Heartwork

Sunday afternoon, not much happening, so we decided to go to a tattoo festival. It was called “Heartwork” at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium. We were feeling lucky so we flagged down the first bus on the outer ring road and climbed aboard. I had no idea what the Hindi script said on the front of the bus, but I reckoned it would be taking us in the general direction of Kashmere Gate. We stayed on for an extra 10 rupees and the conductor dropped us off at the stadium.

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We eventually found the correct gate and joined the queue to pay. I think we were the only two non-tattooed people standing in line. Luckily the cashier accepted plastic and we entered the velodrome where the festival was taking place.

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I was surprised at steep angle of the track in the velodrome.

I am not sure what we expected. People being tattooed, yes. But there were competitions, with prizes for completed and partly-healed inkwork. I wasn’t sure how this was going to work. There were four rows of canvas stands, each occupied by a team of tattooists, some in action, some with itchy needles, waiting for work. There were also some outrageous tee-shirts on sale, a biker charity, specialist equipment stalls.

The programme advertised Bez666 (from UK), Fred (from Spain), Stepan Negur (from Russia) and Jay Freestyle (from Netherlands) as “headlining acts”, but we didn’t see them in action. There were several food stalls, but the ticket specifically excluded the organisers from liability for any negative effect of food or drinks. I’d brought some extra strong mints, so we were ok.

The PA system came to life and told us to move to the stage for a performance by a special artist, Jyoti Ram. He was white, bald and spoke with a thick French accent. He played sitar, an Indian flute usually associated with snake charmers, a didgeridoo, and a Jew’s harp. Not all at the same time, of course, but he sampled each instrument electronically and built up a soundscape.

Behind him there was a kaleidoscopic computer graphic screensaver which reminded me of Windows 3.1. Periodically, a cloud of smoke enveloped him and spilled over the stage. I thought it was pretty apt, given the air pollution levels in Delhi at the moment.

Finally, he stopped playing and set up the stage for some mystical entertainment, using a dozen crystal (clear plastic) balls of varying sizes. He changed into a see-through shirt, baggy trousers and a “mad hatter” top hat, which he wore at a jaunty angle. He rolled the balls along his arms and balanced them on his head. At one point, a small ball appeared to be suspended in mid air without any visible support.

My grandfather was in the Royal Navy during the First World War. He had a swallow tattooed on his forearm, perhaps to indicate that he intended to return, to fly back home. An appropriate tattoo for an itinerant doctor, perhaps? No, not for me.

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Thursday Doors

I am home in UK on leave, but these doors are still from Delhi.

This door is interesting because it is completely hidden by a pile of husks of grain (?rice). Someone should market this as a food supplement to counter constipation. Why this pile of organic matter is here, next door to the Axis Bank, I have no idea.

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Once or twice a week, I find we have run out of milk for breakfast, so I take a metal container and walk to the Mother Dairy store around the corner. I pick my way between the piles of dog muck down the alleyway, cut through the temple courtyard, and squeeze through a hole in the fence. Beside the milk shop there is a doorway which has been crammed full of material. These are the banners, tent canvas, bunting and drapes used to transform a mundane place into a palace fit for a wedding. They have had to take off the door in order to store it all within.

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And finally, a door leading to a Jain Temple in Mehrauli, South Delhi.

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Delhi ComicCon 2016

We weren’t sure exactly how to get to the venue, but on the Metro, I noticed someone with a mask from a character in Star Wars. Our eyes met across a crowded carriage. “ComicCon, right?” I asked. He nodded, so we went over to join his crew.

He told us he had spent three weeks making the mask. I asked him if he had been using it to mitigate the effects of Delhi’s air pollution. He pulled aside his jerkin to reveal an ancient tape cassette player. Retro-chic? No, he borrowed it from his mother. But what about his weapon? How did he get it through security when entering the Metro? He showed me something which resembled a Blue Peter creation, a squeezy bottle cut in half and splinted together using sticky-back plaster. His phasar was not stunning.

We got off at the correct station and walked past the Tardis car park, to the entrance of the show. We were greeted by caped crusaders with a friendly hug. Our main reason to visit the show was to see the new comic book of Medecins Sans Frontieres – Doctor and Donor. It was launched at the weekend.

There were enough witches to form a coven. And some excellent bookstalls.

Some villains from Gotham City also featured.

Game of Thrones characters and some interesting vehicles.

A member of a Colombian drug cartel, a Pokemon, some Disney merchandise and a man comparing chins with an image.

After dark, we got into the Tardis and made our way home.

Hauz Khas

Siri is not just Apple’s intelligent personal assistant. Siri was the capital city of the Delhi Sultanate at the end of the 13th century. The royal lake (“Hauz Khas” in Farsi) was a reservoir to provide water to the city, constructed by Allah-uddin Khilji. Later Tughlaq rulers built a famous madrasa and mosque on the lake shore. In the mid 14th century, Delhi became the most important centre of Islamic education. The Mongols sacked Siri a hundred years after it was built.

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Over the past thirty five years, the area has been restored. Hauz Khas village has been gentrified, with fancy restaurants and clothing shops.

There is some street art, but not as impressive as Lodhi Colony.

Around the lake is a deer park, dotted with ruined tombs and cages containing rabbits and guinea pigs. We gatecrashed a birthday party in Kali Gumti and made some new Indian friends.

In an attempt to get more Delhiites to get physically active, there are some areas with very basic exercise machines.

 

Lodhi Colony Street Art Gallery

Lodhi Colony was built in the twilight of the British Raj, as an enclave for government civil servants. The apartment blocks are all similar, but not regimented into rows. The buildings are L shaped, one block joining another with a huge arch. Between the blocks there are schools, a maternity hospital and a public library. Mature trees provide shade for the grid of roads.

On the west side, there is the Khanna Market and on the east, the Old Meharchand Market. The former is a ramshackle array of single storey shops, the latter has been gentrified and has some posh, westernised stores and excellent restaurants. To the north is the India Habitat Centre. The southern border is Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Setu, a major city highway.

Wandering around the streets on Sunday, I was taken by how quiet it was, how the local residents sat outside in their half courtyards, talking with their neighbours and drinking tea. Nevermind the concrete cancer and mould growing up walls from leaking pipes, this was a place where I would definitely want to live in Delhi.

The reason for my visit was the street art. The end walls of the apartment blocks provided a concrete canvas for two dozen international artists to display their talents.

I have fifty or so photographs which you may wish to view. Please follow this shared link to my Google Photos page  Lodhi Colony Street Art

I enjoyed the humour and colour, especially how the artists incorporated the windows and parts of the building into their work. But here are a few of my favourites:

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And another reason to visit is that the succulent  Malai Chicken kebabs at MI Food by the intersection of Fifth Avenue with Jor Bagh Road are excellent.

 

Tibetan Market

Majnu Ka Tilla is a remote corner of the capital, sandwiched between railway marshalling yards and the Yamuna River. Frantic traffic hurtles through on the Outer Ring Road. One Sunday morning, we wandered through Delhi University’s north campus and the Kamla Nehru Ridge park, trying not to breathe in too deeply because of the appalling smog.

Our final destination was a Korean restaurant called Busan. We wove our way between the buses parked on Baba Gopaldas Sahib Talab Road and turned north into the myriad of lanes and alleys of historic Majnu Ka Tilla.

500 years ago, during the Delhi Sultanate, Guru Nanak met the Sufi mystic Abdulla on this spot. Abdulla’s nickname was Majnu, hence the place name.

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We crossed the Outer Ring Road on a bridge bedecked with prayer flags. As the traffic thundered past below us, we were tempted by the fortune teller (no English) and the fresh pak choi on sale. Just after the bridge there was a pavement dentist. He was taking an impression of a lady’s gums to make a set of false teeth. I wondered if they would be the folding kind, as advertised on his billboard.

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After getting happily lost in the lanes, we arrived at a small square in front of a Tibetan temple. Across the square there was a poster advertising the Dalai Lama’s lecture at an arena in central Delhi. Unfortunately it was on Friday afternoon, and we don’t finish work until 5:30pm, so we missed it. I sat down under the poster. I was a bit taken aback when one of the sleeping dogs beneath the bench woke up and started sniffing my bum through the slats. I crossed the square to check out the tea shop.

Definitely time for a cup of tea, without salt and Yak butter, please. We perched on tiny plastic chairs watching the world go by. We had a chat using sign language with one of the elderly locals and then walked around the temple, spinning prayer wheels.

It wasn’t all mediaeval. There were some fancy restaurants for upmarket budget travellers. And lots of shoe shops. I particularly liked this sign over a beauty parlour.

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We walked past the Delhi Public Library and stalls selling trinkets, fake sportswear, tee-shirts and dodgy electrical gear until we saw a sign for the restaurant. At the end of a dark alley we found Busan. It was small, quiet and had a picturesque view over the Yamuna River. A great spot to linger over Sunday lunch, even if the kimchi was not up to spec.

Thursday Doors – Tibetan Quarter

This door is a Tibetan flag. It looks a bit dusty, but it serves its purpose. I like the scooter parked outside, next to the crutch against the wall. The only rule to be aware of when driving 2, 3 or 4 wheeled vehicles in Delhi is that there are no rules. Motorbike and scooter accidents are very common. I wonder if that is why there is a well-worn crutch outside.

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These are the doors to a telephone exchange in Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi. I’d guess that all this wiring will become obsolete soon, with digital exchanges. Even the spectator on the right (who is collecting recycling rubbish) finds it amusing.

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Next, a gateway to a haveli, or town mansion. You get two photos of this, one with a cyclo-rickshaw carrying bottles of propane gas for cooking.

Another magnificent entrance in the back alleys of Old Delhi. Like layers of onionskin, the outer scalloped arch, then smooth arch, square blue lintel and doorway, with massive doors held with chains, finally leading to an unassuming, bolted brownish grey door. Who knows what lies beyond it?

 

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And finally, the doorway to a Hindu temple. Ring the bell to attract the god’s attention.

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