photojournalism

Spotlight #21 - Down in the Streets

It's been a long time since I've hit the streets with the intention of getting shots. There's a couple of projects I'm working on that are in progress that are very much street related, and I can't wait to start sharing those photos. 

In the meantime, this is a shot i took ages back when i went over to Chandni Chowk around Eid time. 

The streets were in a frenzy with folks celebrating and paradoxically also those who weren't in much of a holiday spirit. These were the folks doing whatever they could to get on with their lives, working day in and day out. 

One of those chaps was this guy, standing over a searing hot barbecue contraption, cooking up sizzling kebabs in an ocean of butter. 

I had done a fair bit of walking already and being that it was the throngs of the Delhi mid-day heat, I was knackered. 

Having met up with some friends, we decided to stop off and grab some grub. 

This was probably the most satisfying meal that had remnants of nostalgia and bliss. Nostalgia because, once again I was reminded about why I love this city so much - raw emotion and energy; depth and personality to every narrow street. Bliss was the unintended emotion response to a meal that hit every pleasure point in my brain and body. 

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Uber Stories - "Mohit"

Note: Mohit is a story I'm including to show the stark contrast in characters I have met in an Uber. While the others might prove to be a more entertaining read, this guy is probably one of the best drivers yet. 

 

Mohit is one of the Uber drivers who I'd say is in a minority - he's relatively quiet. 

He's one of those drivers who just drives his car, accepts the money, chats when he needs to and nothing more. He's a minority because based on my own interactions lately, most Uber drivers have something off about them. 

This bit that makes these drivers slightly skewed is what makes them so special. They are Delhi - chaotic, wild and headstrong. To find someone who's exactly the opposite is definitely a rarity. 

"Good evening, sir." Mohit says as I take my seat next to him. 

Already, I'm a bit thrown off. He's only the second driver ever who's been willing to do small talk with me. I can tell that with Mohit, I'd need to be a little more conservative in what I speak - not in a political sense, but generally with the subjects I bring up and the language I use. 

My ride isn't very far, so I start with the usual stuff. He tells me that he's only been on the road a few hours today, but the work has been flying. 

"I drive for Uber and Ola, so I'm almost always busy, especially during peak hours." 

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When I ask him about the customers he's had to deal with in the past that caused problems, I can sense he's a little hesitant to answer. 

"I've never really had any problems with customers. I just try to do my job as well as I can. I don't want to create any trouble." 

He does go on to tell me how his competition at Ola are ruthless compared to those in Ubers. 

"The Ola guys don't care. They do whatever they want. If they feel like canceling they do it, if they want to kick someone out they do that too. The Uber drivers are still much nicer."

As we pull up to my stop, I tell him about this project, and he's happy to pose for a shot. He obliges. 

 

Panwaaris

The Panwaari project is one I've been doing over the past few weeks. 

The concept is really simple - I get pictures of the panwaaris I frequent the most. 

There's no real story to each picture, however, the idea came to me a while back when I was thinking about business, and what it takes to achieve relative success in a chosen field. 

It got me thinking about India and the local community around me - how there are literally thousands of small businesses that run everyday of the week. These workshops, chai stalls, panwaaris and auto drivers all go unnoticed because it's such a vibrant part of our culture that we just take them for granted. 

The Panwaari project is the first of many that will serve to document culture that we seem to take lightly. In many ways, panwaaris are what make us who we are. 

My motivation, as always, is just to document. I'm not going to take this in any political direction. I am just the medium that shares. 

 

For non-hindi speakers, "Panwaaris" are the colloquial reference for cigarette stalls. The name comes from the snack paan, which is a huge part of our culture, but panwaaris today are department stores on wheels. More often than not any stall you see on the side of the road will get you anything from sodas to cigarettes to lighters to snacks. 

Panwaaris in many ways are the spine to our local economy, and thus need to be documented. 

 

Check out the project here - https://www.amansridhar.com/panwaari/ 

 

 

Uber Stories - "Ashok"

Note - The name has been changed for privacy reasons. He also did not want his picture to be taken. This was the best shot I had, so you have to excuse the quality of it. Quotes have been translated from Hindi

I remember that as soon as I got into the cab, I sensed that Ashok would be a prime target to talk to. 

Within the first few seconds he had asked me about my night, and seemed friendly enough, but I could also sense that he was one of those drivers who took a lot of pride in his profession. There would be no messing about in his cab. 

Luckily for him, he had me. 

I was on my way back from a night out, and was more tired than anything else. I couldn't wait to get home, but this guy was a real chatterbox. I embraced it and went ahead and chatted to him about the usual stuff - how long his day had been, what his plans were after etcetera. 

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As we turned onto the main street, I heard him scoff. I looked around and saw a smallish sedan that had been absolutely battered from the back. Next to it, was a small crowd, and a few meters ahead was a BMW with its blinkers on. 

I was able to clock what happened easily, and sure enough, so had Ashok. 

"These rich cunts, driving around in their fancy cars think they own the streets." he said. 

I mirrored his sentiment, but didn't say anything. 

"Why they feel like they have to drive their cars after getting sloshed is beyond me." he continued. "What the fuck do they think cabs are for anyway?"

"You know how it is, man. They just want to feel like they own this city." I said. 

"And they look down at the rest of us. Fucking cunts." he spat. 

I asked him about the times he's had one of these people as his customers. 

"No, I've never had one of them. Firstly, because they don't think they need us, but when they do they're always so fucked up drunk that I refuse to take them. I don't want to have to take care of some drunk bitch on the side of the road."

Fair enough, I thought. 

He ranted on a bit more, but slowly he tailed away. I was glad I had him as my driver. It made the ride home seem like a fast one. 

 

Check out the other stories here

 

 

Uber stories - "Somnath"

Note - Most of the conversation is translated from Hindi. Also, the name has been changed for privacy purposes. Curiously though, he didn't mind his picture being taken.

The first Uber story I have hit me randomly. 

I was on my way to a mates place and got stuck in a massive jam. I usually use this as an opportunity to start chatting with them because nothing gets someone from Delhi going than bitching about the traffic. 

Sure enough, as soon as I used the words "fuck this traffic," and "fuck that guy" (a bike just cut ahead of us almost crashing into the driver's door), Somnath opened right up. 

He told me that he was from Calcutta, and how moving to Delhi was a change because of the people. 

"Most folks here are easy to gauge, but I couldn't really tell much about you." he said to me. 

When I asked him why, he was emphatic in his response. 

"Because you live in Nehru Place, but you're not an asshole. Most people who live in these areas are flashy and in your face - like most Delhiites."

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We chatted a bit more and I told him I was originally from the south. He smiled and nodded.

"That makes sense. Delhi guys are flashy, but you're just wearing a t-shirt and jeans. If you were from Delhi, you would be different."

I tell him how I grew up here, and I still identify with Delhi a lot more than my South Indian roots.

Changing the subject I asked him about his worst ride. He told me about this time he was stuck with one overly demanding customer for almost 3 hours literally driving from one end of the city to the other. 

He then went on another rant about how much he hates Delhiites. 

"She was a fat bitch who just wouldn't shut up."

 

As I got off at my stop, I heard him pick up the phone and talk to his friend, amused at the fact that he had someone in the cab with whom he could bitch about the city he now lives in.