Hello, Welcome on the Road to Nara !
My name is Narayan Kaudinya. I am an Ethnographer and Writer. I make films and Photographs.
Nara means ‘water’ and ayana is the way or ‘home.’ And I welcome you to my home where you will find my days into words. And my eyes in Images and moving picture.
In 2012, leaving most things, primarily an urban life, job and ambition, i took up working as a teacher in far away regions of Kashmir and Baltistan. And later in the Indian mainland states of Punjab, Haryana and in various regions of Rajasthan. During this time i was involved with children, their families and local folk, observing and archiving their oral histories, documenting the journey altogether. During the times i extensively wrote about education and the ways of developing children minds through arts, culture and environment. While understanding life myself, outside of me as much within.
I was born in a village, near river Ganga in Uttar Pradesh, India. And was brought to Delhi soon after. I grew up in the Capital. Yet i always carried the sound of my birth river, of peacocks and the sight of an ancient well that was just outside the door of our home in the village. Strangely it was dry, “a bad omen”, so said my grandmother, on the day i was born.
Growing up in a family of teachers seemed to have more limitations but gradually became the founding guardians for the life ahead. School finished and against family wishes i got involved in performing and fine arts, reading, literature and Writing. It was then i had started observing life as a photographer. And gradually as i travelled and understood the domains, importance and richness of my land bharata, India- i pursued my masters in History. And went on to study Sanskritam and Yog thereafter. But to run a life in a capitalistic society that parents wished i kept writing and took up jobs as a researcher and assistant to professors that were mainly confined to offices, home and outside/inside libraries. I worked with media houses like The Hindu, Outlook Traveller, The Indian Express, Times of India and India Today, but something never felt like evolving.
A time arrived. I had saved enough and decided to travel India on my 150cc Bike. It was in that journey a person found me at a lonely little petrol pump waiting in line to fill water bottle that changed the course and the meaning of my life then.
I took up teaching and for next three years travelled throughout and in the most remote little villages of the Himalayas, and far deep in the Karakoram ranges, In remote regions of Kashmir, and later in the mainland- Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan teaching children.
It was still that time when phones were not smart and connectivity hadn’t still reached places. Memories were still out of reach from the timelines of Social media, instead was kept purely as food for own souls.
A Brief history of my Life on the Road
There was a time when I did not like traveling in trains as I felt they were one track. Even though they made me see villages, forests and fields, yet they always seemed far. Dislike for trains can also be attributed to the hazy memories i have of my grandfather, he was a train driver, and many a times took me on over night journeys; looking at the world, sitting in big noisy engine compartments with lollypop handles.
So, when i grew up I took long distance buses, one state to another. From Delhi to Madhya Pradesh, to Maharashtra, Goa to Calcutta and a few times back. Travelling in them, many a times alone throughout night on the state highways going through forests, was somehow never assuring that I would reach the right place, but one thing was that I felt nearer to the road, at home around villagers travelling in buses. And after sometime soon it wasn’t exciting anymore.
I remember the first time I got down from a bus desperately, somewhere on the National Highway in Maharashtra to travel in a truck going to Delhi. Afraid, yet dared to ask passing by truck drivers if they can allow me to get going with them, many refused, but this young truck driver, allowed me in the cabin. He was going till Udaipur but what happened in that journey, made that hitchhike an eternity, and left on me an impression which i still carry lightly.
I am an Ancient person. I believe in the presence of the past in our present lives. I have been a disciplined traveller in a way but i like to stay around the earthliness of a country. To go inside villages, finding out about a community documenting old rituals, folk tales and rural weddings. If you consider Indian Subcontinent having a mix of the right amount of rough and old. I love it.
This is the first instance where i am spending time writing, a blog. I thought what would i do if all memories only remain inside me, i would burst into pieces from just the mere weight of carrying them around, i decided to write.
Because once this body drops, I would like some of my experiences to live on to see future sunsets sunsets.
I have lived and worked in the high intensity conflict zones, walked literally on the roof of the world, for 8 days through the mighty Karakoram ranges. I have crisscrossed India on a 150cc bike four times. Lived through a Silent Massacre; people killing countless, innumerable maybe a slaughter of over a lac animal; seeing fields turning red with blood at a fair in southern Nepal. There came a night, where i was asked to and somehow uncomfortably managed to drive a sixteen-tyre truck from Pune to Udaipur on a hitchhike gone strange. During a fellowship i cycled through the Cambodian countryside recording the banned songs of the father with the golden voice of Cambodia, on a fellowship by a Cambodian Organisation. Learnt rowing a boat/shikara, while living through the longest curfew period in the history of the Kashmir, ferrying locals from land to their respective houseboats, where in the meantime I and team were able to make a cult, much appreciated web series of six short episodes Live from Kashmir; Paradise Waiting
Ways of Being
There are no secret ways to travel but one, though for completely non-mandatory reasons. Other wise seekers, when they decide and go out after their way, the way appears.
I have always travelled by myself, apart from organisational assignments where a team is required like our first experimental film Bongu, set in the isolated mountains of Karakorams, Baltistan, which was premiered in the first Laddakh International Film Festival. Moreover It happened while we were teaching in Turtuk, Baltistan. We taught kids in the morning, and worked on the film in the night.
Like Roald Dahl’s famous book “Going Solo”, i absolutely love and prescribe people to understand the importance of travelling solo. Being myself on the hard road for more than ten years, there is no other way i feel about it.
Observing the ways of the world quietly, listening to the winds, leaves and trees in communion, looking at and hearing people patiently and still letting it be are some traits that are slowly earned. I use local transport or best i look out for a bike, finding off the map or off the track home accommodation. I carry my own utensils, a copper bottle; refilling water from homes or natural sources. Over all, all my travelling life i have tried to become a bridge between rural and urban economies.
One essential thing that i deeply feel helped me survive peacefully, in less means and in any given environment is being a vegetarian. Somehow i managed to never grow an intent to eat any animal, bird or insects. Like most travellers, i have had my awkward moments and tough times of expressing it in a way, of not offending anyone. But i have done it and a few have been offended too or so i feel. But Looking back now passing through what all happened i consider this the only magic; because of reasons that go way deeper than merely eating. I have spent majority of my travelling life in meat eating societies, and i feel not only i saved a few animals from earth but kept my unasked vow intact.
Being inherently an educator, over all the past travelling years wherever i stayed; i made sure to visit a nearby school to see the education system or to just have a conversation with the local teachers. Sometimes I offered a talk, a small workshop on the importance of Yog and healing, simple ideas of storytelling and visual communication. Its also because i have always felt this to be my responsibility to inspire, motivate or at least put a thought of hope and love in children. I believe It is an unconditional necessity to recognise the importance of you being there, representing a whole mankind to these children who might never be able to go beyond their village or state. And because of this where i have been fortunate to meet hundreds of children and teachers from all around the country, where i have tried to put views across on the importance of primary education years as foundational pillars for these children.
I remember one of the quotes i heard once while listening to Khushwant singh’s interview that “to make your children tomorrow’s responsible adults, make sure to read them three R’s, and they were R.K Laksman, Roald Dahl and Ruskin Bond.”
When i come back to Delhi, i look after a primary school for children with my mother for the underprivileged community here.
here Speaking with Sai, on Indian data scientist in the US, who was visiting India, while bathing in the river Tungabhadra
You know, It always feels great to hear from you, artists, fellow travellers, friends, photographers, writers, bloggers,
You are welcome to write, say, ask anything you feel; now when you have read some tidbits of my life story. It would be lovely to hear from you. You can write to me at – firstname.lastname@example.org
and once when things today will give way to brighter days, i would like to invite you all to our small school. If any one of you are interested in holding a workshop, share stories, artworks, experiences or even want to screen a film, you are heartily welcome.
If any child can learn and get inspired from you, It can be a whole new him for life.
If you are a foreigner, imagining and deciding on coming to India; and would like to know, have some questions, are inquisitive, on things relating to where, what, how – about travel, Indian civilisation, her ancientness, traditions, region; you must write. I will be happy to read from you and will guide you in your journey wherever you want it to be lead to. I am personally great in guiding people towards the Himalayas- in exchange of your time given, sharing your travels and experiences with our school children.
If you are a media house, a travel organisation, a publishing house, tourism board, working in education, interested in collaborating on writing, film and Photographic projects, please visit my Work with me page.
You may also like to go through some of my extensive long-term Socio-Political Photographic Book Projects at Narayan Tushar Kaudinya.
Thank you for being here, and i hope to have you along, on our Road to Nara !