Thousands of shrines of varying sizes reside in the streets of Mumbai. These shrines act as markers of new settlements and localities. Most of them represent and embody the identity of the people who brought them here. But more often than not, they hold together the hopes and aspirations of migrant communities as they navigate the precarity of the life worlds that a city like Mumbai generates. The shrines act as magnets, drawing together people with shared backgrounds and attracting sometimes a set of new believers. They belong to different streams of faith, ranging from organized religions to folk, tribal and occupational forms of worship. Many of these are exclusively cared for by women like the Velankanni Matha shrines. On the other hand, roadside Hanuman shrines seem to be a favourite of young migrant men who live alone or in groups in the city.
Can the new be experienced in all its dizzying and excessive newness, or do we continuously fall back on the crutches of familiarity, no matter how inept or even obsolete? Is it inevitable that we carry the burdens—of our familiar selves, homes and not-quite-homes, cities and lives—when we walk the path that can lead anywhere because we haven’t walked it ever before?
Is the future odourless? How would Delhi’s zealous planners chasing the idea of world-classness imagine the future of Khari Baoli, Asia’s oldest spice market? Would it be in the form of an ordered set of malls rising in the midst of Old Delhi, reeking of heady European perfumes and caramel popcorn, with clean marble corridors… Continue reading Smell and the City II
I was gifted a cycle last year by a ‘cyclist’ friend but have used it only a couple of times, sometimes in a large park a few kilometres away from my house and a few times to buy vegetables and groceries closer home. Even as I had been warned by friends—part of a tiny minority… Continue reading I want to ride my bicycle bicycle bicycle…
As our blog evolves into a growing archive on writing the city, we are keen have people write for us on their very personal experiences of cities and unique ways of seeing cities. As an anthropologist interested in the realm of the quotidian, I am fascinated by stories of ordinary city dwellers, which is why… Continue reading When a Dilliwali Rides a Cycle in Ahmedabad
‘When the Stranger says: “What is the meaning of this city? / Do you huddle close together because you love each other?” / What will you answer? “We all dwell together / To make money from each other”? or “This is a community”?’ — T.S. Eliot Recently, while travelling in a DTC bus in the… Continue reading Of my shahar and its stories, or how to love an ‘unloved’ city
Buildings are languages spoken at the intersections of space and time in the making of the city. Weathering languages, stealth blue concrete high-rises, sometimes speaking in Russian in the NDMC rashtra bhasha corridors. There is babble on the street, incremental refugee colonies, with Punjabi baroque and Arya Samaj façades, Bengali Victorian art deco balconies and… Continue reading Making horizons, making cities: reading a moment through three languages
‘Walking shares with making and working that crucial element of engagement of the body and the mind with the world, of knowing the world through the body and the body through the world.’—Rebecca Solnit I keep hearing many people in Delhi grumble that the city is not meant to be walked in—pavements are perpetually ‘in-repair’… Continue reading To walk or not to walk
‘Have you seen this ethnography on the erstwhile Volga restaurant of Connaught Place?’ I asked someone during a conversation. ‘Is it a movie, since you are asking about seeing it?’ was the immediate response. Somewhere in the last few decades, we have started using ‘seeing’ with reference to text, meaning anything from ‘coming across’ something… Continue reading Seeing the city, one mug at a time
birdwatcher a person who watches and identifies wild birds (Merriam-Webster) a person who watches birds in their natural environment and identifies different breeds, as a hobby (Oxford Learner’s Dictionary) I am not sure if I qualify as a birdwatcher according to the above dictionary meanings—I love watching birds and observing their antics but struggle with… Continue reading It’s not about birds
The buildings are tall. They are densely packed together. Some go really high, adding yet another half-floor, covered by a slanted tin-shade. Others fall short in claiming their position in the skyline, only because they are next to tall ones. Yet, two-thirds of this watercolour is devoted to depiction of the sky, covered in dark… Continue reading How many houses can you count in Jhabvala’s portrayal of this Old Delhi lane?