6

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.

 

5

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.

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