I’ve always believed that it’s the people that make a place. Their character, eccentricities, and attitude add a whole new dimension to the aura that then reflects on those visiting an area.
But my nature is such that I tend to think ten times before approaching anyone. Whether it is to talk or take a photograph, I’m typically hesitant. As a result of which I’ve missed out on many wonderful opportunities to interact with locals.
I’m changing though. My interest in street photography, and especially profiles, has helped a lot. I now make an effort to talk to random people that I cross paths with while travelling. Sometimes it’s to ask permission to take a photo, while at others, it’s small talk, about them or the district we are in.
Street-photography has also made me realise that while people enhance the charm of a region, stray dogs and cats make for excellent models. You just have to find them when they are in the right mood. I have been lucky enough to encounter some stunning stays during my photo-walks, and one of my favourites is a stray dog that modelled like a professional when I was at Humayun’s Tomb.
The Lodi Art District, one of my favourite places in all of Delhi, is packed with interesting people from all walks of life. Although I’ve been to Lodi Colony quite a few times, on two occasions I enjoyed pre-planned photo walks in the area. It was during this time that I encountered and interacted with some locals. Children playing on the roads, teenagers dancing, and an old man basking in the sun, it is a melange of colourful personalities that add a bit of fun to discovering the spectacular street-art scene of the Lodi Art District. The fact that the art makes for an ideal background for random profiles, as colourful as the very people that inhabit or visit the area, is the quintessential cherry on top.
A young man basks in the sun. I call him young because there was a child-like sparkle in his eyes, and a beautiful smile on his lips when I took his photos. He couldn’t move much, but still posed, happy, and also curious as to why would I take an interest in him. Unfortunately, I couldn’t strike up much of a conversation due to language, understanding, and hearing issues. But think about him right now, sitting casually on a charpai in front of a large and bright mural does make my heart warm up.
The fruit seller sat on his stool, next to his fruit cart, in an almost authoritarian stance. He didn’t flinch a muscle as some of us took his photos. His demeanour didn’t change. Not even a hint of a smile crept up on his face. And yet, I think on the inside he enjoyed being photographed.
Amma, an aged lady, made tea and the most delicious bread omelettes for us. The lines on her face were intense and spoke on a life that must have seen a fair share of ups and downs. However, she didn’t want her picture taken. Chatty and equally curious about our cameras, Amma informed that she’s never had a photograph taken, and doesn’t want to change that now. This made me sad. Still, I respected her religious and personal beliefs and didn’t take any photos of her face. But I did go ahead and take pictures of everything around her, including a video of Amma making the bread omelette.
I remember him telling me that his brother’s name is Taufiq, but the boy’s name slips my mind now. Jumpy, as most children his age are, he somehow sat still while cutting green chillies on this Sunday morning, helping his Nani (maternal grandmother aka Amma from above) with odds jobs at the street-food stand. Watching us take photos of the food stall, he went ahead and placed two toy motorbikes next to the teacups, to make the scene a little more interesting.
I came across the Bohemians Group as they took one take after another for their YouTube channel. A group of young and aspiring boys, I must applaud their confidence, for I could never dance like them in front on public streets. In fact, I can’t dance like them, period. Now sometimes, the young Tik Tok and Instagram generation can be full of attitude, but these boys were humble, equally interested in our photography, and pleasant to have a quick chat with.
The Biker Dudes. Sometimes, you come across people in a passing moment when there’s very little interaction with them. We had a quick chat with them that ended with “I’ll follow you on Instagram.” A few minutes later, they returned, possibly having forgotten the names, and took proper note of our Instagram handles. And that was it.
Occasionally, it is hard to understand what goes through the mind of the people we encounter. This man, on the right side of the photo, sat in that very position, talking to someone on the phone while we took pictures around him. He was there in our frame the whole time, maybe thinking that I would ask him to move. Little did he know that I was hoping he stays, for street-photography is better when people are in it.
And then there are the strays. Maybe it was a little early, or perhaps because most of them felt their bed-fur was not the look they wanted to be splashed all over Instagram, but barring one, none of the strays was ready to pose for me. Oh well, the life of an amateur photographer is never that simple.
Those wanting to explore more, the street-art scene in New Delhi is quite vibrant. From painting the walls of flyovers and the dividers between roads to the street art of Mangar village, there’s usually something interesting, waiting to be found, around the corner.