taking a walk: photos | stories | essays

31 October 2011

Kalka Mandir

God Standard Time.

It's rush hour at Kalka Mandir in Delhi's East of Kailash. Dedicated to Goddess Kali, it is one of the oldest Kali temples in India.

The Archaeological Survey of India mentions 1764 as the year of the temple's construction. Some centuries later, it is difficult to locate the exact physical shape of the temple, as houses and shops have mushroomed on the vaguely demarcated compound.

Delhi Police signboards are everywhere, warning visitors against pickpockets, petty thieves and people who offer sweets and fruits laced with chemicals.

The bottom portion of this structure is what's left of the original temple built in 1734.

23 October 2011

Scindia Pottery Colony

The price of paraffin wax has a direct bearing on happiness.

Traders at Scindia Pottery Colony in Delhi's Sarojini Nagar say they are not getting enough customers to cover the cost of setting up the market this Diwali season. A kilogram of paraffin wax costs Rs100, as against Rs40 in the same period last year. Artisans need a lot of wax to make diyas and that is where they are feeling the pinch—and passing it on to buyers.

But some traders see no issues. "It's too early to predict sales. Wait for two more days and see how people throng here," says Tribhawan Pati, who gets his wares from Gujarat. But he is a lucky fellow. He has enough savings, he says, to keep him going for about a year until next Diwali if he is unable to sell anything this year.

The potters' market has been around for 73 years. Two types of families live, work and sell on this stretch: one is the wholeseller, who lives in a nearby slum and stores the goods at home, and the other is the migrant seller, who comes from outside Delhi only during Diwali.

It is said the previous two generations who lived here were highly talented artisans from Lucknow, Kolkata, Agra and Gujarat, and they were given this place by Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia.

There used to be a pottery mill called Gwalior Pottery here, which eventually shut down. With nowhere else to go, the artisans set up this market along their houses.

Ashwini's job is to apply colours to clay items that arrive from the kilns. "I am a painter. Other people make idols and diyas, and I put colours to make them look good. Otherwise nobody will buy dull clay items," says Ashwini.

The sidewalk is the storefront.

18 October 2011

Delhi Photo Festival, 2011

Photographer Prabuddha Dasgupta interacts with the audience at the Delhi Photo Festival, 2011, at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. Excerpts from his talk:

"When an author writes a love story, it comes from within. But once it gets out there, if it does not transcend to mean something for the reader then it can be pointless... I think writers have it easy. They make their point and stay firm. But photographers have to face constant questions from viewers about the meaning of their work. You may shoot something and move on without giving much thought, and one day a viewer may say, 'I like what you are trying to tell with that photo.' Or somebody may ask, 'Why is that object not on the left instead of right?' I don't know. It is in my head. That is all I care about."

The organizers assumed that the photo festival, being a niche topic, would attract only a handful of people, and had chosen a conference venue with a seating capacity of 80 people. But at least 200 turned up, plunging the artist talk hour into chaos. But this assembly of a motley bunch of professionals and amateurs hummed along quite nicely, with some of them squatting on the floor and throwing questions.

Postscript: journey basket regrets to inform that Prabuddha Dasgupta died of a heart attack on 12 August 2012. He was 56 years old.

15 October 2011

How much should a person consume?

How much?

"If we are concerned about our great appetite for materials, it is plausible to seek to increase the supply, or decrease waste, to make better use of the stocks that are available, and to develop substitutes. But what of the appetite itself? Surely this is the ultimate source of the problem. If it continues its geometric course, will it not one day have to be restrained? Yet in the literature of the resource problem this is the forbidden question. Over it hangs a nearly total silence." John Kenneth GalbraithThe Affluent Society, 1958


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Journalist. Taking a walk in India. | Email to journeybasket[at]gmail | Special thanks to M.S. Gopal | All rights reserved. No commercial use.

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