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Nizamuddin West

NW intro

 

Welcome to Delhi! Last time I visited India’s national capital was 13 years ago. Back then it seemed romantic. But this time around I spent the first few days wondering how soon we could leave. It’s me not you Delhi; I’m older now and less tolerant of your filth, poverty and those slow moving parking lots you call traffic.

But we’re not leaving, not yet anyway. Delhi may hide her beauty well but I’m up for the challenge. And aside from being interested in Indian culture, there’s another reason I included Delhi on this project – it’s where Coco’s dad lives. While he and she see each other once a year in Sydney, I thought this would be a good opportunity for Coco to see where her father has been living and working for the past six years of her life.

Anyway, more about that later. For week one in Delhi I chose a neighbourhood called Nizamuddin West. A Muslim enclave that I’d read was old and interesting with not a call centre in sight. Turns out the place isn’t just kind of old, it’s virtually medieval, Marrakesh-ish, with narrow lanes, meat hanging everywhere and hidden faces rushing past. Let’s go Nizamuddin West!

 

Part 1: The Sufi saint of Niz West

Niz West is named after the Sufi saint, Hzt. Nizamuddin Auliya, who kicked the bucket in the 12th century. A village grew around his shrine and today 20,000 people are crammed into the oldest part of Niz west, Basti Hzt. Nizamuddin, living in tiny dilapidated houses amongst markets, shops, mosques and a number of other shrines. The Sufi saint is still a really big deal; I met Muslims who’d made the pilgrimage to visit his ‘Dargah’ from all over India.

 

perfume before prayer

perfume before prayer

 

 

 

flower sellers en route to the shrine

flower sellers en route to the shrine

 

 

 

say it with roses

say it with roses

 

 

 

looking through the jalis, into the shrine

looking through the jalis, into the shrine

 

 

 

tie a thread, make a wish

tie a thread, make a wish

 

 

 

two ways to send a message :: 1

two ways to send a message :: 1

 

 

 

two ways to send a message :: 2

two ways to send a message :: 2

 

 

 

pray then eat

pray then eat

 

 

 

Part 2: More shrines anyone?

Hzt. Nizamuddin Auliya may pull a crowd but he’s not the only mystical, otherworldly thing about Niz West. There seem to be shrines, tombstones and mosques at every turn, with the odd Hindu god and Christian sticker about the place, because Sufism is all about playing nice. I particularly liked the shrine of a poet – small, unassuming and with lovely dappled light thanks to the marble jalis (pierced screen) surrounding it. 

 

poet Mirza Ghalib

poet Mirza Ghalib

 

 

 

mates from the madrasa

mates from the madrasa

 

 

 

Mozzammel, 11

Mozzammel, 11

 

 

 

Mobashar, 13

Mobashar, 13

 

 

 

Abdulahad, 11

Abdulahad, 11

 

 

 

Khwaja Hall is in his hat

Khwaja Hall is in his hat

 

 

 

neighbours

neighbours

 

 

 

crescent moon beard

crescent moon beard

 

 

 

calm

calm

 

 

 

apres prayer

apres prayer

 

 

 

Part 3: The women of Niz West

Niz West isn’t necessarily the best place to be female. Many women are confined to Purdah, only allowed to appear in public when they’re fully covered from head to toe, just able to peer through a narrow slit in their black niqab or through the lattice of their burqa. However, there seemed to be just as many getting about with a simple heard scarf on. I would have loved to have had a good natter with some of them over a cup of chai to understand more.

 

women's business

women's business

 

 

 

hidden :: 1

hidden :: 1

 

 

 

hidden :: 2

hidden :: 2

 

 

 

purple haze

purple haze

 

 

 

Mehndi swirls

Mehndi swirls

 

 

 

red heads

red heads

 

 

 

 

 

Part 4: Thirsty, hungry?

I loved the chai makers, boiling up big vats of sweet milky tea every afternoon. The wafts of freshly made chapati and biscuits drifting through the lanes. And the piles of fresh fruit and veg stacked high on old wooden carts. Not sure about the butchers with their great hunks of raw meat dangling everywhere though, something the poor old goats wandering around must find most off-putting.

 

chai

chai

 

 

 

tea and coffee

tea and coffee

 

 

 

short black and a biscuit

short black and a biscuit

 

 

 

meet me 4 tea at 3

meet me 4 tea at 3

 

 

 

cooking chapati

cooking chapati

 

 

 

fresh and dried

fresh and dried

 

 

 

before and after

before and after

 

 

 

to the chicken shop

to the chicken shop

 

 

 

Part 4: The neighbourhood’s future

For all the shrines and hoo-ha, Niz West is a poor, underpriviledged area and day one, I watched where I walked, more concerned about stepping on crap or exposed electricity wires than anything else. By day three, I was able to look up and out, and enjoy the little bits of hope that tear around the alleys, kicking up dust but enlivening the place no end – the kids of Niz West. Many of them are getting an education and maybe just maybe their futures will be bright.

 

the Niz West crew

the Niz West crew

 

 

 

a smile to light the heavens

a smile to light the heavens

 

 

 

petal

petal

 

 

 

she could break the cycle

she could break the cycle

 

 

 

Abdul and his furry friend

Abdul and his furry friend

 

 

 

hope

hope

 

 

 

The Wrap

Every day I visited the neighbourhood was hard going. At least an hour in heaving traffic just to get there. Keeping your wits about you all the time to avoid going under the wheel of those pesky motor-bikes that slam through the ancient galis. Feeling constantly scrutinised by every single person around you. And knowing all of this was nothing in comparison to how tough the lives of those living in Niz West must be.

But. As the days passed I noticed the smell of urine less and the scent of rose more. I started to see beyond the squalor and appreciate the little bits of beauty. And the kids, thank god for the kids. “Missee, you take my picture!” they’d all call, beaming and jostling for a place in front of my camera. I may never go back to Nizamuddin West but I can honestly say I’m glad I went.

 

heaven and earth

heaven and earth

 

On the ‘home’ front

So we’re staying in an apartment in the same house as Coco’s dad, step-mum and younger half-brother. Cosy. But Coco is loving it and I’m getting time off from being a single parent; cooking, cleaning, child-minding and home-schooling are all being taken care of by the beautiful Indian staff here. A pleasant shock to the system I can tell you. The only downside is that Coco hasn’t seen much of Delhi so far. But this city is such hard work that I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing. She can always check out her mum’s blog if she’s curious. 

This suburb has been brought to you by Annabel Ritchie

See you next week.

  1. Sue A says:

    Great Photos again..I’m envious..

  2. Nick B says:

    How to compare, but I really think this is up there with your very best sets of pictures. The colours, situations, faces, and your unswerving eye for those observations and details are just fantastic. “Red heads” and “she could break the cycle” pop out as great diptychs as well as great individual photos. Very proud of you!

  3. Donna says:

    wow another glorious post…you have captured the beauty and colour of Delhi ..looking at the images removes you so far from the traffic and filth…nice work dudette!!!..my favourite post so far..thank you again.

  4. nadine says:

    This has been my favourite suburb so far :)

  5. Stephen says:

    I’m with Nick B.
    It’s easily the best post yet (no pressure for the next 47 weeks)

  6. Gavin Blue says:

    Beautiful

  7. Greti says:

    Oh sacred India! The absolute beauty and the despair. You capture it so beautifully. Thanks for sharing your journey.

  8. Guy P says:

    Bravo Louise! I just turned to Anne and went, ‘check it out, it’s her best post yet’…so glad to see others agree! Congratulations.

  9. Rochelle says:

    I agree with the others – this is the best suburb so far for me, you have an amazing talent Louise! Absolutely love “a smile to light the heavens” – really beautiful.

  10. Bryanna Pearl says:

    ‘she could break the cycle’ brought tears to my eyes.
    I am a teacher, and off to Sri Lanka and India Mid year. This post was inspiring and petrifying all at one.
    Petrifying in only the best way possible.
    The one that calls to action

  11. Anne says:

    These are so beautiful. I’ve been visiting for a long time…but no comments before. I think you’ve stepped up a level with these – hard won – photos. Is the light a bit different in Delhi? The colours are extraordinary. Thanks Louise.

  12. nicole says:

    the ‘what if’ girl just broke my heart. Thanks Lou x

  13. Ann says:

    This post was really, really interesting – and beautiful.

  14. Detective Chow says:

    Wow, some amazing photos. I love the ‘two ways to send a message’.

  15. cynthia says:

    Oh I just love that your in India .. and equally love what you’ve captured ….hope your making time for a chapti or two on your travels …Im in Dehli .. cant wait

  16. Louise says:

    Thanks all. I always love your comments but this week they’re especially appreciated. Although it’s easier in some ways with Coco being taken care of, the actual getting around and taking photos is much more challenging here. So to know that you appreciate them and are getting something from them is just swell. x

  17. Wayne says:

    Hidden 2… Now is that a gauze door, or a fishnet stocking?

  18. Andy says:

    They may have been hard won images but they make me want to be there, right now. Such depth and beauty on every level. Congratulations Louise…xx

  19. Anna says:

    Wow, wow, wow!!

  20. Josh says:

    Anna I was just about to write Wow wow wow wow!!

  21. Rebecca says:

    Yep, I read the whole thing and looked at the photos and then had to go back and look at all the photos a second time …..savouring them even more the second time round!

  22. Tatyana says:

    When I scrolled down to the ‘hope’ pic I was nearly crying. Great post, Louise.

  23. Sharon says:

    The colours in your photos are amazing. I love ‘purple haze’.

  24. Bianca says:

    Wow! What beautiful images. Your words and photos really take me there. Bravo!
    (I love the hand-painted ‘India Post’ on the post boxes.)

  25. JENNY says:

    Great pics for those of us who have never visited Delhi and not likely to either.

  26. Gerry & Dad says:

    Louise, we know we are biased, but these are wonderful. It’s been years since I went to India, but your images have brought it all back. Clever girl. Lots of love to you and Coco from us xxx

  27. Chris says:

    Brilliant photos – stunning colours and beaming smiles from the kids! Good first week in India!

  28. :: uge says:

    Hey louise, love this set of pics. they look hot. :: uge

  29. THE SHY PAPARAZZO says:

    Some people say India can be a nightmare.
    It’s always been more of a dream to me.
    Great pictures!
    It’s a good thing you’re not coming to Barcelona. I would run into serious concurrence.
    itsbarcelonababy.com

  30. Beachtropic says:

    Lou! Your descriptive passages get better and better, not to mention your images. My fav this week is Abdul and his furry friend. The light is divine.
    Enjoy your ‘alone’ time. Di x

  31. Abigail dent says:

    ThiS post is sublime! What a joy. Thank you

  32. Jimmy says:

    Stunning – extraordinary – I am also loving your thoughts and words. Niz West – you’re really not mucking around in Delhi – hard core. Having just returned I can sit here looking at your photos – a little teary eyed – hearing, smelling and loving India. As my beautiful partner warned me before we left – in India you will love things and you will hate things – just didn’t realise he meant concurrently. Keep well and happy. JX

  33. Louise says:

    I’m so enjoying reading all the comments this week. India is certainly not a neutral, ‘nice’ place but one that provokes and prods at you – and as Jimmy says, a place that you can love and hate at the same time. It will be interesting to see how I end up after more time here – will the love or the hate win out?

  34. Chloe says:

    great photos auntite louise! can not believe the amzing things you have seen just since we saw you! looking forward to all the new posts

  35. John Ellis says:

    I’m very glad I have subscribed. The photos are a very good blend of Street Photography and Nat Geog documentary and the commentary adds to them.

  36. G&T says:

    We concur to all praises & wows! You’ve captured the essence within the madness, beautifully.

  37. Suey says:

    yup I agree – THE best post! Loved hidden. Chai and chappati – ah craving for India. And what colour, Louise, awesome. xx

  38. Robert says:

    Once again great photos. Most of all I admire your courage to do to Delhi and dive in head first into some of the most confronting cultural place in a city with your camera.
    Getting strangers to pose and accept you as a European, especially a woman is no easy task an done in any city let alone Delhi.
    If it were me, I think I would give India a miss altogether
    Imagine you have another 3 weeks there !!.

  39. Toni says:

    Your photos reinforce the fact that there is beauty and colour in everything . The children are amazing, wonderful smiles.Really enjoying your fantastic photos.

  40. julie says:

    I love your play with focal length this week. Can’t wait for the next installment!!!

  41. Lisette says:

    Wonderful photos! I’m so glad you found the beauty among the squallor! Can hardly wait for the next post! Have a great week, and big hi! from Barcelona

  42. Sarah says:

    Loved Hidden 2, she may be hidden but her beauty shone through.

  43. lisa says:

    really very talented louise….beautiful not to mention inspirational! x

  44. Trudie Hurt says:

    Very inspiring Louise! Your photographs speak volumes – the captions entertaining.

  45. Joey @HONEYHYPE says:

    Inspirational photographs to say the least. I’m captivated by the clever and well thought out composition and pairing of images. The colours, contrast, patterns and faces all seem to be telling a story. If you do publish all these images in a book, I will definitely buy a copy!

  46. Robert says:

    Your Delhi Lodhi is nothing like the Creedence Clearwater Revival song, LODHI is it eh ?
    So much color this week…. I would love to see some video of the Jain parade….
    The band could be Sydney Swans fans too.!

  47. Louise says:

    Robert, your wish is my command – just added a short video of the Jain parade – http://52suburbs.com/videos/ – bit rough but it gives you an idea at least.

  48. Robert says:

    Loise, Thanks for the video.
    The band make a lot of noise and not a patch on CCR.
    Never the less,dancing was hypnotic and the uniforms would not be out of place at the SCG for a Sydney Swans game !

  49. sammy says:

    beautiful photos..go to Iran and have a good look around, then you will never see north India in the same way again..

    • Louise says:

      Sammy, thank you. I’d love to visit Iran, maybe next project.

  50. ranjeeta says:

    lovely pics

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