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Photo Essay of Life in India

July 30, 2007

Through these photographs I want to show the contradictions as well as the diversity of life in India. Multiple aspects and lives in one frame…

Although the pictures have been taken in Mumbai (one in Pune), this photo essay is not related to Mumbai as such, but the whole of India.

The photograph below is ordinary enough – but revealing all the same:

For one thing, it shows a working class boy busy with his cell-phone, something unheard of in India a few years ago. In the same frame is a preoccupied office worker hurrying to his destination, rubbing shoulders with the ‘other.’ Neither of the two notice anyone else…this is typical of modern day India. Life is becoming faster, people more indifferent. As for the lady on the pavement, she represents the India which is frozen in time. This was a sight you would have seen even a hundred years ago…

In the following scene I see a glaring contrast between ancient and modern leaders:

When I say ancient, I mean ancient! The statue in the background is that of Rani Lakshmibai, the queen of Jhansi. She became queen after marriage to the Maharaja of Jhansi in 1842. She never ruled Maharashtra, the state she was originally from, but her statue has always been a landmark in Pune, one that I have grown up seeing. She was my hero when I was just 12 or 13. As a kid, I used to be goggle-eyed at the fact that she as a woman had fought a war and she had done it inspite of having a small child. She was a brave woman who gave her life defending her land.

What can I say of today’s politicians? I guess its futile to hope that they will give their life for their nation. Why, rupees are more important to them than national interest! Mind you, I am not referring to the politicians in the poster – they are simply symbols for most of the politicians we see in India today.

The picture below speaks to me of two things: the old and the new, the old and the young.

What do I mean exactly? Well, old buildings are being abandoned and replaced, in keeping with the changes sweeping India. But our values aren’t being replaced, no not as fast! The young are not abandoning the old…

The following photograph is of a building too…but I see something different here:

A homeless man staring vacantly at a new construction. Poverty and development, side by side.

The well-to-do gentleman in the picture below is feeding monkeys on the expressway:

The irony is that there is a huge sign (the green sign in the background) just a few feet away which says : Do not stop on the expressway. These signs are all over the place but the fact is that people regularly stop on the expressway for various reasons (we have done it too) even though it is expressly forbidden. This is typical of Indian life, where rules are not given too much thought! Education has not taught us to obey traffic rules and the man above could well represent the thousands of Indians who break rules with impunity.

The following picture represents to me the middle class India that everyone talks about:

Its these millions who will be the life-blood of our economy in the years to come. For them the rich will always remain faceless…but they will learn to co-exist with them. The middle-classes may not be in the driver’s seat, but without them the engines will stall.

This is a beggar boy in front of MacDonalds restaurant:

A beggar boy he may be, and someone who has been deprived of the fruits of our growing economy, but he had on a brilliant smile. No, this picture was not as depressing as it could have been because there was light and hope in the boy’s eyes …

And what exactly is this?

Well, dressed up vehicles are not uncommon in India, and are often used during festival time. Celebrating festivals is very important and they are at times celebrated on the streets. Some Indians are becoming too busy or too modern to celebrate festivals with the enthusiasm of yore and do not always participate in community festivities. But while they are moving away from traditional festivities…they are not doing so in large enough numbers. It’s the traditional folk who still lead the way and will do so for some years to come…

(All pictures under my copyright)

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. July 30, 2007 9:02 am

    Excellent work, and a nice blog….

  2. oemar permalink
    July 30, 2007 9:11 am

    Hello Nita,

    A very good and thoughtful collection of pics indeed. Must have been hard capturing and consolidating the moments, but finally paid off well. This post is good!!

    The first pic of the busy man and old street vendor, yes it does give a glimpse of changing life and the old India, but frankly speaking, the photo in itself is quite disturbing. Makes me realize that though our country is reaching for the stars and the economy is vibrant, there’s a large section of the population that has been completely bypassed by this boom. Rich got richer, Middle Class shifted to Upper Middle Class, but the rest below them remained pretty much the same. Mumbai itself, with its majestic sky scrappers and dungeoned slums stands as a very good example of this. I would have loved to see some uplifment in this section of my people as well.

    PS: I know the theme of this post is quite different from what I have commented on, my apologies for that. But its just that photo….

  3. July 30, 2007 9:41 am

    I loved that, thank you for giving us a look. The McDonalds one kind of saddened me, not because of the boy, but because their food is so horribly unhealthy. They are loosing favor in the US and finding it in other countries. I could not imagine eating at McDonald’s if I had easy access to delicious Indian food. And I would probably stop to feed the monkey’s as well. Although maybe not now, since I know we are not supposed to. But it is tempting.

  4. July 30, 2007 9:53 am

    Great photos Nita! Truly represents the variety and contradictory India. Especially loved photos 1 and 3…

  5. July 30, 2007 10:08 am

    Oemar, yes, this has taken me months to collect. There were others which I felt were either repetitive or at times I have got good pictures (in terms of composition) but they came out blurred.
    And ofcourse the pictures moved you, and I am glad. There is sadness too in the pictures, yes…but I see hope as well. There is a great future ahead Oemar, yes even for your community.
    And there are a lot of poor people who have moved up from poverty to join the lower middle classes…more than a million they say in the last decade. But yes its harder for some.
    Thanks to everyone else. I feel very happy when people appreciate my photos because I am an amateur.

  6. B Chopra permalink
    July 30, 2007 10:27 am

    Well taken pictures with excellent views on each of them.. That helps us to realise – where are we? & where are we heading to?

    All snaps are heart touching… especially the Old & New snap.

    Great Job. Thank you for posting..


  7. oemar permalink
    July 30, 2007 11:38 am

    Hey Nita,
    After going through your reply, I think one of my sentences in the comment might have been a bit misleading… – “I would have loved to see some uplifment in this section of ‘my people’ as well.”… here ‘my people’ refers to the people of India (actually the poor people) regardless of community… in case you had understood it otherwise, I hope it stands clarified now.

    Anyway, coming back to the point, yes I do remember reading some where that roughly a million people have moved above the poverty line… good, but frankly speaking, I am not a professional nation-watcher, so statistics amuse me. I would rather notice the change with my own eyes than through 10 pages of a commission report…. nevertheless, good news is always good news…. 🙂

  8. surbhiarora permalink
    July 30, 2007 12:30 pm

    I must comment dat ur piece is commendable…rarely does one find such a comprehensive amalgmation of growth n disability…
    The pictures provide an insight view of wat v are heading uncontrolled explosion of exploitation of nearly everything…people, infrastructure, resources…almost everything under the sun!!
    kudos to your effort….definitely looking forward to more enlightening stories from ur side….

  9. July 30, 2007 12:35 pm

    Excellent post, excellent pics!

    The Jhansi ki Rani Pune photograph is very representative. There are many famous statues in most of the major ‘chowks’ (road-intersections) in Pune, for e.g. Shivaji, Maharishi Karve, etc. And at almost all these places, you find political hoardings. We’ve become so used to it that the contrast never struck me before! 🙂

    The monkey-feeding spot is a regular stop-over on the expressway. The view is also good from that spot, so many people stop there. In fact, that’s why the monkeys have got used to getting fed there…

    I believe the McD shot is the one at the start of the expressway.

    Young/old, rich/poor – what a nice contrast you’ve captured in all of them. Beautiful post.

  10. July 30, 2007 12:38 pm

    Very touching post.
    i look forward to your posts but i must admit this is the best i have seen so far.

    keep up the good work

  11. July 30, 2007 1:42 pm

    Nita – it takes guts and patience to take unflinching photos of perceived reality. I like it that you have not chosen to sugarcoat the fact of uneasy coexistence of old values and new ones. This blog entry exemplifies why I find value in what you choose to write about and highlight, in that you approach the topic with candour and express your own wonder about this India you call home.

  12. July 30, 2007 2:01 pm

    thanks to all of you for appreciating these photos. This has made my day. 🙂

  13. Nil permalink
    July 31, 2007 8:44 pm

    These photos are a great representation of a nation going through change. It is a society with such stark contrasts. What’s particularly moving is the young boy outside the McDonalds. One day I hope that all Indians will be able to enjoy the luxuries some currently do.

  14. August 11, 2007 12:15 am

    Very good picture, I am talking about:it shows a working class boy busy with his cell-phone, something unheard of in India a few years ago. In the same frame is a preoccupied office worker

    Very good indeed.

  15. November 10, 2008 11:51 am

    The picture of the homeless man staring at the new construction is one of the best I have seen. It says so much.

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