One day in New Delhi
A few years ago, while I was still working for my previous company, I got asked to travel to New Delhi; there were some issues with the production line, that I could help solving. Of course, I said yes: I was always happy to travel for business, as it was always giving me the chance to also visit the places. I immediately booked the flight, and decided to spend a couple of days more in the city, during the weekend: two full days to visit around.
As it then turned out, I eventually had to work also on Saturday; everyone was glad that my way back flight was not on Friday night, as it was otherwise supposed. I was a little bit less happy of course… But still, I had Sunday for myself.
With so little time available, I had to chose. The Taj Mahal is a short way from New Delhi, I could have hired a driver to bring me there; isn’t it one of the most iconic places in India, if not in the whole world? But I didn’t feel like. Especially when I visit countries with such a different culture from mine, being the usual tourist, hanging around with his camera, most probably at midday, is certainly not what I want to do.
Decision was easily taken then: I wanted to go and visit the Old Delhi, hang around on my own along the most “real” streets of the city, where local people do their business, to see how the life there looks like. I could not do better.
Life is different
Literally. If you come from Europe, or more in general “Western” countries, you will be used to a certain kind of culture.
Sure, we also have poor people living on the street, but nothing I saw during any of my previous trips had prepared me for that. It’s really true: India, you will either love it or hate it. And I did love it.
Life happens on the street, in a way that one would not expect when visiting the central shopping area of a big capital. But that was the case: arriving at Chawri Bazar before the opening time of the shops, people were already busy with their daily business, from the barber adjusting the beard of a man, to an improvised tailor’s shop.
Life is REALLY different
When I stated that life happens on the street, though, I meant much more than just people doing their business on the side-walk waiting for “official business hours”.
There seems to be a whole, real life going on, indeed. Street is home to so many people, that it’s hard to believe what you see is true.
Some New Delhi citizens live their ordinary life on these streets, sleeping there, eating there, and even washing their laundry. It can be a real shock. India is the seventh-largest economy in the world by nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP). And it’s even the third-largest economy by considering the Purchasing Power Parity (PPP). Seeing such images in the core of its capital is just so hard to believe.
Their smile will change your life
Contrasting with the way most of these people live, their smile and faces will catch your traveller soul, if you are among those who will love this country (and most probably you will, if you decided to take a walk along these streets).
Their expressions have the power to let you completely rethink about what happiness is.
Happiness, indeed, is an attitude. Even more, is about enjoying life as it is given to us, for the simple fact that we’re able to live it.
We, citizen of western countries, so used to our brand new shining cars, our last mobile model, always complaining for minimal things. And then them, citizens of the street, where every day is a gift, and it’s worth living it, even if it can be hard. We lost the capacity to smile, and we have a lot to learn from them.
Being a photographer among these people
I admit that hanging around and taking photos of these people, of their way of living, of what, in some sense, is their home, was really tough for me. I sometimes felt like invading their space, their life, their privacy. Still, I think I did well.
First, non of them ever complained about me taking photos of them. I can’t count how many times it happened to me while taking street photos in my city. Here, they always smiled at me, and I smiled at them. It was just fine, and probably right, for me to be there and document it. Someone even came to me with the clear intent of being photographed, staring in front of the camera posing for me!
Even more, I think that sharing these photos will show to those of you who are not yet sure whether if India is the country they want to visit, how actually beautiful that country can be. Full of contradictions? Yes. Of poverty? How to deny. But deeply, and absolutely beautiful? Not a single doubt about this.
If you wonder whether if New Delhi is a place you want to see, just stop thinking, and go there. Just a small advice: pay the due attention, obviously, but don’t deny yourself the pleasure of trying some typical street food (possibly a Paratha from one of the historic shops in Paranthe wali Gali.
If you want to see more from my experience in the streets of New Delhi, don’t miss my photos from my Gallery.