We want to see you through the eyes of a local. We want to discover the people who make your city what it is, explore the corners that most travellers miss, and get a taste for life in a city that’s often misunderstood. To help us out, travel professional and photographer @pravin_tamang took us through his city’s streets in the form of a visual love letter to Delhi on Instagram, using the tag #DearDelhi over the past few weeks. Take a peek into local life below and share with us his passion for people, places, and photography.
#DearDelhi, I love how your streets have little stalls of chaiwalas on every corner. It’s India’s second most consumed beverage, and an Indian’s love affair with chai (tea) is incredible. The above tea stall is right outside the park in south Delhi where joggers, walkers, lovers, taxi drivers, and auto rickshaw drivers drink chai — I like how tea dissipates class and caste barriers.
#DearDelhi, we are thankful for the metro train and when I say “we”, I literally mean two million people who commute around Delhi everyday. What an awesome success this is. The Delhi Metro has not just changed the way people travel across the city for work but it has changed the way for tourism too. The trains are by no means pleasant during rush hour, but at least the coaches are air-conditioned during hot and humid summers.
#DearDelhi, where the streets are narrow and winding, everyone wants their little bit of space. A bit aggressive at times and with a lot of love on the other, an Indian’s understanding of space does not necessarily correspond to the western world’s. Delhites live inches away from each other (figuratively speaking) but their understanding of living in a heterogeneous community, culture, and society is far advanced.
#DearDelhi, I have been told by many visitors and travellers in the past that, contrary to popular belief, they have found Delhi to be refreshingly green. Rows of big leafy trees cross the roads, plants and flowers on the medians. The beautiful parks and gardens among the maze of roads provide absolute respite to the common man. The image above shows a morning scene at one of my favourite parks in Delhi, Deer Park.
#DearDelhi, you can be termed as a real “melting pot” of India. With over 25 million people, you are the second most populous city in the world. Now, that’s crowded and does not sound fun at all, but what it brings with all these people in one city is multicultural interaction, food, language, literature, and looks, and that is FUN! in capital letters. The image above was shot at a very popular market in south Delhi. It is effortless walking here since the crowd will push you towards the shop you want to visit — you just need to be facing at the right direction.
#DearDelhi, its dinner time and here I am standing in utter confusion, torn between choosing tandoori chicken on one hand and Chinese Chaat on the other. I know well that Delhi has a high tendency to completely manipulate world food to suit its own palates and tastes. The biggest victim is Chinese, hands down, and the image above is a classic example. I think I am leaning towards Tandoori simply because it looks popular with the crowd.
#DearDelhi, your mornings are quiet and the only buzz that happens is at little corners where your milk stalls are, probably because people need their milky and sugary chai fixes. The result of “White Revolution” in India saw the government aggressively setting up dairies and dairy production, threatening the small-scale producers and sellers — but never stopping them from making the competition fierce. The above image is of a popular small dairy product seller in central Delhi; it is said that his cottage cheese is one of the best.
#DearDelhi, I go to the same barber shop that I have been going to for years now. No, not because it is fancy or the barbers are hip. But because I get to hear the local gossip on what’s going on in the neighbourhood while having a haircut and a head massage for only ₹100, and that, I think, is a deal. The image above is what a typical barber shop looks like in India; we call them “saloon” as in western movies. You need more basic than this? You also have options to sit below a tree and have your head shaved or hair cut.
#DearDelhi, how would we access the complex little alleyways without these cycle rickshaws? How would we reach home to our loved ones if it were not for these rickshaw drivers peddling hard to take us closer to our homes? #DearDelhi, let us thank these good men and wish them well.
#DearDelhi, we love our holy cows, how charming and cute they are when they walk slowly on the streets and highways (and sometimes sit right in the middle), acting like self-appointed traffic lights. Look at the stressed-out drivers and office-goers, helpless yet calm. #DearDelhi, you may remember that the High Court actually issued an ultimatum to clean the streets of cows years ago. But we still see a lot of working cows/bulls (image above) on the streets. They are holy but they have to earn their place to be on the streets of Delhi now.
#DearDelhi, there is a famous saying that Delhi could never be claimed and owned. It is said that seven dynasties tried, and all fell or, rather, failed. The above image show a fraction of Qutab Minar, a victory tower built by one of the rulers of Delhi — an iconic landmark of Delhi that stands 74 metres tall. The details on the monument are stunning. Since Delhi cannot be owned and ruled, the modern saying goes like this, “Dilli Dilwalon Ki,” meaning “Delhi belongs to people with heart.”
#DearDelhi, you were the chosen capital of the empires that toppled other empires. The monuments that we see today are evidence of your popularity as a capital city. These magnificent monuments need constant attention and cleaning, so I admire the people who do that. So I apologise in advance for my audacity to post this image of a cleaning lady at Humayun’s Tomb, and not an image of the monument itself, as I am sure others have done it a million times.
#DearDelhi, I hope you are enjoying your lazy Sunday, sipping on the strong chai and admiring the late morning. Great time to catch up on the latest Bollywood gossip in the local newspaper. Enjoy your Sunday, dear Delhi.
#DearDelhi, it’s lazy Sunday afternoon in the ever-busy bylanes of Old Delhi. Delhi can test anyone’s patience and calm, but I believe it is only during these rare calm Sunday afternoons that everyone here finds time to share, love, and care.
#DearDelhi, today I saw an old home that still fights against time, and as the sun sets slowly down the horizon, I thought this must be just one of the thousands of sunsets it has seen. These were the regal homes of rich traders in Delhi. The buildings still look majestic but are falling apart as time slowly but steadily rips them apart, one brick at a time.
#DearDelhi, your mornings are typically filled with parks full of people and I like how history surrounds these gardens, with monuments to remind us of the past and how it must have been in those days. A man exercises besides the Tomb of Lodhi at Lodhi Garden.
#DearDelhi, no matter how busy anyone is and how hectic our lives may be, there is always time for some compassion.
#DearDelhi, I understand you are more than your monuments, parks, heritage, and history. And to honour that, I have decided to profile a few random people who share as much enthusiasm about you as I do. Meet Saroj. He is a professional fashion/product photographer who loves to pick his guitar and sing every evening. As a man who commutes to work 3.5 hours everyday, music may be his way to unwind and his corner of comfort.
#DearDelhi, I was having a chat with Saleem, who works in a small local bakery that produces not hundreds but thousands of rusks everyday, and he told me that it is challenging to work in a bakery during the summers, but nice during winters. Saleem claims that there is one dry biscuit that the people of Delhi love to dip in their chai whenever there is an opportunity. It was fascinating to see how one tray after the other comes out of the hot oven. Good morning Delhi!
#DearDelhi, meet Mr. No Photo Please! India will soon go into high-octane festive mood and dry fruit sales will suddenly soar through the sky. I could feel these shops stocking their supplies to meet the very big demand. In a few weeks’ time, this guy will not have time to notice someone taking his picture.
#DearDelhi, you may be one of the most contradicting cities in the world, where opposing worlds harmoniously live together. Yes, there is chaos, controversy, and disagreements, yet you have not only survived but flourished throughout history and time. I salute your resilience and compassion.