Delhi unknown – The bioscope boy

Delhi unknown – The bioscope boy

Small and idle, he cut a lonely figure during the recent Delhi street food festival.

He must be about ten years old and going by his turban he could be from the deserts of either Rajasthan or Gujarat, among India’s bigger states. With his jeans and jacket, the turban didn’t look all that out of place.

Standing in a corner he played with a thread-and-bead toy. Next to him was placed a bioscope, a colourful mock matinee box that contains pictures, videos from films and TV shows, and some background music.

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A tall man bargained with him, insisting on a discount of ten rupees for a toy he bought for his son.

Two women stood behind the turban boy, sharing a quick meal and probably unaware of his existence. But he continued to flash his toys for people who were mostly busy eating. After all, there were 60 food items being offered at the festival that celebrated the multiculturalism of Delhi through its local cuisine.

He was at the periphery, really. There was so much to eat. He must have felt tempted, this child, as a throng of visitors fussed over an extra bowl of rice or a snack not warm enough or less spicy. There were kebabs, chicken and mutton curries, all kinds of beverages and sweets.

It’s quite possible the boy couldn’t afford to eat there. The cheapest snack cost around 50 rupees, that’s barely his daily income, I assume. But he must have learned by now, for he looked somewhat grown up, what he could get and couldn’t.

But he was not that grown up as compared to, say, other shopkeepers in the vicinity, who sold beautiful, velvety and expensive Pashmina shawls from Kashmir, part of India’s vast Himalayan region. They sat equally idle, with not much business to transact.

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So who was this little vendor, who probably should have been reading in a classroom or having a good time in a play field? What was his name? Where did he live and what were his parents? Was he filling in for them?

I didn’t ask him these questions. I took his photo and moved on to the next shot. It didn’t occur to me to talk to him. So what if I wasn’t interested in his toys or that bioscope.

The boy was among a minority of faceless vendors who looked bored, at best, during the Delhi street food festival. Like this man, who also wore a turban, and sold beautiful puppets showing men, women, and horses:

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And this girl here, she sold these little musical instruments called damroo. She looked at everyone who walked past her stall. She was curious, perceptive and unassuming too. The women sitting with her couldn’t be bothered with the crowd. Behind them a priest hurled abuses at someone who took a bucketful of water from the shrine he worked for.

Did you ever notice and then un-notice someone because that person was of no use to you?

(Writing and photography by Ankush Arora)

Photo Album – Dastkar’s South Asian handicrafts festival

About two years ago, when I bought my first DSLR camera I read a blog that said deleting images was a bad idea.

“I would be VERY careful of what I delete in terms of images.  Yes, get rid of those clearly flawed images. But the rest, even the ones that don’t strike you as worth processing? Give them some time to age. You may find they are a fine wine just waiting to be uncorked,” wrote New York-based photographer in this blog post.

That makes sense, doesn’t it? Sometimes your pictures don’t appeal to you. Mostly it happens when you’re back from a shoot and can’t figure out whether what you’ve got is good, bad, average, below average or pure crap. I’ve had days, when I failed to understand why I clicked what I clicked. And yet, looking back at some of those images after you’ve forgotten about them can be useful, such as a photo walk through a crafts bazaar.

Surfing through my archive, I found pictures from a South Asian handicrafts festival held in Delhi last year. The show was organised by Dastkar, a non-profit organisation devoted to the betterment of craftspeople.

The NGO came into being thirty years ago to support India’s craftsmen and craftswomen, most of them living in villages. “(India is) … a country where the craft sector is second only to agriculture in providing employment,” according to the website.

As of today, Dastkar works with more than 350 craft-groups and small producers, a relationship that helps thousands of Indian artisans from all over the country.

It recently organised a winter festival in Delhi, featuring artisans from Kashmir – an opportunity for them to regain means of their livelihood after floods hit the Himalayan state of Jammu and Kashmir in September.

These images illustrate handicrafts made by artisans from South Asia. The tea cosy from Afghanistan is beautiful and vivid in its clarity of design. The kitchenware from Gujarat stood out in its austerity and simplicity of craft. And of course, there were more handbangs and earrings than anything else. In the food corner, aloo masala bhat, a snack from Maharashtra, proved to be more sumptuous than the regular biryani, ‘momos’ or kebabs.

tumblr_mserndrzzP1sgur89o9_r1_1280 tumblr_mserndrzzP1sgur89o8_r1_1280 tumblr_mserndrzzP1sgur89o10_r1_1280(You can follow Dastkar on Facebook)