Tag Archives: Photographs

Night life at Hauz Khas


One of the many pleasures of being at IIT Delhi over the last fortnight was its proximity to Hauz Khas “village”, with its many restaurants and sites to explore.  Originally, Hauz Khas was part of Siri, the second medieval city and fort of the Delhi Sultanate, dating mainly from the 14th century, and it was built alongside the royal water tank that gave it its name, Hauz meaning “water tank” and Khas meaning “royal”. Many buildings were constructed here by Firuz Shah, including a madrasa, a mosque, his own tomb, and domed pavilions, most of which were built soon after he became ruler in 1351.  After years of decay, the area was redeveloped in the 1980s, and efforts have been made to restore the lake and its surrounding deer park as a tourist attraction and commercial area.

Hauz Khas has developed rapidly over the last decade, and is now a popular area for eating and boutique shops. After long days of meetings and teaching at IIT Delhi, it was good to be able to relax and sample the restaurants.  One evening in the pouring monsoon rain we ate delicious south Indian food at Naivedyam (dosas, oothappam and idli), and on another it was good to catch up with Commonwealth Scholarship alumni at Rang de Basanti Urban Dhaba (for a wide range of traditional food typical of the roadside dhabas of India).  My last night in Delhi on this trip was to the very different night-club atmosphere of Hauz Khas Social, where I felt the oldest person there by far!  However, the food and drink were  good, and it was nice to relax with a view out towards the lake (although the loudness of the music did make conversation difficult!).

I hope that the pictures below capture some of the atmosphere of this colourful and vibrant part of modern Delhi.

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Thanks so much once again to Anushruti Vagrani for taking me to places I don’t think I would have been likely to venture by myself!

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Alawalpur: farming, mobile ‘phones and cattle


On a very hot Sunday afternoon yesterday, with temperatures reaching the high 90os F (high 30os C), colleagues (Priya Chetri, Srishti Minocha and Anushruti Vagrani) at IIT Delhi kindly took me out into the Haryana countryside where they are conducting a baseline survey on the use of mobile devices by farmers.  In the first instance, this is investigating how helpful meteorological forecasts are to the farmers, but in the longer term it is also going to explore how sensors might be able to provide more refined information that would enable farmers to increase yields and thus profitability.

This was a great opportunity to immerse myself once again in the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touch of the Indian countryside.  We spent most of our time talking with farmers in the large village of Alawalpur, but after the interviews were over we were also shown one of  the village’s special sites, the Baniewala Mandir.  The temple itself was fascinating, but I had never expected to find the 500 cattle that are so well cared for alongside.  The freshly made chai massala made from their milk after the interviews were done was absolutely delicious!

I hope that the following pictures reveal something of the adventure.  I learnt so much, and am very grateful to Priya, Srishti and Anushruti for taking me there and to Dr. Upasna Sharma for arranging the trip.

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Dilli Haat


I’m amazed that on my previous visit to Delhi no-one mentioned that I might like to explore the craft village of Dilli Haat in southern Delhi.  Perhaps I was previously simply too busy working!  However, one day last week over breakfast in the Faculty Guest House at IIT Delhi, a colleague suggested that it was not far away, and if I had time I should try to visit.  So, I made time this Saturday afternoon, with the temperature well over 95o F (35oC), to set off and explore.

The Haat (market), which opened in 1994, is run by the Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation, and includes craft stalls from many different parts of India, as well as food sellers, and a stage.  Having paid a small entrance fee (100 INR for a foreigner), one is free just to wander and explore.  In some parts of the market, brightly coloured cloth covers the alleyways, and in others the stalls are set along a sort of arcade.  There is a huge range of craft produce from many different regions of the country for sale, including clothes (mainly for women), jewellery, woodwork, pottery, spices, brass goods, leather work, musical instruments, and mother of pearl bowls.  One of the nicest things is that it was not very crowded, and few traders were overly-persistent in trying to make a sale.  Those near the back of the market clearly received less business, and so some good deals can be struck there, but other traders stated clearly that there were fixed prices.  Certainly, there is a premium to be paid over the price of goods that can be found elsewhere in the city, but the quality is good, and having so much to choose from in one place makes shopping for gifts most enjoyable!

The diversity of products, the richness of colour, as well as the taste and smells of the market all made for a wonderful couple of hours exploration, and I hope that the pictures below capture something of the essence of the place.

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Thanks so much once again to Anushruti Vagrani for taking me there, and helping me negotiate!

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The dogs of IIT Delhi campus


I am greatly enjoying living on the IIT Delhi campus, but have to admit that I am uneasy when walking past the many dogs that are usually roaming around in packs, seemingly on the look out for trouble!  There is always a sense of trepidation walking past them when they block the entrance to a building, or lie across the path!  Waking up in the night to hear them viciously barking, is also not exactly soothing!

Temperatures rose today, and I was surprised to see most of the dogs apparently asleep in the late afternoon sun.  This was definitely an opportunity to take my courage into my hands and photograph them!

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Chandni Chowk


My beautiful pictureThe first time I visited Chandni Chowk (Moonlight Square) in Old Delhi was more than 40 years ago in 1976 (picture to the right).  I remember its vibrancy, the vivid colours, the energy, the diversity of smells, the complexity of everything that was there.  It fascinated me.  I got lost.  I wandered.  I explored back alleyways.  I emerged, having felt something of the depth of Delhi; the ever living past in its present.

I had not been back until two days ago.  Much had changed; little had changed.  I was struck anew by the splendour of some of the old buildings; the mix of religions; the melting pot of cultures that was Old Delhi; the old wooden doors; the delicious food; the wonderful colours, especially of the saris; the dogs and cat; the pale skinned mannequins.  I had to go there, just to feel, smell, hear, see and taste Old Delhi; a special treat was to eat at Parawthe Wala on Paranthe Wali Gali – it is most definitely worth searching out for every imaginable sort of paratha!

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I was so spoilt by my friend and colleague Anushruti Vagrani from IIT Delhi, who took me back to Chandni Chowk, and had patience with me as I just absorbed anew everything about the market.

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“Indian Treasures”: exhibition at gettyimages gallery in London


IT1The small Indian Treasures exhibition on until the 7th October at the gettyimages gallery on Eastcastle Street (near Oxford Circus tube station) in London, is an amazing opportunity to see photographs of “India” dating from the mid-19th century.  It has been well curated, and represents a collection of very diverse photographs, drawn mainly from a European gaze on “British India”.  However, the collection also includes photographs from Indian photographers, and illustrates seven themes: photographs by Samuel Bourne between 1863 and 1870; sun pictures from the 19tb century, illustrating both landscapes and people; methodologies, including four tinted photocrom prints; images by the photojournalist Felice Beato; studio portraiture; Princes of India; and the work of the London Stereoscope Company.

The exhibition raises so many fascinating questions, especially at a time when we “celebrate” 70 years of the independence of India and Pakistan, and remember the many atrocities that accompanied the birth of these two countries.  In particular, it highlights the way in which imagery was used to reinforce cultural stereotypes, and also the use of photography in the 19th century to capture what are seen as particular racial types.

IT2I was particularly struck by comparisons between the countries in the 19th century and how they are seen today:

  • Most photographs displayed were of India, rather than Pakistan, although mosques in Lucknow and Delhi were indeed depicted alongside temples from Tamil Nadu;
  • The pictures generally depict a very clean and tidy India, with relatively smart new buildings and largely empty streets, a far cry from the hustle and bustle of the modern sub-continent;
  • The mountain scenes from the Himalayas, which are a wonderful resource for learning more about environmental change, and especially glacial retreat;
  • Jantar Mantar (described as the Old Observatory) near Delhi is shown apparently in an almost empty landscape, far removed from the urban  landscape that surrounds it today;
  • The shell marks on the walls of the Shahi Mosque at Qudsia Bagh serve as a reminder of the violence and atrocities of the war known by the British as the “Indian Mutiny”; and
  • It is a very male view – especially of the haunted faces of teh seemingly aloof and distant India princes; women appear mainly as nautch girls, although there is also a fascinating image of women at a bathing  ghat on the Ganges near Benares.

Above all, I was left with huge admiration of the work of photographers from a century and a half ago, who dragged their cameras and equipment across the continent to “capture” these haunting memories of India’s treasures.  This is an exhibition to be savoured and enjoyed.  Not only are the images stunningly evocative, but they also force us to rethink our understandings of the British Raj.

 

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Abu Dhabi in 1980


I first visited Abu Dhabi in 1980; there was construction everywhere and part of me wished I had been there 20 years earlier!   The changes since then, though, have been enormous, and it is very hard to recognise any of what I experienced then in the modern city of today.  As part of my ongoing project of digitsing my slides from  30-40 years ago, I hope that the selection below captures something of the city as it was at that time: the juxtaposition of small new mosques with high-rise buildings; the contrasts between the greenness of the agricultural projects at Al Ain, and the urban concrete of Abu Dhabi city itself; the differences in wealth between local citizens and immigrant labourers who were mainly from South Asia; the belief that pumping oil could create cities, whereas pumping water from the underground aquifers could turn the desert green; the rather sleepy atmosphere that pervaded the place; the beauty and colours of the dhows on the blue, blue sea; the markets on the streets where one could buy everything from animals to all sorts of imported goods from containers; the mysteries of the suq…

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