Posts Tagged ‘Delhi’

The Bridge and the Eunuch

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018


Recently I stopped my car to take a photograph. I stopped on a stretch of road (actually a bridge) that I’ve traveled a thousand times; a stretch of road that leads to the gora ghetto of Jangpura Extension, a sort of home from home in one of the world’s most cruel and beautiful cities. I stopped to make a simple image – with cars whizzing past me – of a brightly coloured apartment block (on the roof of which some years ago I’d been shown by a young man how to fly a kite) crucially situated between a drain (old) and a flyover (newer). I made a very simple picture but this being Delhi, the ground itself hides more than it tells. This stream of black water is actually called the Barapullah and it’s one of the key drains of the city. Barapullah apparently gets it’s name from a bridge built across it by the then emperor Jahangir’s chief eunuch, Mihir Banu Agha. The bridge had ten piers and twelve columns – hence, the name, Barapullah.

According to RV Smith‘s wonderful The Delhi that no one knows, by 1628, the road between the Barapullah and Humayun’s Tomb was a wide tree-lined path. The bridge now stands amidst a makeshift market near Nizammuddin railway station and the traffic of the main road. The Barapullah drain that flows below was one of the ten streams in the city that drained eastwards into Yamuna. Sadly, it’s simply now an open sewer.

By coincidence, I’ve photographed that same market several times over the years on my walks around the area and I show here two images that give a sense of what the drain looks like now and the market itself.



Gaily painted apartment blocks overlook a grim flyover and a polluted drain (open sewer) in Nizamuddin, New Delhi, India



A white Egret sits on a rock in the middle of an open drain beneath a flyover near Nizamuddin Railway Station, New Delhi, India


A man at his vegetable stall, near Nizamuddin Railway Station, New Delhi, India

Delhi’s Jantar Mantar closed for protests

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017



I was very sad to read that the Delhi government has, under the pretext of the violation of ‘environmental laws’ closed the protest site at the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. The order was carried out this morning evicting and  razing the temporary shelters of protestors.

For those that don’t know, the street was a kind of Speakers Corner crossed with an Occupy site that allowed a very limited amount of protests to be carried out by those with a grievance. The street – adjacent to the famous monument – was chosen as a protest site in 1993 after the Ayodhya-Babri Masjid movement raised security concerns and the government banned protests at previous demonstrations sites. The Jantar Mantar site was one of the few places where people in the city could protest and let off steam. It was also a fascinating place to walk through and see just what kind of issues affected everyday Indians – and their faith in their democratic right to that protest.

I’d been to a few demonstrations at the Jantar Mantar over the years. They never made great pictures – the gatherings – the pushing and shoving with the police were formulaic and regimented by the authorities. However,  it was always heartening to see the faith that especially the rural poor – many of whom had come from all over the country to shout about their (usually myriad) grievances – displayed. Heartening but of course ultimately futile: policy in India is rarely affected by such organised protests and increasingly one sees that cold, hard hand of the State for what it really is. As a symbol for where modern India is moving the broken tents and the tarpaulin of protesters scattered across the street that I’ve seen this morning in the Indian media could not however be more telling. How similar they look to the scenes that I’m reading about in Kathputli Colony as well today as the authorities seem to have finally decided to tear that Colony down for ‘development’. You can read about my previous writings on Kathputli here.

I leave you with two images. The first from the Jantar Mantar, not of a protest but of what I remember best from the place – engaged activists talking and debating. Creating a space where people were able to discuss their city. The second, from Kathputli in 2014 of local residents discussing the future of their slum colony that had clearly already been decided long ago for them.

Both of these spaces – so crucial to cities are now areas where the poor and voiceless are systematically excluded – and thus from the narrative of Delhi. It’s enough to make you wonder who these cities are actually for…


Two men talk by a demonstration near the Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, India


A local meeting of residents and activists at Kathputli Colony that is faced with destruction and closure, New Delhi, India


A new website

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

Today I’m launching a new, updated website. A new, more contemporary design and some new work. I hope you like it!

Please click on the image below to be taken to the site.



Tearsheet – Written on the walls of Delhi

Thursday, July 21st, 2016


Here’s a recent commission – images and words – from Thai Airways magazine about Delhi’s burgeoning street art scene. A million thanks to ST+Art India, Anpu Varkey and Harsh Raman. A really interesting and colourful piece to photograph – and write.


A Day in A Life-NEW Delhi-1s


A Day in A Life-NEW Delhi-2s


A Day in A Life-NEW Delhi-3s


A Day in A Life-NEW Delhi-4s

Wrestling Akhara

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016
Wrestlers at the Guru Jasram Ji Akhara, New Delhi, India

Wrestlers at the Guru Jasram Ji Akhara, New Delhi, India

The Delhi Walla

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

Even before we met a couple of years ago, I’d long admired the blog and books of Mayank Austin Soofi AKA The Delhi Walla. He has a forensic eye for all things Delhi (and Proust for that matter). Here’s a recent picture of us in the Indian Coffee House in New Delhi – a place that has been – and remains – important to both of us.



One of twelve…

Thursday, October 29th, 2015



I was delighted – and rather shocked – that one of my images from South India was named by the Washington Post yesterday as one of twelve of the 20th century’s most important photographs… I’m not sure that’s true at all but I do seem to be in very august company and that’s very nice.

The piece was written to coincide with the opening night (last night) of The Delhi Photo Festival‘s exhibition of Time Magazine’s old South Asia picture editor, Deepak Puri’s personal collection of photojournalism. He’s generously donated that to the Museum of Art & Photography in Bangalore.
Anyway click on the image below to be taken to the piece –


Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 12.12.57

Delhi’s Ghantewala closes

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015


Over the last five years or so I must have photographed Delhi street food a dozen times for different magazines. I would always however try and steer the piece towards the Ghantewala sweet shop on Chandni Chowk – as much because that gave me a good excuse to try the ladoos and the sohan halwa which was always offered.

I was deeply saddened this morning after reading the excellent Delhi Walla blog that the Ghantewala sweetshop had suddenly closed. According to a piece in today’s Hindu, the current owner, Sushant Jain, said unavoidable personal circumstances – and a drop in profits – had led to the closure. Ghantewala had been around in one form or another since 1790 and legend has it that the Emporer’s favourite elephant used to ring the bell hanging outside the shop to be fed sweets. As so often, the truth behind the legends matter less than the legends themselves: so cities ebb and flow. In recent years it seems that India has rediscovered its food heritage and realised that its culture is wrapped up in more than bricks and mortar. There are numerous Delhi food walks around now and my friend Pamela Timms, (although now recently relocated back to the UK) is the author of the definitive Korma, Kheer and Kismeta wonderful and detailed tour of many unsung street eating joints. The globalisation of food means that I can eat at any number of Japanese or Italian restaurants in Delhi but I should be hard pressed now to taste sweets that link the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam to the present day. What a shame.




Raj who delivers the sweets in the Ghantewallah Confectionary shop on Chandni Chowk.

Raj who delivered the sweets in the Ghantewallah Confectionary shop on Chandni Chowk.


Sweets on sale in the Ghantewallah Confectionary shop on Chandni Chowk

Sweets on sale in the Ghantewallah Confectionary shop on Chandni Chowk


Sweets on sale in the Ghantewallah Confectionary shop on Chandni Chowk

Sweets on sale in the Ghantewallah Confectionary shop on Chandni Chowk


Sanjay preparing a fried bread dish in Ghantewallah Confectionary shop on Chandni Chowk

Sanjay preparing a fried bread dish in Ghantewallah Confectionary shop on Chandni Chowk


The bell outside the Ghantewallah Confectionary shop on Chandni Chowk

The bell outside the Ghantewallah Confectionary shop on Chandni Chowk


My obituary on the Delhi Walla Blog

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015


As a long time reader and follower of Mayank Austen Soofi, the Delhi flâneur, writer and photographer I was delighted, if rather daunted, when he chose me to write my own obituary as part of an occasional series on the city. It was, I must say a rather strange and sobering assignment but you can read all about it by clicking on the photograph below…

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Tearsheet – Sawasdee – Who can leave the streets of Delhi?

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014


Here’s a recent tear from a story that I wrote and photographed about Pamela Timms‘ new book on Delhi street food – Korma, Kheer and Kismet.