So goodbye to the Independent on Sunday Magazine…

So goodbye to the Independent on Sunday Magazine… In the late 1990s/early 2000s, I had a few lovely covers – thanks to the wonderful picture editing duo of Susan Glen and Victoria Lukens… my favourite I think however remains this one (apologies for the terrible scan) that I made with the brilliant Peter Popham about Arundhati Roy‘s Kerala. A marvellous assignment and great memories.

 

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One of twelve…

 

 

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 –

 

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BBC World News interview about my new book

 

I was delighted to record two live interviews last night for BBCWorld’s Newsday (shown at breakfast time in Asia) about my new book, The Palaces of Memory, my love letter to the Indian Coffee Houses.

You can see one of them here or by clicking the image below.

 

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Delhi’s Ghantewala closes

 

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

 

Nek Chand and the secret statues of Chandigarh

In 1996 I was assigned by the Independent on Sunday Magazine to photograph and write a story about Chandigarh, a city in India’s Punjab that had been entirely designed and planned along Modernist lines by the architect and planner, Le Corbusier. I first wrote about that assignment on this blog in 2010 – see here.

During that assignment, my driver recommended that I go and visit a rather dubious sounding rock garden that had been created. Bored and irritable under the blazing sun I turned up asking for a chap called Nick – responsible for what I believed was a inconvenience between me and my hotel room. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Nek Chand, the charming elderly man that met me had, in his spare time – in secret – over the last two decades, built the most extraordinary statue kingdom out of waste materials. By the time the authorities had discovered it, it had grown into a 13-acre complex of interlinked courtyards, each filled with hundreds of pottery-covered concrete sculptures of dancers, musicians, and animals. It was extraordinary. The garden had been embroiled in a fantastic tale of urban corruption, vandalism and official obfuscation but like all good Indian fables, right had triumphed and the forces of destruction had been defeated. The garden would become one of the most iconic sights in that city and Chandigarh would become proud of its amateur artist and his bizarre dream. This morning I learned that Nek Chand, one of the world’s dreamers had passed away at the grand old age of 90. What a sad loss.

 

India - Chandigarh - Nek Chand in his Rock Garden.
India – Chandigarh – Nek Chand in his Rock Garden.

 

My obituary on the Delhi Walla Blog

 

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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