fieldnotes from Cuba

 

When I traveled to Cuba in June 2016, I was determined to not let photography take over. I wanted to ensure that I absorbed every impact the brave little country had on my senses. I wanted it to affect me. I did resolve to document this impact through words. Throughout my trip, I made notes in my favourite moleskine (#fieldnotesfromcuba on Instagram). But as you can see in this post, I couldn't keep away from photographing Cuba either. How can you? :)

Here are some things I wrote while traveling through Cuba for two weeks.

"Yes, Havana is all classic American cars and crumbling buildings, but don't let the postcards fool you into thinking that that's all it is. It's also home to the most dramatic, electric skies."


 

 

"Traveling in Cuba was set to amaze from the start. But what wasn't expected was the purest form of happiness that shone through the most genuine smiles, and amidst the toughest of conditions. Politics aside, isn't that a true triumph of the human spirit? Brave little country"

 


"A country of walkers.

If ever a study were to be conducted on the impact of innovations and advancements in transportation, Cuba would make for a great control group.
You'll still see a lot of the erstwhile forms of transportation in Cuba- cycling, horses and horse carts, buses, and walking. And well, state-assisted hitch hiking"


"Value your roads, Cuba, free of road rage and road kill
And your amarillos hailing down rides for hitch hikers"


"She walked past an empty chair set against a beautifully peeling wall, right by darkness in a door. Then walked back and paused in front of it. It had to be occupied. She looked around and found him looking straight at her.
'Que pais?'
'De la India'
'Linda' and eyes wide open. He hadn't met an Indian before, like most other people in the country.

She had him.
She asked, and he delivered, accompanied only by a brief hesitation and a shrug of shoulders. You see, only the old sit out on these chairs outside doors, watching the young walk past. 
But she had to have her shot. And she did".


"Most people in Cuba are happy if you take their pictures, especially if para recuerdo. This picture is of the carpenter who said no when I asked if I could shoot him while he painted this chair".


"this travel ritual of mine, to ensure i see the sun rising on the last day, is probably the best thing i can do for myself".

I have a travel ritual, particularly when I travel with someone. I wake up at least one day during the holiday before sunrise, and step out by myself with my camera. I've been at it for about 8 years now. It is this exercise that has probably cemented my love for photography, and made me more of a traveler & explorer than a tourist. Any place assumes a different character in the early hours of the day. Let's not forget, the light is amazing. 
This shot is from one such walk, on my last day in Havana.


"If geopolitics and transition economies is your thing like it is for me, Cuba will have your mind running the hamster wheel". 


"T-shirts that scream 'Not your Bae' and 'Selfie' on 60-year old abuelas are telling enough that America has permeated through and seeped in deep, much ahead of the actual lifting of the embargo".


"This Summer spent in Cuba was like nothing I've experienced before. A world so removed from the rest, yet the same because people all over the world are the same, afterall. An experience stripped of all other trappings save the purest forms of human nature".


"Keep yourself alive, Cuba
What is to come is vile
Netflix and selfie sticks
And malls you'll lose these street urchins to".


"There is an overpowering smell in Havana, that of petrol. Little else can be expected from a city of aging automotives and ferries.
The ferries they show in the film Fresa y Chocolate run even today. I took this picture from the one that took us on our spontaneous jaunt to Casablanca".

"Cuba has also been doing its own socialist version of Airbnb for the longest time. We stayed our entire time in Casa Particulares, homes of Cubans. This old colonial house in Trinidad showed us what life in the 1800s was like- a living room that didn't seem to end, scores of rocking chairs in all sizes, a courtyard turned into an aviary and rooms that could make up palaces. Casa Mauri, the home of Luis and his master Miguel". 


" 'Available cold Pru'
Cuba is the original sharing economy, and here's an example. This family has made for itself some Pru (a Cuban fermented drink with some health benefits), but clearly made more than it needed. It did so with the intention of selling some of it to the neighborhood and passers-by. That's how Cuba has been getting by all these years, and herein lies the lesson for the rest of us.


A roomful of ghosts
Each telling life's grand story
That silent cacophony
Saturates the museum of glory


"There's a word I haven't been able to shake off for the past few days. Mitgefühl. Sympathy, in German. But literally it means, to feel with.
Isn't love all about that?" 


"Things and people that live past their lives" 


 "Sympathy for the Devil". Barbershops always play my jams.


"Travel has made an early riser out of me".


"Welcome to La Guarida".


"When you go to Cuba at the start of hurricane season, expect little else from your roadtrips".