When Louise Neervoort and I met on a hot Goan night in 2011, I noticed her gorgeous scarf – and her camera. Three years later, some of the images she captured on that trip are scattered all over currypower, lending visual acumen to various texts about one of the most enticing, bewildering and stunning countries in the world.
This time, however, it will be only photos. It is still India, but have you seen it quite like this before?
On the banks of the river Howrah, which oozes in and out of the urban sprawl that is Kolkatta, the inhabitants of this former capital city rub shoulders in the steaming heat. Ritual cleansing fuses with basic needs as bathrooms with running water are still uncommon in the poorer quarters.
India is all about reds and yellows and saffrons – or so you might think. No reason to overlook the million shades of blue and green and azure and turquoise in which the Indian Ocean takes over the land, its waters washing right up the people’s bodies and into their shirts, as seen at Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat in Mumbai.
Although India is known as the country of burnt plains, you will spot the occasional lush spot with green lawns and trees in full leaf. This darkly-coloured idyll stretches out around Victoria Memorial in Kolkatta's city centre.
Where lies the essence of Asia? Possibly in its mercantile centre, the bazaar. As any other megacity, Mumbai sports thousands of those teeming little squares where you can sell, buy or exchange almost anything. More fascinating though, because less explored, are the fringes of these mercantile hotspots: you can only just catch the bazaar's quiet rumble while street traffic already gives in to a slower, more ambling pace. Here, fruit merchants and chai vendors haven’t set up stall yet, but you can already smell the spices, the wax, the fried sweets and the motor oil.
Stone, moss and a little bit of air: most buildings in the White City of Pushkar seem to be made out of plaster, decorated in pastel shades of yellow and green. While the earth is red and the sky lavender blue, common pigeons love the dry and sandy air of Rajasthan.
However depraved and commercialised Varanasi may have become, people are still in awe at the bare mention of its holy name. Burgeoning with thriving merchants, conniving brahmins, hawking street children and starving dogs, many of its nooks and crannies remain unexplored: room for all kinds of ghosts and spirits which can only be distinguished from real people because of their backwards pointing feet.
India is home to 26 different species of monkeys, the macaques being among the more vicious ones. Prying on pilgrims, merchants and tourists who cross the river Ganga in Rishikesh, carrying fruit or flowers, these monkeys enjoy spectacular views and a healthy diet.
All photographs by Louise Neervoort. Louise was born in Sydney, but now lives and works in London.