Day 30 – Friendship.

Friendship

New friends, friendships formed, from stranger to fun friend, from tentative to laughter. A class of kids, living in slums, given cameras, a little training and taken on walks around a vibrant but poor area. A piece of real urban New Delhi, no tourists, just everyday life. Friendships born from fun and breaking the ice, the barriers, the divide between East and West. Shy and nervous beginnings, language differences, yet as a group, photography joins together, brings together and a means to become friends. At first taking practice shots of their tutor, ending up taking shots of him to laugh at, to laugh with, back in the classroom, as he takes photos of them to make them laugh too. A few short lessons, a teacher who says, let’s go have some fun not sit quiet and learn, no longer tutor and pupils but one group of friends, taking photos, together.
Another teacher, also living in a slum area, helping out, fast becomes a friend, tomorrow welcomes his new friend to his house for chai and snacks, glad to accept someone from 4000 miles away into his humble home, as a friend.
In India, as in lots of countries, the first Sunday in August is Friendship Day. Delhites celebrate in their own way, buy or make their friends colourful wristbands, made from cotton threads with little gold charms on. To give one is to show someone is a friend, to receive is to know a friend, to exchange is to bond. From adults to children this new custom is being accepted, to spend time with friends, to enjoy the friendship, to show friendship. Happy Friendship Day on Sunday.

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Day 24 – Walk.

Walk

Walk at your own peril at Wednesday’s evening market in Govind Puri, Delhi. Stretching nearly a mile along a road normally full of cars, buses and motorbikes, when it’s market day, the stalls sprawl into the road on either side, making the busy road even thinner. Add in to the mix a four hour rush-hour and it becomes hazardous to walk, finish off with an afternoon of monsoon rain storm leaving great, deep puddles everywhere and the going gets hazardous. A walk along the market is a constant hustle and sidestepping assault course around filthy water, meandering by haphazard, jagged edged stalls, dodging madly driven mini-buses and kamikaze motorbikes riding the wrong way up the street. Any moment a car of bus can veer out the way of mid-road obstacles, brushing arms and bags, tapping the legs of the unwary. Manoeuvring along is a quasi-Zen art of having one eye to the left, one eye to the right, one eye in front and one eye behind with the last eye on the ground scanning for puddles, rubbish or metal bases of stalls jutting out. Even then bag-laden shoppers or the impatient, homeward bound, may barge through scattering others left and right, often into the path of close-as-it-can-get traffic.
Just to top it off the occasional cow will slowly chew its way along, unused to any hindrance, being allowed free reign as a religious symbol, ignoring all the hubbub around, or so it would seem. Never stand in their way or, worse, between them and food, for suddenly they become animated, they know how to use their long horns and a swift dig in the stomach, easily lifting feet from the ground, is dispensed. The careless walker left bruised and embarrassed in case some huge faux pas has been made, but it’s alright, the cow is just administering a blessing, say laughing locals before hustling on their way. A blessing the walker could have done without.

Day 18 – Big.

Big

A little street with a BIG heart. A small building with the BIG wide world inside. A small room full of BIG dreams. A small charity with BIG ideas.
The computer centre of the NGO Project Why in Giri Nagar, New Delhi, provides free computer training for the underprivileged of the area, so young people’s dreams of better careers may become a reality. It gives free internet access so the poorly educated can see and connect with the rest of the world. It may not be a large, plush computer centre but inside it is tardis-like, groups of young faces, illuminated by the glowing portals to the universe, learn, dream and envision.
The little street of the computer centre has tiny, ramshackle, oddly built homes along one side, the people who live there, accept anybody wandering along, sometimes looking inquisitively at passing strangers, occasionally engaging passers-by with questions but usually shyly just watching. Half-way down the street is a tiny house with the biggest heart, where eight people live in the space of a couple of tiny rooms. Outside is a little shrine, inside is a whole wall given over to the gods. Anybody can come in and bless themselves or be blessed by the softly spoken, self-proclaimed holy woman, the matriarch and big heart of the family. Respected by all who meet her, she accepts all, without question. To visit is an experience that leaves a BIG impression, not just on the mind.

Day 16 – Space.

Space

Compact and bijou, compact and bijou…in the words of Stephen Fry to Hugh Laurie on an old TV advert. Well not quite bijou but definitely compact, these homes of a slum in Delhi’s Giri Nagar district. Certainly not the worst slum homes by far but also certainly not the best, though there is space to have built them bigger, why make them so small? Perhaps the tenants could not afford to pay an unscrupulous landlord for bigger space to build their own rooms. Perhaps the landlord is a lesser goonda than a more powerful rogue who has the rights over the adjacent space. Perhaps the owner is just inept. No matter, even in a slum a rent is payable to the local goonda, a hoodlum, who ‘owns’ the area, though most probably the owner of the land is the government and as such these slums are illegally built and could be bulldozed at any moment. Even though the slums could have been there for 30 or more years, the tenants have no rights to stay there or be rehoused if the land is wanted for some other purpose. The government could make these slums legal homes and collect rent themselves thus taking the power away from the goondas but this wouldn’t happen because that would acknowledge the illegality, unchecked, on their land before and also mean the homes would have to be made fit, which would involve bulldozing the lot, a no win situation. Slum space – the finite frontier.