March 21, 2012
Delhi hardcore! Into the old town and the most extraordinary bombardment of the senses.
The wholesale spice market is in what used to be the courtyard of a Haveli, a complex of apartments built around an open square, except now the square is barely visible, in-filled with a cluster of buildings, the original lower façade buried under random extensions, awning and signs porters with vast sacks bustling past.
Sacks of spices an almost choking smell of spices, there is almost a strange bubble that you feel around you as life weaves around barely touching, but completely engulfing.
Everything that evokes this experience of India is impossible to get on a stage. In Slumdog Millionaire they managed it with the camera chasing the kids through the slums, but how can I represent this chaos, tangle of humanity, electricity cables, monkeys, cows and rickshaws with the ever present hoot of scooter horns in the vast courtyard space with a cast of 21!
What was also remarkable was the way that suddenly it could get so calm, turn into a cul-de-sac, a shrine and in one we were invited to watch a man sewing jewels onto a velvet panel .
The pattern marked out by hand the, thread of crystals pulled and stitched through. All on an upper level platform with no daylight, a fan and florescent tube.
We are in a cold snap here, what must it be like in 45 degree heat. These are the kind of pieces we see in Shepherds Bush or Southall. I was relieved that it wasn't a child doing it, and obvious pride the man had in his work. But still the working conditions.
Dropped out of this almost medieval world of narrow lanes and perpetual trade onto the brand new metro complete with mobile phone access and headed to a more middle class area to witness a bride being made up!
We are at the end of the bridal season a huge business with vast amounts of money laid out. It seemed interesting, thinking about Hero and the interrupted wedding to see if we could meet and talk to somebody.
The bride kindly let us talk to her and I watched the makeup and the way the dress, hair etc was arranged. Hers was a love match and was having a relatively small gathering of 800 that night to which she said we could come.
So we ended the night being photographed on a stage (another wrong wardrobe choice on my part) with the bride and groom who wished us luck with our film! While the speakers blared out Indian pop. Very 21st century.
Photo: the spice market in Old Delhi.
by Tom Piper
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