Shooting Stories : A Photography Walk + Workshop through the Ruins of Jahanpanah

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Register Here! https://getfbpay.in/delhidallyingshootingstories/

The City of Jahanpanah is probably the most obscure of Delhi’s seven older cities. What remains of it today is unassumingly nestled in the heart of South Delhi and it’s state of ruin is both charming and heart wrenching. Imagining the stories that inhabited these spaces and capturing them on camera is what we are doing this November. Spread over two days, this Photography Walk + Workshop gives you a chance to explore the ruins of Jahan panah while documenting it through photography and building your own unique narrative around it.

On the first day, we take you on a curated tour through Begumpur village and the Bijay Mandal park and monument complex, accompanied by professional photographer Pavan Mehta of Mahatta & Co. The guided photo-walk will meander through a contemporary city park, a 400 year old village, the 600 year old mosque after which the village is named, and a curious and overgrown 700 year old monument complex. While participants take in some of the fascinating history and development of the village, they will be encouraged to look for their own stories and capture them on camera.

Over the next 29 hours, participants will develop their photo-stories by independently shooting on site, selecting photographs and establishing a narrative, which would be reviewed and critiqued by at the Mahatta & Co. studio in Connaught Place on the second day. This would also be followed by a masterclass in architectural photography and post-processing.

Session 1
Curated walk in and around Bijay Mandal and Begumpur Village with stories from the area, and Photo-Ops and Tips along the way
Saturday 22nd November: 8am to 11am

Session 2
Review and Post-Processing Workshop
Sunday 23rd November: 4pm to 5.30pm

Requirements
DSLR camera and a basic knowledge of how it works.

Charges
INR 2000 per person (includes both sessions)
(Registration charges of INR 500 to be paid online + Balance payment of INR 1500 to be made on the event day)
All participants will receive a handcrafted Delhi Dallying package. We will also be serving water, tea and snacks.

We urge you to register soon as we have limited spots (10 participants). If you have any questions about the walk and the registration process, please email us at hello@delhidallying.com

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#Walktober

walktober headerAs the weather becomes favourable for exploring the city, Delhi Dallying shares some of its favourite stories from Old Delhi, every Saturday this October. Join us as we explore the obvious (read food) and beyond – the mohallas, the gallis and the markets – to understand what makes this medieval city tick today.

We’re looking at the extra-ordinary in the everyday Shahjahanabad through two lenses – take your pick!


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Independent: Celebrations and Myth-Busting in the Old City

In the monsoon of 2012 we visited Old Delhi almost every week for a group research project at architecture school. We were trying to understand the Old City’s complexity and see how it was different from the Delhi that we lived in. Over many visits to the same mohalla (neighbourhood), we had effectively invited ourselves over to the home of a family we had befriended, for iftaar and flying kites. Our families remained skeptical about us going there on Independence Day – perhaps it is human nature to be wary of what one doesn’t understand.

Although, not too eager to sacrifice a holiday for what seemed like work, our curiosities still got the better of us and we pushed ourselves to just go. From the moment we emerged out of the ground from the metro station at Hauz Qazi Chowk (popular as Chawri Bazaar Metro Station), we realized that it was indeed a special day. This Chowk, where the crowds were usually dizzying, was almost deserted. We hopped on to a cycle rickshaw and started making our way to Sharif Manzil in Ballimaran, a place we had frequented ever so often over the summer.

As we entered Ballimaran, we realized that the streets that were usually bursting with people and commerce were silent – just long rows of closed shutters.  Some men were selling goats for sacrifice – Eid was coming up in a few days. For a fleeting moment one assumed that with Ramzaan going on, all shops being shut and the weather being sultry, most people would be indoors- just another holiday like it was for most of ‘New’ Delhi. Little did we know.

The emptier-than-usual lanes near Hauz Qazi Chowk. Photograph by Varun Bajaj ©

Crossing Ghalib’s haveli, we ventured into the gate of Sharif Manzil. We spotted our friend and host, 27 year old Amir and his cousins on the terrace, five floors above us, from the chowk in front of their building. Amir’s ground floor garment shop that also sold kites during the season and the neighbouring cyber cafe were both shut. Amir had asked us to make our way up to the chhat. The first flight of steep and long stairs took us directly to a generous balcony on the second floor. We went up the rickety spiral staircase, passed through a passage and climbed a ladder to reach the fourth floor. Finally we walked up a narrow staircase to the terrace and we were engulfed with sounds and color.

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The courtyard at Sharif Manzil. Photograph by Varun Bajaj ©

 The terrace itself was not so much a flat plane but a collection of distinct rooftops connected to each other. The highest of these had been appropriated by the patangbaaz. We arrived just as the motley crew of boys and young men were helping Amir set up a kite, thread the ribs and roll the manja on to the pin. Their undeclared captain wielded the huge kite, maybe five times the size of a normal one, tugging at it, waiting for it to catch the wind. Middle aged uncles looked on endearingly, calling out advice as they deemed fit. It was a grand production.

Amid the shouts of “kati, kati, KATI!” , we could hear some Bollywood music playing in the distance. Amir told us that mohalla usually hired a DJ and it was almost an open air terrace party on Independence Day. However, with the month of Ramzaan being observed, it was only correct to be respectful. Most of these people hadn’t eaten or even had a sip of water the whole day and still they were flying kites, shouting out to each other and just generally, being happy. There was an electric buzz in the air. The sky was a brilliant blue canvas against which hundreds of kites were painted. The emotion was building up like the heavy humidity that was so common this time of the year, though Amir pronounced it a clear afternoon. “As long as it’s windy, and kites are flying, it won’t rain.”

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Dotted with Kites. Photograph by Varun Bajaj ©

Interactions with Amir and his family, who have been residents of the mohalla for generations, revealed that even though the closeness between neighbours had reduced over the years, there remained an implicit feeling of mohalledari. Children were jumping across parapets from chhat to chhat , and everyone was a chacha, tau or bhai – there was an overwhelming sense of familiarity.

The visual connection across terraces enhanced the interaction, both within and between mohallas, at a scale which is not imaginable on the street. Though the terraces belonged to individual families, they were not distinct from each other, making them a common resource for the mohalla. The chatt was a whole new realm of public space.

Hop, skip, jump! Photograph by Varun Bajaj ©

Occasionally, one would see, a flock of pigeons collide with another and then circle back to their masters. The sport of kabutarbaazi is still prevalent in many neighbourhoods in the Old City, where a kabutarbaaz trains his pigeons to not only come back on call but also steal a few from other flocks on the way! The Khans themselves had many pigeons, some of whom were bought at prices as high as 20,000 rupees a pair.

The sky was mesmerizing as the sun started to set – the tricolor, backlit by the waning sun and the approaching clouds, and was fluttering against a sea of terraces. In that light, even the monstrous MCD building suddenly looked quite harmless. The patangbaazi was starting to wind up and Amir’s kite, which had soared high up and attacked fiercely at first, had met its end as the winds changed.

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Symbolism at its best. Photograph by Varun Bajaj ©

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From Jama Masjid on the left to the slightly obscured MCD Tower on the right. Photograph by Varun Bajaj ©

Soon the azaan was called, one mosque after the other. There were fireworks at the Jama Masjid as the sky went pink. We helped spread some mats and bring out the food and sat with the entire family on the chhat. They opened their fast (roza) with dates and fruit. It felt private, but they were genuinely warm and welcoming. We joined in the feast of hot pakoras and gulped down some Fanta for good measure.

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Fireworks at Jama Masjid – time for Iftaar. Photograph by Varun Bajaj ©

 Being a part of that spirit made us realize that in this part of the city, 15th August is so much more than just another holiday, it is truly a celebration, not just of our independence but also the monsoons, the winds and togetherness. This day was all about collectively appropriating the sky, which belongs to all of us, with hundreds of kites and flags, by people, young and old. And there is a strange sense of freedom in just this awareness.

This post is co-written by Bhavika Aggarwal, Rohan Patankar and Varun Bajaj. It is a recollection of their visit to Old Delhi on 15th August, 2012 as part of a research project with Ammani Nair and Vani Sood. Their research paper ‘By the People : Complexity in the Commonplace’ can be found here.

A version of this post appeared on the August 15, 2014 issue of The Scribbler.

Walk 3.0 – St.ART Shahpur Jat – Walking and talking while gawking!

Our time in Shahpur Jat with St.ART Delhi has been great. We especially enjoyed taking people on walks around the village, weaving together narratives around the art as well as the history of the village. We did a total of 5 walks, 4 of which were open to the public and 1 which was for guests from the various embassies and institutes affiliated with the festival.

We took a meandering path in and around the village, starting at Bikaner Sweets, near August Kranti Marg and ending with some chai and pakoras at the terrace of the lovely Potbelly restaurant on the northern edge of the village. Each participant was given a lovingly crafted ‘St.ART Delhi Dallying Kit’, which had a lot of goodies including maps of the village, postcards with some of the artwork, information cards about the village and the festival, the very useful Moving Delhi cards and probably the most exciting of all – stencils! At the end of each walk, our participants could leave their mark by painting on Delhi Dallying’s very own graffiti wall!

While the festival is now over, the art remains and the urban village of Shahpur Jat is still as fascinating. We can’t wait to be back with a new walk and new theme! Until then, here are some photographs!

St.Art Shahpur Jat Walk

Walk 3.0Delhi Dallying is very, very excited to be collaborating with the incredible St.ART Delhi Festival 2014. We will lead a curated walk through Shahpur Jat next Sunday, where we expect to initiate conversation about the many historical and social layers of Shahpur Jat and its ongoing encounter with international street art, weaving a contemporary narrative of this urban village in Delhi today.

Join us!

Find the facebook event page right here.

 

From sky high to down under – well, sort of!

The Museum Series / Day 1

We are ashamed. It has been close to a year since we posted on our beloved blog, and no excuse is justified. The clutches of laziness and procrastination are unrelenting, and they’re precisely what caught us post-thesis.

However, two weeks ago we decided to rein in on our indolence and kick start our museum series, something we have been very excited about for a while now.

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The idea behind the series is quite simple really: Why do we go gaga over museums all over the world and not even bother visiting our very own ones before writing them off? Maybe they aren’t designed by a Hadid or a Foster, maybe they aren’t the most interactive, but how do we form an opinion without even giving them a chance? Well, we’ve learnt our lesson, and don’t quite fancy having to eat our words again (they’re not very appetising, surely you understand.)

Before we begin our adventure, a disclaimer: this series is not about us leading guided walks through the museums of Delhi. In this case we find ourselves as clueless as you (perhaps even more so). We will continue to create events and everyone is invited (we don’t bite), but this is more about exploring together, and (hopefully) busting some myths and having a great time even if the subject of our exploration smells of rat poop.

So, we began.

The day was a Saturday (now that we are slaves to work), the time 12pm (and sleep), and the places: in Palam, far far away, the Sulabh International Toilet Museum and the Indian Air Force Museum. We chose two museums which are close by- as the crow flies, that is. Sadly we are not crows, and would have to endure the perils of not having wings later in the day.

delhidallying 22We started off excited, and though they tried the best, the rain gods couldn’t dampen our spirits so early on in our adventure. Finding our way to the Sulabh Museum was not that hard, with edge enabled phones to our rescue. Now imagine the irony when you get to a toilet museum that prides itself in its plumbing prowess and find that its clogged and overflowing! We braved the rain (thanks to our trusty raincoat and umbrella) and waded through muddy water, pants rolled up and shoes in hand, to emerge on the other side: a large hall with a lot of middle aged men and some very cheery signage.

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However, we soon realized that in this case, a rainy day might not necessarily equal a museum day. Part of the museum was outdoors, in the spirit of true blue Indian habits. We couldn’t really explore the many types of pit toilets, examples of which were dug up in an open forecourt. We darted inside to the main museum, a medium sized hall with wall-mounted exhibits on the history of toilets and the habits of sanitation.

We were given a ‘short’ guided tour by one of the employees and were unabashedly told how we must not be embarrassed to talk about defecation and genitalia. When we broke into sheepish grins, he assumed an even more serious tone and told us how this was Mahatma Gandhi’s idea (of course). Gandhi spoke about  the idea of cleaning one’s own mess, which was basically taboo for higher castes in Indian society and the reason for the harijan (untouchable) community being treated the way they were. Sulabh takes that belief forward by providing easy sanitation solutions which makes waste disposal hassle-free and hygienic.

We saw some quirky exhibits like dried poop balls, biodegradable poop bags, victorian poop seats and poopy poems too!

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So was the museum (honestly) worth the hassle? We’re not sure. It’s clear that the proprietors have the best of intentions and our guide at least was very passionate about public sanitation. Maybe we have high standards because of our design education, but, honestly, the exhibits themselves weren’t very impressive and we spent a lot of time furtively critiquing the presentation. They have a strong base and a truckload potful of interesting information, but really need to amp up the wow. Still, as the only toilet museum on the world, it has major novelty value.
On a scale of ‘thumbs down’ to ‘awesome’ we give it a ‘passable’.

2013-07-20 13.00.09After the first half, we had a Dwarka lunch experience (read ‘no eateries’). With a hard-to-find Mcdonalds’s meal in our stomachs, we were quite happy to be heading to our second destination, the Air-Force Museum. Now this is the part where we wished ‘Wingardium Leviosa’ was for real. 3 hours, not a minute less, is what we took to cover a distance which would typically take half an hour. Adding to the traffic woes was our inability to actually locate the museum on ground – and not just on google maps. It was quite an experience: drowned cars, drowned cattle, drowned paan shops and their poor vendors – and then our car started smoking! There was smoke coming out of the bonnet, literally; apparently the engine was so hot that the rainwater vaporized. That bit had us worried and we had to waive the white flag and admit the second half of the day was a shitty effort (still not as much as the first half, though!).

So, we might have lost this particular skirmish but there’s a lot more ground to cover still! As they’re bound to say in the high seas of Delhi: Onwards ahoy!

Name: Sulabh International Toilet Museum

Address: Sulabh Bhawan, Mahavir Enclave,Palam Dabri Marg

Entry: Free

Thumb-o-meter: Passable (mostly for novelty)

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PS: Thanks Nivedita for making the effort of reaching the Sulabh museum in that horrid rain and we are sorry for being late! All you guys who missed DD’s first edition of the museum series, we hope to see you next time! 🙂

This post was co-written by Bhavika and Varun.

Of ‘hang-out’ places and pigeon droppings!

Sort-of in the center of  Central Delhi, just off Hailey Road (which in turn, is just off Barakhamba Road), ‘Agrasen ki Baoli’ is one of those places which you wouldn’t typically chance upon. You can’t spot it from far away cause its cozily tucked in,  and surrounded by buildings which are many times its depth, in height. If you’re there, you’ve probably heard of it from a friend, or maybe seen a photograph. It is one of those (many) monuments of Delhi, which don’t usually find a place in history books or travel guides.

So when I actually went there for the first time, I was a little shocked to see people; mostly youngsters and quite a few of them at that. I guess one should be happy about that; after all, don’t we keep saying that people in our city need to look at monuments as more than just mere blackboards for scribbling ‘Pinky ❤ Rinku’? Instead I felt a tinge of disappointment because I’d expected it to be deserted and would rather have seen it with fewer people dotting my field of vision! Anyhow, the Baoli has a rustic charm, to put it simply. The steps, leading down to the water (almost non-existent except on very rainy days),  in exposed stone masonry are an obvious result of time and weather at work. One can spend hours just sitting there and listening to the pigeons rustle and flutter, while absorbing the tension between the zenith and the nadir – shards of high-rises rising behind the plunging depths (ok, that’s a bit of an  exaggeration) of the baoli. Thanks to its ‘protected monument’ status, ASI had put up a much-needed historical overview of the place, which is believed to have been built by Maharaja Agrasen during the Mahabharat era and rebuilt by the Agrawal community in the14th century. Another addition by the ASI, is a prefabricated security cabin (in reflective glass X-/), annoyingly placed right at the top of the Baoli.

A few weeks back, I made my third visit to the baoli. As mentioned in the previous post, 2/3rds of Delhi Dallying was in Bangalore for the last many months and I had found myself feel immensely proud talking about my city (I know I live in NCR but whatever!) to my Bangalorean friends. Some of them happened to be in town for the day and I thought I ought to show (off) Delhi to them, in its full summer glory. This started with breakfast at Bengali Market followed by a walk past my school (Modern School, Barakhamba Road) across the road to this beautiful baoli. Despite the summer heat, there were a couple of youngsters  ‘hanging out’. There were about a dozen plastic chairs stacked up at the broken mosque on the south-west corner of the baoli which got me wondering if this place could actually hold events. Another addition was a visitor’s book displayed proudly right in front of the security cabin.

Now, this book is brilliant! It is  an honest reflection of what the people of the city really feel about such monuments, the sarcasm comes out poignantly in most of the comments and the language is just SO Delhi. At first glance, I couldn’t stop laughing at the ridiculous ‘Nice, Good to Smooch!’ comment. But on reading further, it was clear that some people were genuinely concerned about the baoli. There is rightful criticism about the lack of drinking water and ‘the wonderful aroma of bat shit and pigeon droppings’ as well as some interesting suggestions like ‘jhule hone chahiye’!

The visitor’s book is definitely a step towards involving people (rather making people feel involved)  in managing public places but will these suggestions and concerns result in improvements? Time shall tell. Till then, enjoy the comments!

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Photo Credits: Our ‘Bangalorean friend’ Alkananda Yeshwanth