Around Town / India / Photography

Safdarjung’s Tomb: The Baby Wrangling Edition

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Living on the Embassy compound is a beautiful thing.  It’s incredibly convenient, well-maintained, safe and very, very comfortable.

Sometimes a little too comfortable.  We didn’t come to India to spend all of our time floating in a bubble of 1950’s Americana, but I’m new here and I’m still figuring out exactly what is nearby and what is far away, and what I can tackle solo with Will in tow, during quick gaps between meals and naps, and what’s best left for a weekend family outing.

I woke up this morning, as always, with an urge to get out–somewhere, anywhere.  I remembered seeing signs for Safdarjung’s Tomb on my way to a few other places around town so I knew it had to be close.  The Lonely Planet entry was short so I knew it had to be something I could appreciate in under an hour.

I doused Will in hippie citronella bug spray, let a cabbie rip me off in my enthusiasm to just get out the door, and off we went to Safdarung’s Tomb.  The monsoon skies had  just cleared and we were the first visitors of the day.

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It’s been years since I’ve been to a deserted historical site.  Scratch that, it’s been years since I’ve been to a truly historical site (outside America) at all.

One of the most disappointing realities of living in China is that there isn’t a great deal of visible or architectural history left there.  So much was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution and so much of what was left has been plowed under in the manic real estate boom that’s been gripping the country for the past 20 years.

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But we’re in India now, not China and after I paid my foreigner’s fee and walked through the opening archway, I felt a certain thrill of excitement I haven’t felt in a long, long time.

“Look Will!  This is old!  This is really, really old!”

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Truthfully, Safdarjung Tomb is not terrifically ancient, it was built in 1753 and represents the final, grandstanding architectural fireworks of the Mughal empire’s twilight hours.

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The Tomb of Safdarjung is not quite as huge or elaborate as the better known Humayun’s Tomb; but it is old and deserted, in the most peaceful, beautiful way.

Besides a crew of workers digging up and replacing pathways, we had the place to ourselves.

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A nice old man shook Will’s hand and pointed us up the stairs to the deck of the mausoleum where we admired all of the right angles, the stunning octagonal towers and the brilliant red of the sandstone pavers (dug up, apparently, from someone else’s tomb).  We saw the names of lovers carved in the walls and watched from above as a few couples walked into the garden and shyly grabbed hands out of the view of passersby on the busy street outside.

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On our way out, a nice young man in a uniform came up to us to see if we wanted a tour.  He was so enthusiastic I almost said yes, in spite of the increasingly wriggly and intent-on-eating-garbage baby in my arms.  Instead though, I shifted Will’s sweaty little body onto my hip, put my camera back in my bag and told him we’d definitely be back again–hopefully with time for a tour next time.

I did manage to get a few pictures before we left, though I need to remember to carry my camera in a ziplock bag here, at least until the monsoon is over.  With the heat and the humidity, it took nearly 20 minutes for my lens to finish fogging up.

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I shoot in Manual 99% of the time and I think I’ve managed to perfect the art(?) of holding Will and my bag in one arm while shooting and adjusting my settings with the other.  I couldn’t help but think today though, as I alternated between taking pictures while carrying Will and running after him trying to keep him from eating dirt, that being able to run around town and do these sorts of impromptu photo shoots on my own is a distinct privilege of being the mother to just one, quite tiny and fairly easy-going baby.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep this kind of thing up when there are two in the picture (which won’t be for awhile!!).

Even now though, I keep my photography expectations low when I’m out alone with Will.  If I get any shots at all, great.  If I get any good shots, that’s fantastic.  If I get a photo of Will looking all adorable in front of ancient architecture, then we’re having a really, really good day.

Today was a really, really good day but not every single day can be great when you’re navigating a new city, a new community with a wee one in tow.  I’m working on a post right now about the very different experience we are having adjusting to a new Post with a baby versus at our last Post where we arrived sans kiddo.  It’s been very interesting and I can’t wait to hear other people’s experiences going through similar adjustments.

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Will getting into his history!

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Oh wait, never-mind. Spot lights are way more interesting.

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So is garbage, apparently.

(Photos above all edited supposedly-lightly in Aviary, a program I am coming to despise with a fervor previously reserved for Microsoft Vista.  What’s with the weird over-saturation thing?)


11 thoughts on “Safdarjung’s Tomb: The Baby Wrangling Edition

  1. Wow, what an outing! I am very impressed you are able to manage shooting in manual. I can only manage auto focus. I try to adjust settings but sometimes I have to rely on editing tools. Of which I have only Microsoft.

    Anyway, the photos look great. I am really drawn to the one with the names etched into the walls. I really love it.

    My lens used to fog in Manila too because our apartment was always freezing. It helps to take the lens cap off in your bag. Next time you plan to go out set your camera bag out on your patio (in a secure spot) and let it acclimate to the warmer temp a good 40 minutes before you plan on going (or the amount of time it takes to prepare bag and baby to head out the door). I used to do that and it helped!

    • oooh that’s a good idea too with the bag and letting it sit outside. I’ll have to try that. If you are still editing in Microsoft, give Photoshop Elements a gander. You can usually find it for somewhere around $80 and it gives you so much functionality that I can’t even imagine what more I could do with the full $600+ PS. I will say, I think I am going to go for Lightroom at some point soon just because I need some organization and it would be great to batch-edit things but I’ve survived so far!

  2. I love Will’s little DC shirt (onesie?). I have a similar one in blue. A shirt, not a onesie. Thanks for the tips on dealing with humidity — something I will have to think about in El Salvador!

  3. Great shots despite your low expectations! Funny, I was just thinking the same thing when we were out at Buddha Park and how there wasn’t much time with the two little ones for composition, angle, and lighting. But then I look at the pictures from our day, which were all driven by the kids and what they were doing since I was alone and having them in the shots was the only way to literally keep an eye on them while taking pictures, too, and I’ve decided that if they hadn’t been along with me that the pictures would have been very static and not as spirited as the ones I did manage to capture because of them – a blessing in disguise ;D

    • I love love love your shots from Buddha Park and you’re right! The kids make the shots! They give perspective, both physically (how tall they are versus the statues) and also the moods. The contrast between your kids’ faces and the expressions on the statues makes the photos that much more interesting!! Now part of me can’t wait until I can let Will run loose a little more without worrying about him eating dirt! 🙂

  4. Welcome back to the Indian Subcontinent, what a photographic opportunity it is. We’ve enjoyed our time here and are sad to leave. I’ll be living vicariously through your shots over the next 2 years. No pressure 🙂

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