On a hot and humid day of July, a band of amateur and professional photographers set off to discover a colorful part of their city.
This part of the city is “hidden” in plain sight. It’s a known secret that many, myself included, have overlooked primarily because we never took that one turn, off the main road, or maybe in the back of our minds thought that it would still be there whenever we wanted to visit it. But, as the world becomes more and more unpredictable each day, maybe it’s not a good idea to delay these moments, these excursions that we take for granted.
New Delhi has changed tremendously over the last decade. Traffic, construction, and just an ever-growing loss of patience has made the city where I grew up a true melting pot, the kind that boils over and every now and then erupts like a volcano through its citizens in the form of road rage or something of the sorts.
Still, Delhi is home, it’s part of me, of us, and no matter where in the world I go, I’ll always be that boy from “South-Delhi”.
Street Art on the other hand has become a rage across the world. The good kind of rage that is. A method to “beautify” plain and drab surroundings, maybe add a touch of colour to dull buildings, a way to express, a tool to demonstrate, a chance to surprise the unknowing visitor, irrespective of the size or location, street art has mostly been welcomed in cities in its varied formats.
While driving through Delhi and its suburbs you are more than likely to come across more “street art” albeit on a much smaller scale and scattered across at times in the form of advertising, general public announcements, or promotion of a cause. The Lodi Art District though is in a league of its own where huge road-side walls of residential apartment blocks have been given to artists from all over the world as blank canvases.
An initiative by St+Art India Foundation, a drive/bike ride/walk through the streets of this district, which is quite central to the city and right next to India Habitat Center, is pure visual joy full of imaginative surprises and moments of awe. The “Art” is on a grand scale and diverse, one that ranges from celebrating heritage and traditions of the country we live in to abstract and often thoughtful pieces – like the building with perpendicular letters on the wall which at first looks rather plain but when seen at the right time (10:00 AM to about 3:00 PM) of the day makes for a beautiful statement of words since the sun’s rays pierce through them reflecting a shadow making the words appear almost magically.
There’s a story behind each piece, but I preferred not to read about them beforehand, letting the art impact me on a more personal level so I could take away from it what I though it meant and portrayed.
As I and my fellow photographers strolled on, one late afternoon, on a hot day in July – not really the best time of the year – we went about not only capturing the beauty of this “urban art”, but also its surroundings and how in some places the city had taken over the art – posters – and at others nature had emerged from the background as eager as us possibly to see these beautiful collages.
And then there were the people – a lady selling char-grilled corn on the roadside, the man selling gol-gappas off his stand, another one carrying a basket of jamun on his head, and the children swinging by a gate who stopped me and asked to be photographed.
It’s these little moments that come together and add to the enjoyment; mixing photography, art, friends, and people together, making me forget that my shirt was soaking wet in sweat and permitting me to just take in the city for what it is , good on some days and not-so-good on others, radiant one moment and dirty or dull the next.
But it is a city that has been an integral part of my soul and in a funny way this little walk through the Lodi Art District allowed me to rediscover it all over again…