Sonepur Mela – Memories

“I don’t believe it, they’ve got a Dominoes Pizza.!”
“Eating every dinner at the Domino’s Pizza stand after another long day shooting. Maciej stopping at the last moment a 10yr old from nicking the iphone from my backpack. Hotel Piyush, of course – “type two” fun, as the say, i.e. only fun in memories, but not while you’re actually staying at that dump. ” – Pawel, 2016

“Magic, there must be a better hotel than this!”…. “The hotel’s improved this year, it’s got toilet paper” replied Maciej – Dave, 2016

“We didn’t need an alarm clock ”My tip, my tip, my tip”-man woke us up in the mornings.” – Annu Esko, 2016

“I remember our money crisis. The government decided to reject old notes without informing in advance!” – Raymund Cruz, 2016

“I went to Sonepur Mela with a team of 5 for one of Maciej’s incredible photography workshops.
I have been living in India for 7 years now, and this place made me several times wonder “what is going on here?”.
We landed in a hotel with a 5 star lobby, 2 star room, and zero star service.
We saw a goat with a lila woollen pullover. No kidding.
We landed in a place that was so crowded and full of mudd it was literally not possible to move in any direction or the other.
We saw some people in trance directly staring into the sun agitating wodden sticks in the air.
We went (of course barefoot) in the Ganga for takin pictures and stepped on rest of human body (a thorax to be precise), that had been burned the day before during burial ceremonial.
Was it epic? For me yes. It was a once in a lifetime experience.” – Adrien Hieber, 2017

“I have fond memories of my bedroom balcony that had no balcony…just the door and a straight drop to the ground below.
I heard Maciej usher “one last push”… I looked around at the group and we all literally looked like we were going to drop dead. Brutal, absolutely brutal day.
“No selfie, no selfie, I am in the army – we are not allowed to take selfies” – Sonepur Mela #1 defence against selfies with locals (invented by Maciej)” – Christian Clowes, 2016

“Arrived Hajipur 16/11/2013- first room at Pyiush hotel had a few shards of glass in the window frame and a swarm of mosquitoes inside. The telephones don’t work and neither is the boiler so we need buckets. Light needed changing in the bathroom but things looked up with beer and aloo gobi.
17/11: 920pm- tired, very tired. Shooting in the Ganges, barefoot through liquid human poo, introduced to the festival over the tannoy as “the delegate from London England”.
18/11/13: another excellent day at the festival. Got a cycle rickshaw with Magic- got him down to 50rs after I tickled him (he was incredibly ticklish).
The banks of the river were packed with people sleeping, sitting chatting around camp fires, musical bands with drums trumpets etc and nearer the Ganges people doing puja.
Then the next few days turned into a blur of noise and exhaustion. I remember meeting a lot of very friendly dancing girls and almost being trampled by a massive almost wild elephant, erratic service at the hotel and people with fake stinking sores on their legs, and then when you just want to sleep there is the torture of the wedding parties with their music blasting out.
Gods, I wish I was there just now. Thanks Magic, very good times. ” – Tony White, 2013

“Such a mass of humanity, like I had never experienced before, pressing on us, almost like being washed, very slowly, down a river. And the sounds – horns, bells, screamed announcements from the fairground rides. Dust, everywhere. Selfie. Selfie. Selfie. There were a few places of refuge – the village itself, the river, the temple. And then there was the ride home thinking, thank god, finally. But no rest. Still had to have dinner, then import edit. The hardest fun I ever had. ” – Gerry Orkin, 2017

“I remember dressing like a stick of Blackpool rock with a pink stripy hat with gold trim, appearing in the local paper and almost getting flattened between two lorry’s in a tukktuk on the way back
And having the best butter chicken ever for about a quid” – Gareth Jarvis, 2011

“This was my first-ever experience visiting India — yes, I have never stepped foot in the country before and Sonepur Mela was my first impression of the incredible India! It was like taking a deep plunge into the twilight zone and drowning in holy water.
The list of suggested things to bring along for my stay at the hotel included your own mosquito spray for the room and your own toilet paper: I knew I should brace myself for a challenge. Thinking that I was prepared, I still remember the moment walking into the room and the sight of the broken windows, the yellowish beddings and the resident super sized mosquitos were among other things that took my breath away. “What have I done?” was the first thing in my mind. Nonetheless, by the second night after the long but very enjoyable day shooting at the fair, the room became a safe heaven.
Sonepur Mela was the biggest fair I have ever visited and likely ever will be. Everything seemed to be on steroids; the scale of the events, the sheer number of people visiting (and how extremely friendly they were) and the varieties and numbers of animals that filled the area. I witnessed in this fair the non-stop fun, activities and shops operating from morning till late at night. During the daily rides on the ear-numbing music blasting tuk-tuks one traveled the dustiest roads I have ever seen. It was an unforgettable start of my epic India experience with the group!” – Puvadol Saengvichien, 2016

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