours in Montreal and covered an amazing amount of ground, but my friend Anick Cesaria, who works for VIA Rail, told me that no photographer should miss the chance to shoot the Village.
Bearing that advice in mind, I had some mental juggling to do. I could not miss my flight to Toronto. But, because the perfect photo always lies around the next corner, I simply had to head to the Gay Village, which is detailed very comprehensively on Wikipedia.
I had a quick breakfast at my hotel, the splendid, historic Queen Elizabeth (more about the John Lennon connection in a later post) and raced out to catch a cab.
I asked the driver if he could take me to the Village, wait for me while I took as many shots as I could - and then take me back to the hotel to check out. Yes, he said, looking at his watch. We would make it with a few minutes to spare. I trusted his judgement.
I spent about half an hour at the Village, using a Pentax Optio digital camera and my Canon EOS 3000 film camera to which I am very partial. I got some memorable shots in my time there (and made my flight with time to spare) but my central memory of the Village is this figure, above the Cabaret Mado.
Anick, you were absolutely right. I could not afford to miss photographing the Village.

NASA Caught Napping

No, They're Not Over The Moon About It

Photographs of workers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Centre sleeping on the job have been posted on the internet, reports The Associated Press. The images show three employees at the Hunstville space center sleeping at consoles, while a fourth is playing an online card game. The employees worked for NASA contractor Teledyne Brown Engineering Incorporated in the space centre's Payload Operations Center which manages the science operations of the international space station. A NASA spokesman said the pictures aren't indicative of the performance of the overall team and calls them isolated incidents. Managers are reviewing rulebooks. Obviously, the workers will not receive a lunar tick.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Amitabh Bachchan Fans Are One-Eyed

They Seek Him Here, They Seek Him There

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON
He is Sherwood College's most recognisable alumnus. His name - surely I don't need to tell you - is Amitabh Bachchan and he has dominated the Indian film industry for decades. I took this photograph of his (partially obscured) face on a huge advertising hoarding during my recent 10-day trip to Calcutta.
I saw the hoarding while we were negotiating our way through the huge traffic circle at Park Circus and lined it up as quickly as possible, while leaning out of the car window. I had to wait for a mini-bus to move and just had time to shoot a solitary frame.
It's an interesting shot, because if you look at the right-hand side, you'll see the start of the slogan for the Financial Express: ``Read to Lead''. Very apt, isn't it? And the Financial Express hoarding, coincidentally enough, has the saffron, white and green or the Indian flag - in almost the same dimensions.
It would be nice to say I did this deliberately, but I must confess that it was a sheer fluke.
Look out for: The forthcoming blogpost on former Sherwoodians, Amitabh and Ajitabh Bachchan and the McMahon brothers.

Sitting On The Offence

Judge To Rule On National-Anthem Toilet

A judge in Bolzano, Italy, is considering whether a designer toilet that plays the country's national anthem when flushed is an offence to national pride. According to the BBC the controversial toilet was created by two Bolzano artisans, but was seized by police from the city's Museum of Modern Art last week. Lawyers for the museum argued prosecutors had no right to seize the musical commode, as the song is not an official symbol of the country, regardless of its patriotic value. The judge - who has not been identified - said he would take several days to rule on the issue. Whatever the outcome, it won't be a flash in the pan.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Costume Drama

This Situation Is Really Grave

Photographs copyright: CECILIA MERCADO

These Halloween photographs were sent to me by Montreal-based photographer and writer Cecilia Mercado, who has a great blog at Dance With The Sun. I'll let her tell the story in her own words:

``It was a cold evening, but kids were out in full force in their costumes, well wrapped up to protect against the drizzle. It was quite fun to be out in the streets, this being our very first Halloween. My 16-year-old daughter Kara was dressed up in her jester's costume. No, she did not go trick or treating, she was just being a good chaperone to her determinbed mother who really wanted to take pictures of the decorations!

``We heard that somewhere further up where the more well-off Montrealers live, people spent thousands of dollars putting up decorations complete with light and sound in front of their houses. A friend of mine who has twin daughters aged eight told me this morning that the girls were very scared of some of the decorations and did not even want to go near these houses. What a pity I did not get to see these!

``I quite enjoyed the picture of the witch with her broom. She looked like she was flying blind, and had actually hit the tree!''

Cattle Class

Baz Luhrmann Is Brand-Conscious

So you reckon you've got better-than-average stock on your station or ranch? Then film director Baz Luhrmann is your man. The director of Strictly Ballroom (1992), Romeo + Juliet (1996) and Moulin Rouge (2001) says he is searching for almost 1000 head of cattle for an epic period film to be shot in the far north of Western Australia. Scenes from the film, starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, will be shot on pastoral land near Kununurra, after the Western Australian Government chipped in $500,000 to the project. And while Luhrmann is looking for ``stars'' to take part in a major cattle drive, he is very specific about what he wants. ``Actually we need period cattle so we need short-horns," he said. ``They can be a short-horn cross, red, sometimes a bit piebald, basically that look. So if you have a sensational, very attractive short-horn, we are doing cattle calls, pardon the rather lame pun.'' His words, not mine. Bart Simpson would have simply said: ``Don't have a cow, man.''

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Roll Reversal

Roller Derby Precedes The Cricket Season

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This picture was shot early one morning and shows one of the archetypal Calcutta rituals. Just prior to the cricket season, the pitches and grounds are given the heavy-roller treatment. These four groundsmen, employees of the Eastern Railway Sports Association, were pulling the ancient roller across the emerald-green field and I stood and watched as they pulled it a distance of maybe two hundred metres, right to the southern perimeter. I shot one or two frames as they did so, marvelling at the soft light, the slight haze and the early humidity that reminded me of my own cricket experiences in the city. I was about to move on when I watched the men swap the handle around, in order to reverse the roller in the opposite direction. It immediately struck me that there was - perhaps - a slight similarity to the famous photograph and bronze statue of the US Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima. If only the other two groundsmen had helped, rather than standing by without lifting a finger - maybe that would have been a real parallel.

Deceptive, In the Long Run

Whadya Mean, I Took A Shortcut?

Two women who finished in the top 10 at the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington have been disqualified for cheating, race director Rick Nealis said. According to The Washington Post, it is likely that more runners will be disqualified in the next two weeks.
The two women, who finished seventh and eighth, respectively, ``missed'' an electronic checkpoint at the 15-mile mark on the course. Nealis guessed the two women took a short cut that made the race about 20 miles, instead of the standard 26.2. ``They either made a quick turn and cut off about 6.5 miles,'' said Nealis, ``or they got a little aggressive and jumped on the Metro''. That's one way of, ahem, ``training'' for a marathon.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Head Start

So, You Like This Man's Turban?

It was a hot, humid night when I walked through a Calcutta street crowded with thousands of happy shoppers about 10 days ago, the night before Id. There was that typical late-evening buzz, so common to the unique city.

There were people haggling over prices. There were children clamouring for refreshments or for some trinkets. There was a sea of people in front of me and a veritable flood of them behind. No jostling, no shouting. No pushing, no shoving. That, my friend, is not the Calcutta way.

I was dripping with perspiration, caused as much by the warmth of the night as it was by the heat emanating from the naked globe-lights adorning each pavement stall. In front of me was a sea of colour - all I had to do was capture it in every shape and form.

I was shooting rapidly, moving as quickly as I could from one side of the street to the other. Then I saw this man. He was a shopkeeper and his face was calm and strong. I don't generally do portraits; I am more into quirky shots, low-light shots or landscapes. But amid the friendly hubbub, his visage was an oasis of calm.

I asked if I could photograph him and he simply nodded, the kindness evident in his eyes and in his body language. He was a gracious man. Looking through the lens, I suddenly realised what a great picture I had in this inky black night of joy. Not just his clear eyes, not just the strength of his face, not just the stubble on his chin and cheeks. It was the fact that the foreground of the shot - if I framed it swiftly enough - was the merchandise hanging in his stall. I had to take the shot very quickly, because he had customers waiting.

Now look again at the photograph. What seems like a gold turban on his head is not really so. He is not wearing ornate headgear. What you see above his head, in soft focus, are just the bright baubles hanging at the front of his stall. I didn't even have time to ask the man's name. I just had time for one shot. It was a lucky effort, because the glow from the shop light was just perfect across his face. D'you reckon I got it right? Leave me a comment to let me know what you think.

Fashionista, Sister

Fashion Police Looking For New Careers

And you always thought the term ``fashion police'' was just something whimsical? Think again. According to the ``Oddly Enough'' section of news website, South Korea's real-life fashion police are lining up at the dole office. Members of the unique force, who once prowled the streets in the 1970s - measuring the length of women's skirts - will soon officially be consigned to oblivion. Back then, blokes with long hair faced the prospect of being stopped in the street and suffer the ignominy of an instant haircut. But showing too much skin in public places will no longer be classed as indecent exposure and will be deleted from the Minor Offence Act, according to the National Police Agency said. Also among the rules to be scrapped are those relating to mismanagement of chimney sweeps and false accounting in pawn shops.

Diwali Takes The Cake

Calcutta Serves Up Edible Rockets

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON
Anyone got a sweet tooth? We were at Cookie Jar - a fine Calcutta/ Kolkata institution - one afternoon when, among the chocolate birthday cakes, I spotted these. Journalists are curious by nature, so of course I had to ask what they were, even though I had sort of guessed what the answer would be. The shop assistant told me that they are called ``pataka'' pastries, deriving their name from the Hindi word for fireworks. Made specially at Diwali time, the marzipan toppings are faithful mini-reproductions of the rockets, catherine wheels and other spectacular light-and-fright specialities that are synonymous with the memorable (and sometimes noisy) festival.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Firing On All Cylinders

Coffee Commerce Is No Grounds For Concern

In northern Ethiopia, a tradesman is turning spent metre-long mortar shells into cylinders used in coffee machines. In his workshop in Mekele, just 200km from Ethiopia's border with Eritrea, Azmeraw Zekele transforms shells used in the 1998-2000 war between the two countries. He simply cuts off the pointed ends and uses the cylinder to channel the water, coffee and milk, reports Coffee, of course, is a major export from Ethiopia. Zekele, a gifted entrepreneur, obviously has left everyone shell-shocked.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Dirty Fokker Flight Services

How I ``Discovered'' Jindaroo Creek

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Both these photographs were taken in the first week of September 1999 - and at the time, I had no idea that this region (the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia) would play such an important part in my writing career.

When I was writing my novel Vegemite Vindaloo (published by Penguin India) I tried to ``create'' a fictional bush town, where a couple of light-hearted chapters would be set. I hit upon the idea of a place called Jindaroo Creek - and based it on the coastal stretch of the Eyre Peninsula that had captivated me a few years earlier.

Jindaroo Creek is set in the general locale of the spectacular Bunda Cliffs, the amazing sand dunes, the long ribbon of highway, the warm waters where the southern right whales come to calve - all the places that captivated me on that trip.

Jindaroo Creek also has whale-watching flights, operated by Dirty Fokker Flight Services. If you'd like to read about my own experience on a whale-watching flight, check out Jindaroo Creek at Portugal-based Terry Fletcher's excellent Anglo-Indian Portal. In essence, it will tell you that while Jindaroo Creek does not really exist, the stunning features and landmarks around it most certainly do.

And here's something worth noting, too. Back in 1999, I had very little interest in photography. These pictures - and the ones on Terry's site - were taken with a simple point-and-click Instamatic!

President? Clinton? That's A Fake Dollar Bill

Hubba Bubba, It's Counterfeit Money

Arkansas police instantly knew this Bill wasn't authentic. A man has been arrested for trying to use a fake $100 bill, reports How did they know? Well, it wasn't that difficult to tell. To start with, the note bore smudged ink. Clue number two: there was no president's portrait. And as if that wasn't a giveaway, there was even a third clue. The note had the name of Bill Clinton, former resident of the White House and too recent a Chief Executive to actually have his visage on any legal US tender. The man who tried passing off the counterfeit money was arrested after trying to use the bill to buy cigarettes at a service station. ``Of all the cases I've worked with phony money, this is the sorriest bill I've ever seen,'' Lt Brenda Bittle said.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Jack Be Nimble, Jack Be Wick

Photograph The Lamp, Not The Candlestick

Photograph copyright: SIDDHARTH KHANDELWAL
This brilliant photograph was taken by a young photographer, Siddharth Khandelwal, who comes from New Delhi. He is a laconic sort of bloke, who says this is just another picture. But I reckon it is a haunting image by any standards. Something tells me we will all see a lot of his photographs as his career progresses.
I'll allow his girlfriend, Reem Khokar, to tell you the story behind this great image. ``The picture,'' she emailed me, ``is from Siddharth's recent trip to a region in Rajasthan called Shekhawati, where he and his cousins went to see a series of old havelis. They were in Mandawa one night and had dinner on the rooftop of one of the havelis.
``The restaurant was decorated with these diyas (lamps) and he wanted to take a picture of them. Instead of just taking the restaurant all lit up with these pretty lights, he decided to concentrate just on the diyas. After taking several shots, some with just the front few in focus and some with the ones in the rear highlighted, he finally got this shot.
``This diya stands out, the rest blurred in the background, melting into, yet standing out against the inky darkness. It's hauntingly beautiful, the flame curling up, elegant and proud, with a blurred flame dotting the top, almost like a bindi! Even though you can see the clay holder and the soft glow around it, it is the flame itself which is captivating.
``The rest of the picture melts into the night. You're aware that there are others, but the clarity with which this first diya stands out is intoxicating.''
In my opinion, it is hard to tell which is more memorable - Siddharth's photograph or Reem's description.

Spirit Of The Task Escapes Houdini

The Escape Of Good Hope

Today is the 80th death anniversary of Harry Houdini, the greatest escape artist of them all. As they always do on this day, Houdini fans set up a seance, trying to conjure up the great man's spirit. But it was all to no effect. There was no message from Houdini. Born Erik Weisz in Budapest, Hungary, on March 24, 1874, he was advised in 1899 by Martin Beck, a notable impresario, to shun traditional magic and to concentrate upon perfecting the art of escape. It was excellent advice. Alas, today there was not a single Harry spotter.