Sunday, 1 February 2009

Old Delhi - Gritty, Raw, Beautiful

Extremely photogenic local in Old Delhi

Some time back I took one of my occasional trips to Old Delhi along with a couple of new friends. Old Delhi is one place I never really get tired of revisiting and exploring. Old Delhi is not for everyone though. In the eyes of most Western first-time visitors to Old Delhi is dirty, poor, congested, crowded, run-down, gritty and perhaps even depressing. It is India at it's rawest. But although I wouldn't want to live there, I do think that in all this there is almost endless beauty, diversity, culture, history, joy and authenticity to be found:

If you look beyond the decay there are many architectural treasures to be found. If you look beyond the dirt, there is a lot of imperial grandeur to be found. If you look beyond the crowds, there are so many beautiful individuals. And if you look beyond the poverty, there are a lot of people with time to smile to each other - and to visitors.

Here are a few pictures from my latest round of Old Delhi exploration, including a few from a Jain Bird Hospital:

A typical chaotic and messy Old Delhi street

Our friends Troels and Lone walking down Chandni Chowk - the busy main street of Old Delhi

Old Delhi's ultra-urban landscape is home to many animals such as this goat eating a paper bag

Another goat, resting on a bicycle rickshaw

The northern minaret of the Jama Masjid with Old Delhi's most congested neighbourhoods beneath it

Peaking inside another religious building - a small discrete church with a service in progress

Local boys willingly posing for the camera

Bicycle rickshaws busily ply the streets of Old Delhi. Here they seem to drive in formation like birds, one behind other

Baloon Salesman

Old Delhi is home to quite a bit of light industry, such as this workshop, which I think was printing posters

A very nice family in one of Old Delhi's small backalleys. The girl standing with her father is the one on the first picture in this post

Girl on her terrace in nearby courtyard

Another girl on the same terrace - judging by her looks she is probably the sister of the girl above

Jain Temple across from the Red Fort. It houses an interesting institution: A bird hospital

A serene spot in the temple courtyard by the front of the bird hospital

The mural on the bird hospital explaining in images what this place is all about.

A few of the birds under treatment. most are mean to be released after treatment, but many are blind or unable to fly and will have to live out their lives in these cages


JaLpArI said...

wow! thanks for the wonderful post!!!
truly India is best seen at it's rawest....:)
i luvd the pic of the goat sitting on the rickshaw :)

deewane said...

I am so glad u r back in Delhi!! I always enjoy reading your posts so much, they are detailed yet not, yu know, documnetarish (yup that's not a word :P). Have been living vicariously through your blog since I haven't been home (India) in forever!! So just want to say thank you!

P.S. Added you to my blogroll, don't know the protocol for such things but I guess should let you know :)

Esben said...


You're very welcome. Nice to see someone who shares my love for Old Delhi :)


Thanks for the link, and for the nice comment. I am not updating the blog as often as I would like to, but I have many more things coming up - also from Delhi.

Bhuvan said...

Esben, good to see an expat having interest in old delhi. I too enjoy visiting old delhi, chandni chowk in particular. Looking forward to more posts..