27 July, 2008

I walked around Chandni Chowk and felt like Enoo from Taare Zameen Par. I wanted to see the Light and Sound Show at the Red Fort, but it was much later on, so I walked toward the Jama Masjid to find some food that was not McDonald’s.

Pictures from the day can be found on Flickr.com by clicking here.

As I passed shopkeepers, autos, bicycles and samosa stands, it suddenly became cloudy and dark; there was a strong wind and the leaves began to rustle. Dust rose in gusts and blinded me. People became quiet and there was a strange excitement in the air. The monsoon was here and even as shopkeepers packed up their outdoor stalls in great haste, everyone was merry. The water would come, defeat the Delhi heat and cleanse the city.

Just as it started to pour, I found a small restaurant and entered. It was one of those cheap unhygienic places you never go to, but I felt adventurous. The food, which tasted really good and made me full, cost 15 rupees, which is about 40 American cents. I also got shelter from the rain. It turned out beggars and old holy men also came and sought refuge from the rain there and it was interesting to hear the conversations. I took a picture of the rain and then they wanted me to take more pictures: of an old man, of the coins the cashier was counting, etc.

Then I walked all around the mosque, and back to the fort. At the fort I must have seemed intriguing to the police guards (because of my camera perhaps) so they started a friendly conversation.

Do you like in Delhi or are you visiting? Visiting.

From where? I study in America.

What do you study?

Where in India are you from? Uh… my ancestors used to live in Agra. Am I allowed to take pictures here?

I knew bringing up Pakistan would be inconvenient. After the recent terror attacks in Bangalore and Ahmedabad, a 20-year old photographer from Pakistan with a tripod stand would definitely seem suspicious. Besides, I didn’t lie because my grandparents had indeed lived close to Agra before partition. Our conversations were charming and pleasant, and I met them again on my way out.

The light and sound show was spectacular. It traced the history of the fort from the time it was constructed, through the periods of the great Mughal kings, the brief take-over by Nadir Shah, the British rule, the freedom struggle, and then finally Nehru and modern India. The buildings would light up, and you would hear sounds from different parts of the surroundings. This created a very real atmosphere and I felt I was living through history.

And since photography was not allowed I sat and drew in my little sketchbook, using just a pen. This apparently interested the kids and family next to me, and they started a conversation which was nice.

Later that night I met up with Jhanvi, a friend I had met at Princeton last winter. She and her friends were getting together and it was nice to get to know them.

Yesterday I worked on some sketches indoors during the morning and then I met up with Kav and Nienke, friends from Princeton, and had lunch with them in this very rich froofroo market in Delhi, which has really great bookstores, clothes, and all sorts of shops. It’s the kind of market where people dress up and go, as if to be seen – we have them in Pakistan too.

Uday invited me to dinner. His house is far away from the city, in the suburbs. It is a very large and luxurious country house. It was great to see Uday and meet his parents for the first time. They were very friendly.

It was a very cultural event. Uday’s parents’ friends were over (all of them rich and influential Indians, it seemed). There was a bar and the living room was lit beautifully. Everyone sat comfortably, and then the singing began. They took turns, and to the tune of the harmonium they sang classical and old Indian songs. It was a great experience to be part of this mehfil. The food too was superb – Kashmiri food mostly prepared by Uday’s father. I had some very interesting conversations with the visitors. I especially liked talking to Lekha, an old eccentric (in a good way) potter who would start speaking to me in French after a while – and then Frenglish.

Pictures from the day can be found on Flickr.com by clicking here.


Anonymous said...

i just read this out to ami right noww.
it's amazingg, you could compile this and make a book! --> ami.
it feels really good, and ami gets really satisfied after reading thiss. we miss you, can't wait for you to come back!
- lots of love,

Huda said...

Waqas I love your blog! I love the paintings, of course, but also the photography. I'm waiting for you to finish some artwork of your own though, good luck with that :) See you soon! lots of love.