Delhi doesn’t inspire me. As a photographer my eyes are always searching for something different to shoot. That’s why I love urban photography so much. You only have to stand on a street corner for life to tumble by in the most unpredictable of expressions. But in India, where I’ve grown up with gypsies bathing their children in tubs on the street, kids performing roadside acrobatics and grubby smiling faces pushing balloons for sale on the corners, the streets of Delhi have become sadly predictable. And yet, every now and then, like today, the spontaneous, vibrant and spirited side of the city gives you a taste of something more.
As a street photographer the energy that pulses through Delhi brings a diverse and fragmented culture, as best told by the kids on the street. Many live in backstreet villages and these were the photographs I was eager to take. Within moments of finding my way down the narrow laneways of Bhatti village, one by one, the kids curiously peeled away from their games and started inquiring why I was shooting. I’m used to being asked why I’m taking photos on the streets and I’ve learnt that people don’t object when I tell them the photos are a part of my college work. Within moments they wanted me to click their pictures and in chasing their smiles, I was meandering deeper into the village to high pitched cheers and yelps.
Soon the kids grew in number and quickly became my guides. They took me to the houses of Aunts and Uncles to take their photos. Simple two roomed mud huts with charpoy’s sitting lopsided at the front doorways. They offered me fresh chai. They warned me away from one particular alleyway for the pack of wild dogs known to fight in the dusty, forgotten lane. I managed to get a selfie surrounded by their warm, open faces. One young boy even asked me to photograph his chickens. This is the thing about village life; despite its perils, their hearts are big and bountiful.
I felt like the Pied Piper. A band of kids streamed alongside me as I kept taking pictures. They told me of the monkey menace causing disruption and I offered some advice. With all the usual rush and urgency of combing ponytails and collecting books their mothers were calling them for afternoon school. I went to the local store, bought them a few packets of biscuits, said my goodbye’s urging them to stay on at school and study hard. As I drove away, I caught a glimpse in the rear view mirror of the kids smiling and waving behind me. I clicked over 100 snaps that afternoon but I cherish that selfie the most. Delhi does not inspire me, but these smiling faces do.