The Red Fort (Lal Qila) (India Blog 7)


The Red Fort (Lal Qila) (India Blog 7)

After my photo shoot in the Moslem section, I found a pedal rickshaw and asked a guy to take me to the Lal Qila (Red Fort). He said 100 rupees. A guy nearby said: “No, only forty rupees. Not more than 50 rupees.”

I said, it is not very important, whether it is a dollar or half a dollar!

I was not going to fall, famished on the street, for fifty fucking cents.

Anyway, I got in. An old pedal rickshaw. I do not like to take them and have someone pedalling me under their own muscle power, but one has to take them in a pinch. They also have a hard seat. But the poor guy has to work hard to pedal one. I felt bad about it.

When we got to the fort, which was not very far, I realized that I only had the 500 rupee note. The guy said that he did not have the 400 change. He said that he only had 100 rupees change. So I just gave him the 500 note. I am sure that the guy needed it more than me. It was a lucky day for him.

Having enough small change with one in India is a problem and I am always in need of small bills. Rupees 20 and under and pretty useless and I generally just hand them out to beggars on the street. But they run out quickly too.

It must have been a terrible problem when the Indian Government demonitized the whole money system.

I realized that I had to put a new roll of film in the Minolta. So I needed a place to sit down to do that. I was at the entrance to the Red Fort and it was difficult to find a place. It was not like Turkey, where there would have been chai places and food places and perhaps benches to sit down and do it.

While I was looking for a place, the hawkers started to come to sell me post cards and other things. I was starting to get a little irritated and they were very persistent in harassing me.

I had to tell them, in a rather harsh way, that I was not interested and to please leave me the hell alone. I was busy doing something else. They are like small children, or a TV, howling for attention.

Then I found a low wall near the fence, where I could sit down and change the film. Some two or three school boys stood around watching me change the film.

Then a young guy came selling some kind of rice cakes. He was coming right up to me and harassing me. I said: “Well, I am doing something else right now. So I am not going to eat anything.” It was starting to get on my nerves that they would not leave me alone. It was like I was fresh meat to pounce on.

Finally, I finished changing the film and got up to go inside. I was surprised to see that there was no charge for the Red Fort there. At least, not for the outside of it. A couple of more guys came at me with post cards. These hawkers really ruin tourism in the country, the way they pester tourists. I was starting to get more irritated with them. My objective was to take some pictures and not to fool around buying post cards from them.

I have bought those cheap postcards so many times in the past, I can’t remember how many times. So I was not in the market for them at this point.

I walked inside the gate, which is outside, the perimeter of the fort and started taking pictures with my 28 mm lens on the Minolta. The view is magnificent. I had never realized how big the fort was in the past, with the massive walls and the moat.

I know that there are several special buildings inside the fort, but I did not have time for all that today. It would take a whole day to tour inside the fort. That would have to be another trip to Delhi. So I just walked around the outside of it and made pictures.

They are also still doing the Sound and Light show inside the fort that I had seen twice in the past. The first time was in 1970 and the second time was probably in 1989. It is worth seeing, if one has not seen it before.

Finally, I came around to the gate to the east. Some guys had asked me to make pictures with them along the way. They were taking selfies with their cell phones. I was surprised that so many people wanted to take their pictures with me, a complete stranger. I am not so photogenic and that time, I was actually not in a very good mood, after having to ward off so many pesty hawkers. But I was glad to meet people that were not interested in selling me something.


Chandni Chowk (Old Delhi)

(India Blog 6)

Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi

6:45. Evening. A good day. Good pictures, I hope. Shot about three and a half rolls of film. More than a hundred frames. The last color one is still in the Minolta. It is a good thing that I had that 28 mm lens. I needed it. I had never realized just how massive the Red Fort is. The Lal Qila.

I spent almost the whole day in Chandni Chowk. I didn’t eat or drink there. And I didn’t carry any water as I had the cameras.

Anyway, it is very different from Paharganj. A big Gurdwara there, but I was on the wrong side of the road to photograph it fully.

After that, I wandered back into another area that was totally Moslem. There were at least two big mosques there. One has to get out of the most crowded areas to get decent photos. That is, to even start to frame them anywhere decently.

I sat down on a cement stairway next to a shop to change my film. I realized that it was a good place to take street shots and no one was bothering me there. It was right on the street. So I just kept sitting there. It was right across from a huge mosque. As far as I can tell, I didn’t have anyone trying to steal my bag today.

I still have 1400 rupees out of that first one-hundred dollars that I changed, and it is probably enough to get me to Calcutta. And probably to the Hotel Lytton too. But I would like to change money at the airport if I can. I will be packed up and ready to go tomorrow. The flight is at 6:40, morning. I need to be there two hours before the flight. So I will leave the hotel at a little after four in the morning.

Today was generally quite good. I had to get rid of a couple of hawkers at the Red Fort. They come at you in a very aggressive way with those post cards and other things. Sometimes one has to be quite hard to get them to stop harassing one.

In the morning, it was farther to the Chandni Chowk area than I expected. And there was a lot of traffic. I got down to that big main street. There were families of monkeys walking along the buildings on the opposite side of the street. There was massive traffic, and the middle of the street was all dug out. They were apparently putting in a pipeline. I made some pictures there, but it was too crowded to do any proper framing. The streets were jam packed with rickshaws, cars, small vans and trucks. Even a few bullock carts.

I went into a side street. The sun was coming at an interesting angle, making it rather difficult to shoot black and white film. The electrical wiring was unbelievable, the way the cables were wound up and tangled together. I spent some time trying to photograph that. It was just amazing and quite easy to photograph, really. No one put up any resistance to my photography.

I went inside a smaller lane. This was really better for framing the shots.

When I came out on another street, it had shifted to an Islamic area. I was in front of a large mosque. There were some interesting characters on the street and I began to photograph them. At first, I was just walking, doing what I could. I sat down on a side street, near a stairs, to change the film in the Minolta.

But them, I started shooting black and white film with the Leica M6.

I shot almost a whole roll of 36 frames right there in the same spot. I was sort of back from the street rather out of site. I realized that it was a good place from which to shoot the street. The light was good for black and white, out of the direct sunlight. People had no idea that I was taking pictures of them. It was also a help that there were so many things going on and much confusion. I was not being noticed. There was a constant parade of people walking on the street, where there were no sidewalks.

After a while, an old Moslem guy came with a cart and set up a peanut stand just to the right of me. And he asked me to make his picture. But after that, he acted like he wanted a tip. Unfortunately at the time, I didn’t have any change, and the smallest thing I has was a 500 rupee note. I made a couple more pictures of him while he was selling peanuts.

Young children were coming from a school, packed into rickshaws. There must have been ten or more packed into each rickshaw. That was their school bus. Many people were just walking on the street in rather local colorful outfits, so it was a good place to get local pictures.

Finally, I figured that it was enough in that spot. I walked on and was rather hungry and thirsty by that time. I thought about where I should go. I thought of that Moti Mahal Restaurant that I had made a note of. I knew that it was not too far from there, near the Red Fort.

But first to the Red Fort.

Early Morning Reflections (India Blog 5)

India 2: Early Morning Reflections (India Blog 5)

6 December. 3:30 AM. Thursday. This guy in the next room is snoring incredibly loud. I have been hearing it since I woke up around 2:30. It even disturbs me here in my room. The walls must be pretty thin, for sure.

Yesterday, I was accosted by a woman on the street claiming that she wanted help for children in Bangladesh. Sure enough, she presented a petition of sorts. She claimed that several foreigners had signed it. I saw names and “USA” beside the names. But I didn’t examine it closely.

First, she said: “No Money. Just sign.”

I said: “How will my signature help?” I said that I don’t have any information about it. I didn’t sign and just started walking away. Then she asked for some money. I am sure that if I had signed it, she would have hooked me for some money for sure. Bangladesh, my ass. How would I know if this is anything legitimate? Probably a scam. Why not? Is Bangladesh more needy than India? Where are the signatures of Indians? Anyway, I have no way of knowing, so it would be foolish to give money. If you just walk away, they will not follow you.

She was operating in Paharganj, where a lot of foreigners hang out.

Then I went a little way out of the main street. There were vegetable markets there. A old guy with a white beard came holding a round metal container in one hand. He asked me for money. I thought, Okay. I will give him twenty rupees. But he wouldn’t take it. “One-hundred rupees,” he said. It was like he was bargaining about how much I would give. Then I heard him say: “Five-hundred rupees.” And “why the hell should I give you five-hundred rupees when I know nothing about you and have never seen you before?” I thought.

Another guy wanted to shine my shoes. I had just had them shined, so I was not interested. He said: “Oh, just brush them for twenty rupees.” I said: “They don’t need it, but here is twenty rupees, anyway.” And I walked away. There was no need to waste my time with that. Some kids there just call to you: “Money.” It seems that the foreigners have got them trained in that part of Delhi. They have trained a new generation of beggars.

It is hardly different from “Go Fund Me” on the internet, I must say. That is just high-tech begging. The Western form. Welcome to corporate capitalism. So-called neoliberalism. A new form, when today’s capitalist economies will not provide jobs for many people. At least not the kind that they can tolerate.

So everybody is out for something. But it is unfortunate because after a while, one starts to see everyone who approaches you as wanting something from you. Their friendliness is just feigned to put a hook into you and get something out of you. It is not always that way, but one starts to get that impression. It is because they have actually been spoiled by the foreigners that stay down there in Pahargunj.

I didn’t find the beggars as bad as in Hyderabad, but maybe it was because I was with some American women there. And here, they see that I am busy taking pictures and don’t want to be bothered. It is an institution. Giving will just perpetuate and strengthen it. Probably, there is no solution that the government or anyone can reach. Not under the current system. Sometimes, one feels that Indira Gandhi had the right idea. Mass Sterilizations. There is something to be said for corporatism in such a dire situation. Probably that is what it would take. And it would necessarily be cruel. Some way to control the population. Over population. It is actually not a myth, as one realizes in India. It cannot be said that it is not a problem here.

Most people are forced to deal with it by just looking the other way. It is the only way to cope with it.

I think some type of corporatist rule from the top would be the only way to approach it. Not what they call “democracy” now. I hate to say that, but perhaps it is true. Where are they going? Where have they gone? Everybody with their own car or auto rickshaw or even bicycle just clogs up all the roads.

The mass production of sub-standard individuals who have little or no education. Even the rats have to struggle less than the people to survive here. They are exporting labor. The cheap kind and some of the expensive kind, in the form of doctors and professors.

There must be some limit. Escaping to the USA is not the right thing, either.

I admit that it is bad to come to the country and take pictures for two weeks, like in a zoo, and then get out. Maybe it is wrong. I don’t know. But I didn’t create the situation. Actually, I spent two years of my life thinking that I might do something worth while in this country.

It was all illusion. Nonsense. I don’t know if anyone really believed in that. The so-called “Peace Corps.” I don’t know. The Peace Corps officials were just getting a job and a chance to travel and live abroad. A good deal while it lasted. Nehru knew that it was a joke but did not want to displease Jack Kennedy and his brother in law, Shriver. He had upper class manners and played along.

With all the recent economic growth in India, people, masses of them, are now just eking out a tiny living. The economy goes up. Everything else seems to go south.

Except in rich, elite, families. The only decent-looking young women and girls are those not yet hit by the tragedy of marriage.

But it is still a hell of an interesting society.

I read a few things in the Hindustan Times, and old newspaper. The government is now setting up cow shelters. Well, one generally does not see them on the streets here, like in Varanasi. It seems like the Modi Government is doing more for cows than for people. What a society! It has just happened in some village not far from Delhi. Clearly, one is better off being a cow.

God! Gott! What a fanatacism over cows. The cows are better off than the vast majority of women.

10:30 Morning. I am about to head out for Chandni Chowk, Kashmiri Gate. At four o’clock, I was not sleeping, so I took a pill and slept until after eight.

Tomorrow to Cal! Calcutta! Here I come.

Delhi in the Evening (India Blog 3)


India Blog Three: Delhi in the Evening

5 December. Wednesday. 3:00 AM. I have developed a sore throat and I think it is from being a little cold on the plane. And the flimsy blanket they gave me was not enough. After that long march through the airport, my T-shirt was damp from perspiration. That is one of the perils of travel. I woke up now at three in the morning, but got a good sleep since last evening. I am feeling much better. I was quite out of it yesterday.

Man! I am not sold on this society. It seems that so many people are trying to leech off of you. Not everybody. But almost. But maybe I can handle it better coming from Turkey than if I was just fresh from the USA. I think that is probably the case.

I was able to shoot a roll of film in the evening yesterday, with a minimum of molestation. But one must be very careful walking on the uneven pavements and curbs. All of the surroundings are quite rough.

I crossed the big street over to the old Regal Cinema Building. There is an underpass, but I did not realize it at first. There is massive traffic on these streets now, so it is not easy to cross without using the underpass. Almost all are cars, with a few auto rickshaws. There are no old pedal rickshaws now in this area of Connaught Place, that I can see.

I walked and made some evening pictures under the lights. But some of the white lights are just too bright. The old Kwality Restaurant was starting but customers started coming around eight o’clock. So I decided to wait. I walked around to the other side of the building. There is a new Punjabi Restaurant on the corner called Pind Baluch. That place keeps changing. It was a sports bar ten years ago, when I was in Delhi. They have a door-man dressed in a turban and robe. The place looks expensive, but that is deceptive. Perhaps expensive by Indian standards. Middle class.

I could not see any sign of the old Gaylords Restaurant. Is it still there? It used to be close to that cinema. I went there the first night that I was in Delhi in June 1968.

But that was nothing like the scene now. A lot of markets are set up in the evening outside. They are selling woollen things, like sweaters, that look good. They must be cheap. However, I am not in the market for them.

I walked farther, and there the place has really turned into massive saffronization, I can say. There was a whole array of shops selling sweets and Hindu bric-a-bac. It was colorful and a good night for pictures, even black and white. I do not use a flash. I am pushing black and white film for evening shots.

People were walking and sitting around everywhere. Lone individuals too. They stake out a place for themselves on the pavement, making something or selling something, trying to live. Somehow or other, I would say.

In the daytime, young guys just set up a small stand along the walkway, selling something. Things like golies or other sweets or food. Also drinks. That’s what the economy has produced, it seems.

They are part of the surplus army of this society. Karl Marx understood the future.

Back to the night scene. I walked there and took pictures without being heckled much or harassed. As one walks around, some guys or women call out to you, saying “hello” or something. One can just ignore them. What can they do when one does not respond? When one acts deaf and dumb. So that is what I did. I took several pictures of the street shops. There was generally not enough light to take pictures of the people. One needed a flash. But I don’t think that it would be very easy to use there.

Near that old Bobby’s corner, where the restaurant is now, a guy and his friend asked to make a picture with me. I didn’t mind. Another guy took the picture with his cell phone. Cell phones are the only cameras that I have seen here, so far. No one seems to use film. But I know that there are a few in India that do. It is next to impossible to find in India.

After that, I asked to take a picture of these guys. It was a good chance, and one cannot do it with everybody. Sometimes I wait and get a shot of someone that I want. If I am lucky. And they do not even know. That is what I want. Candid shots. I pretend to be taking a photo of something else. That generally works. Last evening, so much was happening there that few people were noticing me moving around to frame shots.

The masses are eating cheap things off the street from all kinds of small vendors.

I finished the roll of film and went to the old Kwality Restaurant. This restaurant has been upgraded, since I was here ten years ago. Now there is an upstairs section. It is elegant inside. There are framed black and white pictures along the walls. Historical pictures of figures who have eaten there. So it has some taste. Some people started coming in after eight o’clock. There is a door-man. Maitre de? He takes one in and shows them a place.

I ordered a beer. A kingfisher. It is from Mohan Meaken. I asked the waiter about Golden Eagle Beer, from the same company. He said that it had disappeared 20 to 25 years ago. That shows how up to date I am! But this was not the big 650 ml bottles. It was one-third liter. I love the bigger ones, that I found later in other restaurants.

A couple of groups came into the restaurant. A young attractive women came in hot pants and bare legs, with her boyfriend, of course.

The other group was more upscale. The women were generally attractive. I could partly overhear the conversation. They speak more English than Hindi, but it is a mixture. I clandestinely took pictures of both groups.

I ordered a type of chicken curry in a sauce. I didn’t know how it would come out, but the chicken were without bones in the spicy sauce. I had two nans with it. I should have had the puffy puris, but the nans were actually delicious. I had two beers with the meal and then decided to have another beer. Most meat dishes are are around 500 rupees, less than ten dollars. So not expensive. I lingered over the third beer. It was around 125 rupees for a beer. They added a service charge, but I gave a tip anyway.

I realize that I need to change more money. I got 65 rupees to a dollar at the airport, but it was not a very good rate. It hardly matters with the amounts that I will spend. The whole bill was around 1600 rupees, around twenty-five dollars. But it is a nice elegant place with class. More so than in the past, it seems. The food was excellent.

On the way back to the hotel, I bought some bottles of water, just twenty rupees each. I saw the old book store there that I visited ten years ago. But it looks quite run down now.

A little further on was a restaurant, that would be quite cheap. It looked like a good place, but there was a crowd outside waiting for seats. Further on were some small restaurants and a place that advertised money change. I don’t know if these places are legal or not. One has to have a receipt to change money back to dollars when leaving.

When I was going out of the hotel earlier, the clerk called up someone. I understood that he said he was an American, but I misunderstood. He was an Indian. Then he gave the phone to me. When I answered, the guy asked: “What do you want?”

I had not asked for anything, really.

I said: “Peace, Love and Brotherhood. But the world is not going in that way.”

But it wasn’t exactly what the guy was asking for. He wanted to pitch me tours. That was his angle.

He said: “Agra, Varanasi and so on.”

I told him that I was not interested. I had been to those places before. I guess that it was a mistake, but I told him that I was going to Kolkata. He asked me how. I said “by plane.” It was OK to talk to him. The good thing is that people speak English. But now, they are angling for a way to hook you for a profit. They seem to think that one just lands in the country with no agenda and they can just arrange travel on the spot. It may be the case with quite a few people.

If I wanted a tour to those places, I could arrange it myself. I would have already arranged it. I am not that naive! Oh well! Those are my midnight ramblings.

On the street, this country is interesting, partly because it is so impossible. So impossible. One sees how so many efforts at improvements have just fallen by the wayside. It turns every effort to dust, it seeems. People just go their own ways to the temples and gurus. There are endless markets for those. And a Prime Minister who is a rank communalist. I don’t pretend to know anything about Modi and Hindu Fascism. It is so thick everywhere that one could cut it with a knife. I pose as a naive tourist.

It was a hell of a day. I talked to a lot of people. Too many people know English.

On the Streets of Calcutta (Kolkata)


A walk in Calcutta in December 2018. There is much clutter in streets in Indian cities. It is sometimes difficult to isolate subjects for good framing. But one perhaps gets the idea of what goes on in Indian streets.

Pictures taken with a Leica M6. Leica Summarit 35 mm f 2.5 lens. Kodak Tri-X film shot at ISO 1600. Developed with Kodak HC-110 developer.

Street food is everywhere on the streets in Calcutta. It provides cheap meals for the many who could not afford to go to a restaurant. Efficient, even if sometimes disorderly.

Shops near Nakhoda Masjid (a large mosque) in the Moslem district.

A busy street

A lot of transportation by human power.

Goats and dogs share the street.

Street markets. Colorful, but I do black and white.

Carrying goods by rickshaw is common.

Street food for goats too.

A meat shop.

More Street Food.

Street life

Tata Trucks

Long Road Ahead for a human draft animal.

Loading Up

Entrance to Nakhoda Masjid (Mosque)

Street Restaurant

The Red Rose

Local Street Toughs. They asked me for dollars.

The old Rickshaw, waiting for the human horse.

Trees grow out of an elegant old building on a main street.

Gateway to Paradise

Busy Street

Corner Shop

Street Life

Heavy Load. One way to carry it.

Moti Mahal Guest House

That’s a lot of street life on one roll of film. One section of a great and dynamic city. One can come to love it, the same way one loves any great city in the world.


A Roll of Film in Old Delhi (Part 2)

Sitting down across the street from the entrance to an old Mosque, I shoot pictures on the street.

Leica M6 TTL Camera. Kodak Tri-X Black and White Film pushed to ISO 1600.

A peanut seller appears with his cart.

First Customer

A heavy load

The Peanut Man

Group of women pass

Young girl wants to buy peanuts

Taking a stroll

Another Rickshaw passes

Another Customer

Some Poor Mother

On the corner is a juice bar.

And the busy street full of confusion

Even more lovely confusion ahead. A dynamic country!

All shots with a Leica M6 TTL Camera. Leica Summarit 35 mm f 2.5 Lens. Kodak Tri-X Black and White film. Developed with Kodak HC-110 Developer. Film pushed to ISO 1600. 

A Roll of Film in OId Delhi

Sitting down in the same spot and shooting a roll of film just across from a mosque in a street in Old Delhi.

All pictures shot with a Leica M6 TTL Camera. Leica Summarit 35 mm f 2.5 Lens.

Kodak Tri-X Film (Shot at ISO 1600). Kodak HC-110 Developer. December 2018.

A Rickshaw passes with two ladies.

Delivering Propane gas the hard way.

A milk vendor arrives.

Humping Rickshaw puller. Poor guy.

On Foot, maybe travelling.

In the constant stream of Rickshaws.

Women pass.

This section is almost all Moslem.

On the Street

Checking things out.

Bags of flour to the bakery.

Rickshaw School bus

More kids going home

The Squint

On the Road Again

Father and Daughter