I made my original story – about the Cairo Ahwas a couple of years ago (the original tearsheet from the German Effilee Magazine is here) writing about the changing political significance of these cafés during the recent uprisings.
Always nice to have something like this re-used, especially in the context of somewhere as historically significant as the Riche – but that is tempered by the uncertainty of its future.
I have, for a long time been photographing around aspects of a changing India. These images, currently being syndicated, show a gentle side of a huge demographic change in that country. It is estimated that by 2020, the elderly population in India will nearly double to 150 million people. Better medical care and low fertility rates have made the elderly the fastest growing section of society. New wealth and urbanisation are starting to erode the foundations of traditional values and kinship. Today fewer than 40 percent of Indians live in so-called “joint families” where brothers share the family home with their parents even after they are married. In a country where only 10 per cent has any form of pension, “old people have to work till they die” says Mathew Cherian, Help Age India’s chief executive. Even specialised medical care is rare, as India has only two medical colleges in the entire country teaching geriatric care. After the Asian Tsunami, HelpAge India set up a pioneering experimental scheme called the Tamaraikulam Elders’ Village (TEV) in Tamil Nadu that initially cared for elderly people displaced by the tragedy. Today, the village is a self-sustaining community providing a family environment where more able-bodied residents assist the less able-bodied. The village provides 100 older people with a safe place to live, free healthcare, emotional security, a good diet and professional support.
I was fortunate enough to visit for a few days and make some work there. Work that for personal reasons has an enormous resonance for me.
Despite great effort (especially on the part of Jon Jones at the Sunday Times Magazine) they remain unpublished. Of all the stories that I have shot over the last few years, I really want to see this run somewhere: not because my images are so wonderful but rather because of what they show and the issue that they address.
My agency, Panos is syndicating a 35 image set that can be viewed here.
A taste of a new project that I started to work on this year about the mental health crisis in Delhi is showcased by my agency Panos here.
The poor have fallen out of the narrative of modern India. Delhi, the nation’s capital, has been transformed into a vibrant, wealthy metropolis. But where extremes of wealth tread, illness and despair follow, and Delhi is today in the grip of a mental health crisis.
An estimated 20 million Indians suffer from serious mental disorders, many of them hidden from public view by their families. Delhi is a city of migrants and every day thousands more arrive to try to escape the poverty of the village. Many will remain homeless, divorced from the traditional family structure and culture. Delhi’s army of homeless is conservatively estimated to number around 100,000 people. Mental illness in this group is treated either by violence from the rest of the community or traditional ‘quack’ or faith healers. Delhi has had a traumatic history. The city was destroyed by the British in 1857, by Partition nearly a century later and riven by anti-Sikh violence in 1984 after Indira Gandhi’s murder. It seems to me that Delhi has lost a great deal of its culture and sense of itself; a dangerous thing to lose. A psychiatrist might contend that by its rampant consumerism it is trying to ‘feed itself’ an identity.
Nimesh Desai, head of psychiatry at the New Delhi-based Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences, estimates that India has fewer than 4,000 psychiatrists, and even fewer general mental health professionals. ‘The lack of psychiatrists is bad and the shortage of psychologists, social workers and councellors is even more alarming,’ Desai told me. ‘It meets about five to seven percent of the projected need.’ Desai has however attempted a solution. After eight years of intense lobbying, his team have started to conduct weekly open air surgeries for the mentally ill homeless in Old Delhi. He is accompanied by a High Court judge who assesses each patient to decide whether or not Desai can inject them with anti-psychotic drugs. On rare occasions he sections them to his mental hospital in the east of the city.