Photgraphing India – The Rural One
The sweet journey of Gur
Photos from 2007
All stories must have a beginning.
As you come out of the Shivalik ranges that form the southern bastion of Dehradun and head for the dust fields of Delhi, you pass through quaint rugged settlements populated by a rustic breed of farmers, tillers, cattle keepers, cut throats and other remanants of the Huns that invaded the country many centuries ago.
Chhutmalpur is one such sleepy place where in the season they crush sugarcane and make “gur”. From my early childhood days I remember seeing open fire pits blazing away in the night and workers silhouetted in the flames. The sweet heady aroma of raw sugar cane juice being boiled in large cast iron pans and the leftover acrid tingle of molasses was a smell that one grew up in the valley of Dehradun. It still has the same overpowering presence that it had back then.
I was passing Chhutmalpur enroute to Dehradun after photographing the Pushkar Cattle Fair. It was a good time to stop. There were no other passengers with me and this was like Childhood Revisited.
I am reminded of a book ” Rerun at Rialto ” written with great finesse by Tom Alter, where he writes of this very place in one of his stories. A book worth reading for its simple easy narrative and some unexpected twists that make the stories so much more endearing. That was ages ago. I once read voraciously but rarely read fiction now. This book is a treat and along with books of Ruskin Bond, a beautiful easy read.
Here are 11 photos that make this sweet essay on the making of gur.
This is highway58 and you can see the traditional cow patties that have worked the Indian hearths for ages. Some of it still does apparently. It is the season for sugarcane and you can see a buffalo drawn cart carrying sugar cane
A traditional first look at the quaint gur factory with its old ramshackle engine which seems to drive everything here. It is diesel fired
Lots of sugar cane and an old hand feeds the cane crusher.
The view of the cane crusher from the back with the flow channel for the juice to take it for heating.
And here we have a worker playing golden hues with the molten colors of the sugar cane juice in a stairway of heaven
The sugar cane juice bubbles away merrily and acquires a red color with the addition of a food dye.
The sugar can juice is reduced by boiling it over and over to this sticky chunk of red which is hot and hence tossed around with long ladles.
A portrait of the man working the gooey sweet toffee gur.
The whole family here sits down and makes smaller balls of gur while smoke and steam rise up in the air.
And to conclude, the end product is just lumpy balls of gur and that is how it reaches the market.