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Lodhi

Lodhi intro

 

After last week’s foray into a small but densely packed Islamic enclave, I thought we’d turn our gaze to a larger, sprawling area in Delhi called Lodhi.

While Lodhi is actually quite close to Nizamuddin West, it’s an entirely different world, containing bungalows built in the 1940s to house government employees, post-independence (1947) public housing, a handful of cultural, educational, and international institutions, a couple of temples and the oasis of calm that is Lodhi Gardens.

Okay, let’s wander.

 

Part 1: The band and the Jains

My first stop in Lodhi was a local Jain temple. While the temple itself wasn’t much to look at, I was told to come back early the next morning to see a big annual celebration called rath yatra. So at nine am sharp I raced over to see it. I need not have hurried because the Jain community were all on Indian time – which seems to mean ‘any time’. So the band who were booked for the celebration and I just waited.

 

waiting to get the show on the road

we waited

 

 

 

and we waited

and we waited

 

 

 

In the absence of anything Jain to photograph I turned my camera on the band. And what an accommodating lot they were too.

 

can whip up a band costume in a jiffy

can whip up a band costume in a jiffy

 

 

 

fancy indeed

fancy indeed

 

 

 

are the best, toot toot

are the best, toot toot

 

 

 

threads, sacred and sewn

threads, sacred and sewn

 

 

 

 

By this stage, an hour and an half had elapsed and still no sign of the Jains. Some of the local street kids came over to see what the woman with the camera was doing. So I photographed them too.

 

 

 

steet kids :: 1

steet kids :: 1

 

 

 

street kids :: 2

street kids :: 2

 

 

 

Then the band started producing their own ‘cameras’. A great opportunity for a few of them to put their arm around ‘madam’ to have their picture taken.

 

the photographer becomes the photograph

the photographer becomes the photograph

 

 

 

It was all pretty funny.

 

funny

funny

 

 

 

Then finally, hours later than expected, the Jain celebration kicked off. The band played, a tiny Buddha like Tirthankara idol was carefully lifted onto the carriage and the show hit the road. The band led the way followed by the procession of devotees and then the carriage. Every ten metres the whole lot would come to a halt and a woman would suddenly leap out from the crowd to take centre stage in front of the Tirthankara, and dance madly while people waved money over her head. Apparently she was expressing the joy of being a Jain, and the money thing, well, not entirely sure. Then off they’d go again for a while until they stopped to do a repeat performance.

 

shake it

shake it

 

 

 

tiny Tirthankara

tiny Tirthankara

 

 

 

marble and flesh

marble and flesh

 

 

 

leading the rath yatra

leading the rath yatra

 

 

 

joyous Jains :: 1

joyous Jains :: 1

 

 

 

joyous Jains :: 2

joyous Jains :: 2

 

 

 

joyous Jains :: 3

joyous Jains :: 3

 

 

 

After a couple of hours the procession returned to the Jain temple for some lunch. 100% vegetarian lunch with not a clove of garlic or hint of onion to avoid over-excitement.

 

maybe that's why Jains are so calm

maybe that's why Jains are so calm

 

 

 

And that was that. Worth the wait entirely.

 

Part 2: Modernism in India

Two friends visiting Delhi told me about the India International Centre in Lodhi. So glad they did. American architect Joseph Allen Stein designed the 1960’s IIC in the Modernist style but with Indian touches such as the cast concrete jalis (screens). In fact, Stein designed a few other landmark buildings in Lodhi giving the area the nickname of ‘Steinabad’.

 

India International Centre, in 'Steinabad'

India International Centre, in 'Steinabad'

 

 

 

Modernist take on ancient jalis :: 1

Modernist take on ancient jalis :: 1

 

 

 

Modernist take on ancient jalis :: 2

Modernist take on ancient jalis :: 2

 

 

 

all very retro

all very retro

 

 

The centre is where the city’s intelligentsia hang out and is Member’s Only in the lounge and terrace area. On my first visit two Indian men took pity on the woman peering through the window and invited me in. And that’s how I ended up having tea with a Brahmin and a Jain. They were both very charming but I found the Jain, Virendra, the most interesting having just seen the Jain festival the day before. The most curious part about the Jains I discovered is that they aspire to non-materialism and yet they are among the wealthiest in the land.

 

tea on the terrace

tea on the terrace

 

 

 

my Jain pal, Virendra

my Jain pal, Virendra

 

 

 

tea on the terrace :: 2

tea on the terrace :: 2

 

 

 

Before I left the IIC, Virendra and I wandered over to a little outside area called the Gandhi-King Plaza. Of the two inscriptions there etched in stone, one was particularly poignant, given that just a few kilometres down the road from this elite place are Delhi’s struggling.

 

and women

and women

 

 

 

Part 3: Living in Lodhi

Those same friends who’d told me about the IIC also mentioned they’d seen an interesting old house nearby with a lovely spiral staircase. Nosing around, I finally found it, knocked on the door and that’s how I met the lovely Rasil. Having spent 40 years in New York, Rasil was now living back in Delhi in her childhood home, built in 1942.

I asked her how Delhi has changed over the years and she was pretty scathing. “The Mughuls got it right, the British got it right but recently, no, it’s terrible. For example, the skyline used to be lovely but all these flyovers have ruined it.”

 

1942

returning full circle back to her home

 

 

 

Rasil

Rasil

 

 

 

house of curves

house of curves

 

 

 

For a contrast, I visited some of the public housing in Lodhi built by the Public Works Department after independence in 1947. The residents I met were all government employees and explained that as soon as their jobs ended, they’d have to leave. Hence the lack of ‘beautification’ to the buildings, all of which are pretty run down. But again, it’s all relative – compared to the slums around Delhi, these places are palaces.

 

 

 

public palaces

public palaces

 

 

 

Lalitha and son, Aditya

Lalitha and son, Aditya

 

 

 

Rashmi, 15

Rashmi, 15

 

 

 

And what with the gardens not growing where they’re meant to, there’s plenty of room for cricket.

 

check out the wicket

check out the wicket

 

 

 

Part 4: Lodhi Gardens

Before the Brits ruled Delhi, it was the Mughuls (1500-1850) and before the Mughuls it was the Delhi Sultanate (1200-1500). The Sultans heralded from Turkey way and had a very cool ‘Indo-Muslim’ aesthetic, which they injected into the many tombs they shot up around the city, including a handful of lovely ones in Lodhi Gardens. The British later landscaped around the tombs, turning 70 acres into a peaceful escape from Delhi madness. Nice chunk of green but I loved the old ruins best.

 

Lodhi Garden tombs, built 500 years ago

Lodhi Garden tombs, built 500 years ago

 

 

 

today, they're still being restored

they're soon to be restored

 

 

 

20th century public housing vs 16th century Sultanate

doorways into the past - 20th century public housing vs 16th century Sultanate

 

 

 

regal

regal

 

 

 

And look who I met in Lodhi Gardens prancing around the old tombs one day…

 

Coco does Bollywood at Lodhi Gardens

Coco does Bollywood at Lodhi Gardens

 

 

 

Part 5: Elephants, cows and flowers

There are countless dogs in Delhi – mostly sleeping – but I’ve seen zero cows. Apparently the moos were taken off the streets for the Commonwealth Games and haven’t really returned.

Did see a couple of elephants in Lodhi though this week. And flowers, well they’re everywhere.

 

two ways to get from A to B

two ways to get from A to B

 

 

 

elephant billboard

elephant billboard

 

 

 

the elephant - Jain vs Hindu

the elephant - Jain vs Hindu

 

 

 

flowery

jumbo flowers

 

 

 

Hinduism begins at home

Hinduism begins at home

 

 

 

patience required

patience required

 

 

 

But like I said, no cows, aside from this one.

 

its milk is okay but no eating the cow

its milk is okay but no eating the cow

 

 

 

Part 6: From the car window

As much as I’ve acclimatised to Delhi over the past two weeks, I still find the poverty and desperation gut-wrenching. Especially when you see it up close, right beside you.

 

through the car window :: 1

through the car window :: 1

 

 

 

through the car window :: 2

through the car window :: 2

 

 

 

But this guy, what a smile.

 

through the car window :: 3

through the car window :: 3

 

 

 

The Wrap

Lodhi is worlds away from last week’s neighbourhood, Nizamuddin West, despite being relatively close. For all my complaints about how hard going Niz West was, at times I found myself missing its intensity. But the Jains certainly made an impact as did those band boys. I also enjoyed the time warp of the India International Centre. And the painted elephants. Who doesn’t love a painted elephant?

 

Coco and Durga Maa

Coco and Durga Maa

 

On the ‘home front’

Child, what child? It’s going to be tough when we leave Delhi and all the home help here. I could get very used to having all the normal stuff taken care of – cooking in particular – not to mention Coco’s distance education/home schooling adventure which continues apace with the delightful Ronnie. Once I’m back to being a full-time mum, cook, cleaner, home schooler and 52 Suburbs Around the World-creator, I may need to cease eating garlic and onions myself in an attempt to remain calm.

This suburb has been brought to you by Renai Venables & Grant Bevan

See you next week.

 

  1. Stephen says:

    Awesome post, Louise. You really capture the feeling of being there.

    And you have some lovely shots of Coco – she must be pleased with those!

  2. Cathy says:

    Really enjoying your Round the World adventures! It’s so great to see all these varied places documented through your distinctive style.

    Coco looks gorgeous! What an adventure for her!!

  3. THE SHY PAPARAZZO says:

    GORGEOUS TREAT!

  4. Ann says:

    Fabulous and oh so fascinating.

  5. nirah says:

    Amazing photos…!! You really capture the heart of each suburb…! I can’t wait to see what next week brings….

  6. Simeon King says:

    Lovely Louise. Great to see the dilapidated grandeur of modernism in India…ageing gracefully.

  7. Emma says:

    Brilliant Lou – as always. Particularly loved this week’s post. And can’t wait to show the girls the photos of Coco – how fab does she look? x

  8. suzanne says:

    Wonderful. Hope you are both well and happy and loving each other on this amazing journey.

  9. di says:

    I think Coco might have a future in Bollywood!

  10. Red Peony says:

    Louise – you have such a fantastic eye and this innate ability to juxtapose your photos so beautifully; there is a wonderful warmth and dignity in each and every photo, especially those of people! Soooo many fabulous photos it’s hard to pick a favourite

  11. Sarah says:

    Another great week – you’re so lucky to have all the help in Delhi! I hope things get easier as you get used to home schooling coco, and taking photos, and all the other jobs you’ll take on part and parcel!

  12. Sue says:

    Beautiful pictures ..

  13. zoe says:

    Awesome photos.

  14. barb says:

    lou..what fabulous photos..and gorgeous coco..she is so special..love you both …keep it going in the style that only you can create..

  15. Belinda says:

    Coco looks fabulous!!
    I love the stairs at Rasil’s home too.

  16. gwen says:

    So very beautiful! It’s such an amazing treat to travel through your images! thank you!

  17. Jen says:

    You’ll be in your element in India – they LOVE having their photo taken

  18. Kylie says:

    Once again a great post Louise. Coco looks stunning in her outfit. One thing you notice is the colour…India is just so colourful.

  19. Louise says:

    Thanks all. Just added a short snippet of video of the Jain parade if you’re interested (just click on ‘short snippet of video’). Very rough but it’ll give you an idea of the sounds and the hip-swishing women.

  20. Trish says:

    You are creating a very special experience for so many of us. Thank you.

  21. Di says:

    Fabulous as usual Louise. I love the light in Lodhi gardens. Renee Venables I know, she just had a baby!!

  22. Kate Chaffer says:

    I feel educated and inspired after reading this – very beautiful. Thank you so much Louise. Wish I could come over and cook for you and Coco. Take care…and deep breath. K x

  23. Lisa says:

    Just wanted to let you know that I am loving your blog and photos. I am living vicariously through your travels at the moment!

  24. Jackie Nolan says:

    A wonderful photographic insight into the lives of the people of Lodhi.. You have captured the children
    beautifully as well as other important aspects of this culture.

  25. Kristin says:

    Beautiful photos Louise. It’s so inspiring and amazing what you do. Your daughter looks gorgeous.
    May I asked what lens you are using for your portraits?

  26. gill says:

    so enjoy being an armchair traveller and Coco looks brilliant and obviously enjoying it all!

  27. Greg says:

    Ah! Coco should be in the movies! Great post!

  28. schnook says:

    A winning blog schnookems and yes Coco is really cut out for Bollywood. I think you should dress up for the next post and Coco take a photo of you. I loved the band and you really captured the street kids at the car window.
    xxx

  29. bronnie_beede says:

    Love the heels shot!!!

  30. Louise says:

    Thanks everyone, so glad you enjoyed the post. But don’t know whether to pass on the lovely comments to Coco, could swell the head.

    To answer Kristin’s question about what lens I use for portraits, it’s a Canon 50mm 1.2 L series lens. Having only used the 16-35mm for my first project, the 52 Suburbs Sydney blog, it’s a real treat having the 50mm – for portraits especially.

  31. Kevin says:

    fabulous variety of excellent pics …

  32. Jimmy says:

    Stunning – as always. We often took refuge from Delhi in the Lodhi Gardens during our time there – a real haven. Love the way your unearth such treasures and personalities – its a rare gift you have. The photos through the car windows are quite haunting. Thank you so much.

  33. Lisette says:

    Once again, I am delighted to the max by your inspiring post! It’ll be hard to wait a whole seven days for the next one! ;)

  34. ALison MUdie says:

    Thank you for sharing these stunning images. If only I could take such gorgeous photos.
    Wonderful!!

  35. Isabel says:

    Hi, am glad u need henna design. It looked lovely on ur feet. tks for letting me join in on ur adventure.

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