Monday, September 9, 2013

Delhi Puppeteers Face Uncertain Times...

A puppeteers colony in central Delhi, that is home to magicians, puppeteers, musicians, percussionists and other artists, faces an uncertain time as the government plans to temporarily relocate the artists and their families in the next few months.

Check out the photographs here -

The Delhi government has roped in a private developer, Rajeha Developers, for the in-setu-rehabilitation of this cluster. It looks as if these artists will be rehabilitated on the same plot of land in a tower that is approdimately 54 stories high while the private developer will get to develop and sell property on the rest of the land.

Most of the people in this colony are not happy over their impending relocation and subsequent resettlement. They are also not happy that the temporarily constructed housing for them is also not upto the mark.

But, after visiting such areas, one begins to think as to why people who are still practicing traditional arts and crafts, culture and traditions continue to live in such poverty, misery and degrading (slum-like) conditions. Is it because we do not value our own art, culture or traditions? Or is it because most of the people practicing traditional forms do not know the English language and are therefore unable to market themselves and their arts properly?

Ironically, with the government getting so much money under various schemes like JNNURM, the MPLADs funds, the state government's own funds, the DDAs budget, the MCD budget, the Slum Dept's budget, one would like to ask and know why should an area of the National Capital that houses so many talented artists should be languishing and people living in such filthy conditions? Where is all of that huge amount of money going that is meant for urban development?

The Kathputhli Colony is a remarkable mini-India with families from across the country settling here over the last 5-6 decades. One can see that in the varied diversity of their attire, language, dialects, arts and crafts. The colony, with a population of about 3,000 families, has an army of leaders (pradhans as they are called in Hindi) with each religion and state having its own leader.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Tibetan Rally

Tibetans have been seeking independence from Chinese occupation for many years. Through they carry out demontrations all across the world, the Indian capital, Delhi is a favourite spot as India has the largest concentration of the exiled community.

Do take a look at some of the photographs from a demonstration they carried out close to the Indian Parliament. Check out the pictures here and feel free to comment...

Friday, April 12, 2013

Crafting Gods and Ganeshas in Ahmedabad

2013 seems to be good. Why I say that is because I have finally, after a long hibernation in Delhi, been stepping out of city limits. Though, my travels have been revisits to towns and cities, I was able to step into places and cultures that I had not been to earlier. And, importantly, take the camera out for a jog.

Ahmedabad was one such visit, where I chanced upon these intersting people who had migrated from Rajasthan over a 100 years back. The Gulbai Tekra in Ahmedabad is known for its unique craftsmen who excel in making exquisite idols of Indian gods, particularly Lord Ganesha. (Click here for more photos)

You visit that place any time during the day and dozens of hands, young and old, are at work deftly crafting beautiful idols. The slum is known for these expert but extremely poor craftsmen, who live in filthy conditions, despite their excellent skills in making well-proportioned idols of Indian gods.

Entire families are engaged in the work of designing, making, creating and colouring the idols. They supply the Ganesh and idols of other Hindu Gods to Mumbai and many other parts of India, particularly during major Indian festivals.

The people of Gulbai Tekra have retained their customs since they migrated over a hundred years back from Rajasthan after a severe drought. They continue to wear vibrant traditional clothes as well as nose rings which give them a distinct tribal look. The men remain unperturbed even as they are being clicked while many women are pose eagerly for photographs.

Recently, due to pollution of rivers and water-bodies, The government has been asking them to switch to clay idols, but they have largely ignored that directive as plaster of paris (POP) costs them almost half the price. The craftsmen also find that it is easier to colour the POP idols. Subsequently, buyers too prefer POP idols to clay ones due to the inexpensive proposition and also because these are brighter and more attractive.

Once the festive season is over many members of the families migrate to cities in search of jobs while some continue to work on the idols. A number of women here have very small businesses like selling eatables, tobacco products or running a tea shop. Families also own goats and poultry for sustenance.

On a positive note, a good thing I noticed amidst the squalor was a number of children still wearing school uniforms in the evening. Hope tradition and education can co-exist.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Mumbai's Dhobi Ghat - open air washing machine

The Dhobi Ghat at Mumbai, India, is the world's largest open air laundromat where the maximum number of people wash clothes simultaneously at a single location. The Guinness World Records certified it in March 2011. (Click here for more photos)

The world-famous Dhobi Ghat at Mumbai survives from the British era when prisoners were made to wash clothes here. Now entire families wash clothes for international brands, hospitals, railways as well as hotels and also live in the same space. Even the famous 'Chor Bazare' of Mumbai - the notorious market which allegedly sells stolen stuff - brings its worn-out clothes for mending and washing to re-sell these to poor people at dirt cheap prices.

Over decades, the washermen have moved on from hand-washing and steaming clothes to huge washing machines, dryers, LPG gas and electricity connections now. Often, in a matter of less than a day, they get the clothes, wash these, adds chemicals for various treatments, dry them and hand these back over to the upmarket brands.

Apart from the washing of clothes, the people here have expanded operations to sterilise and iron clothes. A tourist spot, it has had visits by celebrities like former US president Bill Clinton, Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, the Australian cricket team besides most of the Mumbai film industry stars.

Not only have a number of Hindi movies been made here but even advertisements for detergents have been shot in the washing bays of Dhobi Ghat.

The copious amounts of water is provided by the municipality and is charged but the water laden with organic matter, detergents as well as a host of chemicals goes straight into the Worli River without any treatment.