India Insight

Photo gallery: Preparing for Durga Puja in Noida

There is a workshop near my home in Noida, east of Delhi, where sculptors mould clay into idols of Hindu gods and goddess all through the year for festivals. These occasions mean brisk business for the craftsmen, who work in a makeshift hut covered by tin sheets. The idols sell for 500 to 700 rupees, depending on the size.

The idols of the goddess Durga and other characters in her story are being built because the Durga Puja is only a week away. I asked the people in the workshop if I could shoot, and they gave in after a bit of persuasion. The pictures that follow are of these craftsmen painting the idols of Durga.

The annual Durga Puja is a five-day festival commemorating the death of the buffalo demon Mahishasura at the hands of Hindu goddess Durga. Traditionally a festival celebrated in eastern India — it is the biggest festival in the state of West Bengal — Durga Puja is now celebrated in north India with much gusto and fanfare.

The head of buffalo demon Mahishasura.

 

 

A worker mixes paint for colouring idols.

 

 

Different paints for colouring Durga statues are seen in this photo.

 

 

A worker uses a brush to stir and mix paint in a mug.

 

 

A man outlines the eyes of Durga with a brush.

 

 

A worker gives shape to the eyes of a Durga idol.

 

 

Adding colour to the eyes of Durga.

 

 

A woman decorates a Durga idol.

 

 

Unfinished Durga idols are seen in the workshop.

 

 

Finished Durga idols are seen in this photo. The idols are dressed up and decorated before they are sent out to be sold.

 

 

The unfinished head of a lion, Durga’s mount, is seen in this photo.

 

An unfinished lion.

 

 

Durga idols, left in the open to dry.

 

 

Durga.

Photo gallery: On World Sight Day, photography by ‘Blind With Camera’

Photographers say you need to have an eye to take pictures. These children, who lack some or all of their vision, have applied the same maxim to their photography. The pictures that you see below are images that I took of an exhibition by the Mumbai-based project ‘Blind With Camera’. The show is on display at the Alliance Francaise in New Delhi until Oct. 18th, and I shot these images on the World Health Organization’s World Sight Day.

“…Tactile, audio clues, visual memories of sight, warmth of light and cognitive skills are used by the visually impaired photographers to create the mental image before they judge to take a picture,” said Partho Bhowmick, a member of the project.

The first picture was taken at Dadar Kabutarkhana in Mumbai during a workshop in 2010. The photographer, Bhavesh Patel, who was born blind, according to the exhibition brochure, said he followed the direction of the sound of pigeons flying and took the picture based on the audio clue.

Kejriwal needs different approach to win hearts and votes

The Arvind Kejriwal-Robert Vadra faceoff has finally reached the place where it should be — in court instead of in the press.

An activist named Nutan Thakur filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Allahabad High Court on Oct. 9, and it has now been admitted. The government must respond within three weeks. Thakur wants the court to explore allegations by social activist Kejriwal that Vadra, son-in-law of Congress Party chief Sonia Gandhi, has been involved in shady land deals.

Perhaps court is the best venue for trying to find out if there is any less-than-aboveboard connection between Vadra, real estate firm DLF and the Haryana government, despite the lonely, but rewarding work of good investigative journalists.

Photo gallery: a Hipstamatic trip through Old Delhi

As an iPhone owner and an avid Hipstamatic user, I’ve been capturing daily life on the streets of Delhi for the past few months. As someone who was born and raised outside of India, I’m struck by how much of life is played out on the streets here. From bathing to cooking to sleeping, India’s streets are truly an extension of the home, and in many cases, is home itself.

Most of the photos are from Old Delhi, a world within a world in the heart of the Indian capital. The old quarters were once known as Shahjahanabad — named after Mughal Emperor Shahjahan who built the city in the 1600s.

Seventeenth-century writers and poets described the old city as “paradise” and “like a Garden of Eden”. Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi’s main thoroughfare, once had a canal running down the centre. Today, the canal has disappeared and Old Delhi is overcrowded and run down, and poverty is rife. Beggars line the narrow alleys alongside vendors selling everything from a fresh lime soda to used car parts, and young, homeless drug users huddle to smoke heroin before passing out on the side of the street.

Watch your mouth: indignation at every turn

When you’re in a khap, you can say whatever you want, but it has to be pretty outrageous to annoy people beyond the city limits. One idea that has cleared the bar? Lowering the minimum marriage age to prevent girls from being raped.

“Boys and girls should be married by the time they turn 16 years old, so that they do not stray …this will decrease the incidents of rape.”

That’s the kind of thing that you expect a conservative patriarch to mutter through his beard while drinking tea with a friend. Comment done, world moves on.

Spending time in ‘Narcopolis’ with Jeet Thayil

I spent some time talking with Jeet Thayil, whose book on Mumbai and opium culture is a contender for this year’s Man Booker Prize, which will be awarded on Oct. 16. You can read the interview that we published on the Reuters news wire. Here are some excerpts:

Q: Does this make you feel strongly about the city?

A: “Bombay does that to people. It makes a (connection) with you. It makes it difficult for you. It bludgeons you. I’ve been reading about that area, Shuklaji street. It is disappearing now – Kamatipura, Shuklaji street, (the) entire area between Mumbai Central and Grant Road is disappearing, being bought away by real estate sharks who are buying up all the broken-down houses and making tall buildings. So very soon that entire district will disappear, and with it a million stories.

Q: In an interview you used the word “seductive” for Bombay. In “Narcopolis”, words seem to come from under a cloud of smoke. Is there a parallel you have drawn between opium and Mumbai?

Photo gallery: A walk through Mehrauli Archaeological Park

Next time you plan a visit to the Qutub Minar, venture beyond its crowded complex. Walk past the parking lot, which is on your left, and take the first right turn. Next to the Qutub Restaurant is an obscured path. Take the path, walk down a few steps and this is what you see:

 

You are inside the Mehrauli Archaeological Park, located in what was once the first of the seven historic cities of Delhi, dating back about a thousand years. The first structure (see below) is the Metcalfe House, which was once a tomb. Thomas Metcalfe was an agent of the Governor General of India to the court of Bahadur Shah Zafar, India’s last Mughal emperor.

 

As you move on, you’d find columns to your left and right, guiding you to several structures in this area. This also is a Delhi Development Authority park. Next stop is the Jamali Kamali mosque.

Kudankulam’s neighbours weigh nuclear power fears against living standards

Rani enters her home for the first time in more than a week. She switches on the light, but it doesn’t work. Tsunami Colony, where she lives in the village of Idinthakari, has been deserted for months, and the electricity supply has been patchy.

The people who were living in the development fear that the police will return and ransack houses – as they reportedly have done to several places in the village. The residents prefer to sleep on the sand outside St. Lourdes church here in Idinthakari in Tamil Nadu, alongside people who have spent more than a year protesting the planned opening of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, which sits about 2 kilometres away.

There have been nearly 400 days of protests in the village. A plastic board outside the church tallies this number, every day. Villagers claim that their power supply has been irregular with long power cuts ever since they started protesting.

Heavy-duty designs and a hint of Bollywood break Sunday slumber at Fashion Week

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Kanika Saluja Chaudhary shook fashion fans awake with her strong designs featuring metal work and elaborate headgear on Sunday afternoon, the second day of the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week in Delhi.

Chaudhary has dressed up Madonna, Nargis Fakhri and Chitrangada Singh, among others. Her designs at Fashion Week, she said, were for women who are creators, fighters and destroyers.

Anaikka (Chaudhary’s label) is known for metal, so we always focus on that. Metal represents strength, longevity and destruction, that’s our focus,’ said Kanika, “I believe metal is a shield, not only in the time of war, but in today’s time as well, it represents shielding, perseverance, strength.”

Cauvery River water fight paralyses Bangalore on Saturday

(This article was reported by Gokul Chandrasekar, Vineet Sharma and Bidya Sapam. Photos by Bidya Sapam)

The water was running in Bangalore on Saturday, but the buses were not.

“I have been waiting for a bus for over two hours now,” said Prabhat Kishan, 60, at the Majestic Bus Station in Bangalore.

India’s information technology capital shut down on Saturday over a state-wide “bandh,” or strike, that shut down shops, malls and restaurants. The bandh’s organizers paralysed the city to protest a decision by India’s Supreme Court to demand that the state of Karnataka allow the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu to get precious additional reserves of water from the Cauvery River. It is the latest episode in a dispute that has endured for years in a country that is facing alarming shortages of groundwater.

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