I’m sad to report that the Mehrauli Flower Market seems to have finally closed. There had been rumours that this and the one in central Delhi were to be moved to an industrial area in Okhla but I’m certain this hasn’t happened. A real shame – not least for those poor people that worked here. I’d photographed the Mehrauli market a little bit for my ongoing work Public Spaces, Private Lives and here are two of my favourite images from there from the set.
In honour of World Sight Day. I thought I’d publish a few of images to celebrate people having their sight restored. The surgeon, Doctor Rajendra Trishal is one of those unsung Indian doctors who work in very unglamorous surroundings but nevertheless change peoples lives by their work.
The last picture is not for the squeamish, so beware…
A couple of months ago I was contacted out of the blue by a Hungarian photo magazine – Digitalis Foto – wanting to show my work and conduct an interview. A very nice experience and lovely people – so many thanks to Varga Miklós and Nora Somogyi. The spread turned up this week and it was much larger than I expected – a cover and 14 pages…
The work here is from an ongoing piece about Delhi and it’s people – where some 100000 people just happen to be homeless. I’m always cautious these days about doing another story about the homeless – you know the nameless victims staring up at the camera but the sheer scale of Delhi’s problem is so significant, so enormous it became inevitable. The work was an assignment from ActionAid (thanks to Laurence who believed in my proposal) and was made through the invaluable assistance of Aashray Adhikar Abhiyan from whom I must thank the wonderful Paramjeet Kaur and Prakash, my invaluable guide and I hope now, friend. I tried very hard to make work that showed people as individuals coping in very difficult circumstances but one that is surprisingly easy to fall into. Normal, ordinary people in difficult situations. These are just three of my current favourite images – you can see a larger set via my archive or the Panos site.
“We are pleased to announce to Our People that on the advice of Our Ministers tendered after consultation with Our Governor-General in Council, We have decided upon the transfer of the seat of the Government of India from Calcutta to the ancient Capital Delhi….” (Quoted in New Delhi Making of a Capital, Malvika Singh and Rudrangshu Mukherjee, Roli Books, 2009)
With that on 12 December 1911, George V sealed Calcutta’s fate as British India’s capital city. Delhi, itself a city of seven (perhaps more) kingdoms became the new political centre of India.
Today, a forgotten, dusty patch of land is all that remains of the Delhi Durbar site; an obelisk marking the spot where George made his speech, Ozymandias like now in its echo. Most Delhi-wallahs know nothing about it, nor the park adjacent which holds statues of Imperial notables and a likeness of the King himself that, until the 1960s, stood beneath a Chhatri next to India Gate.
I first visited the place in 2005 and found, with some difficulty, a silent park off a minor road next to the main highway. Last week, in search of story about New Delhi’s first century as capital I drove out again only to find the place in ruins. Much to my and my taxi driver’s amazement the place was being demolished by hand by day labourers. It seemed to me that some of the statues had gone or were at least moved (although I cannot confirm if this is true or indeed how many) and certainly some of the plinths had been destroyed.
I am by no means a fan or apologist for the Raj – indeed as I’ve written before I hold very little truck with romantic India but I was dismayed that such a crucial piece of India’s history looked so … desolate. I haven’t had chance to ascertain exactly what the plans for this remote graveyard of empire might be but I sincerely hope that they are, as the foreman told me, to restore the place. If true, it is, like the Commonwealth Games building saga, a very furiously last minute – very Indian – job.
It could all of course be a dastardly case for Delhi’s detective extraordinaire, Vish Puri…
The first image was taken in 2005 – the rest are as I found the site last week:
Finally, the Chhatri that originally housed the statue of George V in the shadow of India Gate –