Lodhi Art District

The tranquil Lodhi colony, built by the British around 1940 for soldiers stationed in Delhi, and now used as a housing area for middle-ranked government employees, has been transformed into a public gallery.  It’s a spectacular sight.

More than 25 artists from India and around the world – the US, Iran, Switzerland, Cambodia, Japan, Mexico, among others – used the two story high walls as their canvases. It took the dedicated crew of St+Art Delhi nine month to get all the necessary permits. And even after that people opposed some painting or the other because maybe black paint was used, which is considered inauspicious.

More often than not, the artists interacted with the locals or the location and developed their work from there. The German Hendrik Beikirch for example painted a woman he met in the nearby railway colony. Dwa Zeta from Poland created abstract forms which refer to the flow of Delhi’s streets. And the Spaniard Borondo  interprets the concept of life and birth in his river – opposite a maternity hospital.

More typical Indian themes can also be found on the walls. The lotus, India’s national flower, features prominently in the signature of Suiko. And Indian art traditions and styles like Gond Folk art were also used.

More here: http://www.st-artindia.org/

 

Lodhi Art District – “2 Hands Unterwater” from Doreen Fiedler on Vimeo.

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“My Delhi is clean”

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Vendors in the rich people’s Defence Colony Market are selling a whole range of masks by now. A vogmask costs Rs 2000, that would be several days of salary for a construction worker (who never are provided masks, despite the powder and dusk).

The air pollution in Delhi has become so bad that I only venture out with a mask in front of my mouth now. Be it in a car with the AC on, my fitness class in the local park or a walk to the local market: The air I breathe is filtered.

While I was traveling with the mask in the metro, a young man started to act weird. When I tried to move towards the door as I wanted to deboard at Chhattarpur Metro Station, he blocked my way. I didn’t think much of it and squeezed my body around him.

When the doors of the train opened, he stumbled out with me, and snatching off my mask in the move. As both ends of the mask are fixed with a rubber behind my ears, this wasn’t so easy. I got hold of the mask. And I shouted.

Immediately several men around me acted. They grabbed the youngster and didn’t let him run away as he intended to do. Everybody thought he must’ve touched me inappropriately. Even I had that idea. But I looked down at me and realized: He didn’t.

As nothing was missing and I wasn’t molested, I would have let him run. But one of the men holding on to the guy apparently wanted to show me that a behavior like his is punished in India.

So he probed the obviously intoxicated guy. The youngster shouted over and over: “My Delhi is clean. I clean my Delhi.” It seemed to me that he felt offended when he saw me protecting myself against the smog and dust, as he thought with that act I would be insulting the city and it’s people.

The man who was determined to show me that there is law and order in the country dragged the youngster down the stairs to the entrance where the policemen are performing the security checks. The officials jumped to attention when they saw the commotion.

I repeated several times that I was unhurt and untouched – but to no avail. The youngster was taken away. I sincerely hope they didn’t treat him too harsh. Like it often happens, see here or here or here (background article on police lathi-charging being a colonial hangover here)

 

Town Trot: Pre Durga Puja Walk

When the soil is still moist from the monsoon rains, there is a buzz in the air of the Bengali CR Park in Delhi. The most eagerly awaited festival of the community, the extravaganza that is the Durga Puja, is almost here: tents are being set up, clay idols are shaped, handicraft markets are installed.

Three ways to arrive in Delhi

There are three ways to arrive in Delhi, the travel author Helge Timmerberg writes in “Shiva Moon”. “The dead cheap version, the horribly expensive version, and the «La Sagrita».” (the bumpy translation obviously is my work)

He explains: “The dead cheap one is in proximity to the train station and costs five dollars per night (in fact, it can be even cheaper, but maybe he gets cheated every time, even though he claims he has been in Delhi 100 times). The room has a small balcony towards the street, where people sleep and dogs bark and cats roam. It isn’t clean, but the staff is nice, and they organize warm beer, no matter when you arrive.”

Timmerberg continues: “The second way of arriving in New Delhi, is the «Imperial». The most beautiful hotel in the world, a mixture of Mogul and colonial, maharaja and officer, turban and crown, elegance and might.”

The third option is always fully booked, Timmerberg says. Always.

As my temporary roommate had read the book before coming to Delhi, we decided – after we had already explored the unnerving Paharganj area next to the New Delhi train station after his arrival – to venture to the «Imperial» for his departure drink.

Timmerberg gives no further advise on how to conduct oneself in the – we have to admit – truly astonishing palace. (The author drinks three Gin Tonic, then likes the receptionist behind the mahogany counter, therefore books a room, but then doesn’t describe the best corners of the lavish building further (maybe he has a headache). He only mentions his discomfort of constantly having to tip everybody.) (<- stupid guy: tipping is not necessary in India, fewest of all for the guy who twirls his mustache at the entrance)

Anyway, my roommate and I ended up spending the evening in the «1911 bar», with leather chairs, period portraiture, stained glass roof and wood panelling.

There even was a saxophonist, but he was on the other side of the huge glass window, inside the restaurant. No one was sitting there, and he was apparently not allowed to come over, as we had soothing lounge music, so he just shrugged his shoulders and left.

1911 bar

500 varieties of beverages in the «1911 bar», and no one to – exept us – to sample them

 

 

What a sad hospital

What a sad hospital, where flowers are not allowed.

What a sad hospital, where flowers are not allowed.

But other than that, the Appollo Hospital in South Delhi is pretty impressive. Staircases are spot clean, the receptionist knew what she was doing, and I didn’t have to wait for a minute. The central hall feels like a mixture of shopping mall and the waiting area in front of gates at an airport.

Except for the huge pharmacy, of course, which had a perfectly organised system, where one gives the prescription at one of five counters, gets a token, and can collect the medicine some minutes later when the number is announced electronically at the cash counter.

When a man on the counter next to me didn’t stand in the two-people-long line, but walked up front and made some space for himself at the window next to the first one in line (as most people would do anywhere else in Delhi), the guy who’s turn it was told him to stand in queue! And the bold one apologised!!

World Cup final in the Embassy

There is no publicity option the current German Embassador to India would miss out on. So when the German football team reached the World Cup finals, he opened the gates – literally.

40 minutes before kickoff, a huge crowd had assembled in front of the main entrance to the embassy. It was by invitation only, but someone must’ve sent out a lot of invitations. The head of the press department stood in the middle of it all, his nerves at breaking point, constantly exclaimed there were 80 TV camera teams already inside. Many of them going live.

Whoever was wearing a tricot, was sure to be captured.

Whoever was wearing a tricot, was sure to be captured.

Seemingly over-worked embassy staff tried to form a line out of the throng at the gate, first on the right side, then on the left side, but failed. Some of them hectically went through the printed invitation lists to tick off names, but while finding one person, twenty others had made their way past them already.

Nothing was moving really. Reason being: The ground has a double door, with a thoroughful security check in between. Only one door can be opened at a time. Normally, passport details are taken down. And mobile phones are not allowed inside.

In Germany, we call live  public screenings of football matches "public viewing" (with exactly these English words)

In Germany, we call live public screenings of football matches “public viewing” (with exactly these English words)

But that night nothing was normal. When the embassador came to the gates and saw for himself, that under no circumstances would the crowd be inside in 40 minutes, he weighed the options before him: On one hand a PR disaster, which surely would feature in all the national media, already assembled at the place, as the Germans – with the organisation skill predicate attached to them – couldn’t handle a crowd of a few hundred.

The other option included a security risk. He chose the latter and declared the doors open – while the security staff stood stunned next to him, their head shaking in disbelieve.

Kickoff was at 0.30am, so many people were hungry again after they have had dinner

Kickoff was at 0.30am, so many people were hungry again after they have had dinner

Once in, everybody was munching away the Sauerkraut and Wurstl and Berliner, while grabbing as much drinks as possible. Because during the semi-finals, the embassy ran out of beer ten minutes into the match. Only after a while they again had managed to bring boxes of non-cooled, different German brands (from god knows which cellars in the embassy or staff living close by).

To prevent this, the embassador announced on the mic we should go easy on the beer. Otherwise it wouldn’t last the whole night.

Lucky us, it did. The rest was joy.

a happy lot of South Asian Correspondents

a happy lot of South Asian Correspondents

 

Swimming through clouds

 

sweatingWith the heat and humidity in Delhi at the moment I feel like I’m constantly swimming through clouds, as I have to push the air in front of to the sides in order to get through. All skin constantly is covered with a film of sweat, and the trouser sticks to the leg. A blue sky hasn’t been seen in months.

 

Sometimes we firangs (foreigners) try to conquer the heat with another layer of cloth. Quite unsuccessfully though, I have to admit, and we also look very funny in the attempt.

 

The Season of the Tap Confusion

Every year, there are two seasons of tap confusions. In the winter, warm water streams out of the shower head, when I turn the left knob, whereas in summertime, warm water comes after turning the right knob. And in between, when I try to remember which one was which, I’m confused for days if not weeks.

To explain the switch, I have to start with the unreliable water supply in Delhi. I live in one of the 75% of the households that are connected to Delhi’s piped system. 25% are not, they get their supply through either tankers or bore-wells.

But: This doesn’t mean there is a 24/7 water supply. As Debashree Mukherjee, former chief executive of the Delhi Jal Board, the municipal water supply agency for the capital, nicely put in an interview with the Wall Street Journal: “We’ve started pilot projects to move from intermittent supply to continuous supply to show that it can be done in Delhi.”

So, because there isn’t a ccontinuously pressurized systems, but instead one with a lot of vacuum in the water pipe – by the way also due to leakages: physical losses are 22% to 25% of total water produced – the house owners play safe. They install, if they can afford it, huge water tanks on their roofs. Black ones. And because there is no warm water supply by the Delhi Jal Board, they built water boilers into the bathrooms.

Now in wintertime, I switch on my personal water heater. Then warm water streams into the pipe from the tank, and cold water is added from the pipe that comes directly from the tank on the rooftop.

Whereas in summertime, the water in the tank heats up so much, I can use it as warm water, whereas the water from my (then switched off) heater serves as a cool admixture. No joke. In May and June, I can’t have a shower in the evening with the rooftop water. It’s boiling hot.

 

Helpless women at night

helpless women

For all lovers of flowers

flower's day

… because not only women are happy to get flowers on this women’s day.

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