MUMBAI: The City of Dream; the City of Contradictions. And such is my theme where I have chosen to explore the humour and irony that lies on the streets of Mumbai. My journey begins from Horniman Circle, photographing individuals and moments that I personally found engaging and chuckle-worthy.
1) Das Kapital of the Service Industry: Mumbai is home to the country largest IT sector and services market, constantly booming and transacting with the rest of the world. South Mumbai has millions of commuters rushing back and forth, shuffling between their homes, offices and dreams. In this photograph, a group of workers from different economic sectors stand aimlessly lost in thought outside the gates of the "Capitol". As a sociology student, this innocent callback to Marxism was absolutely satisfying.
"Workers' of the world unite, you have nothing but your jobs to lose."- Karl Marx
2) The Demon wears Apple Pants: The ending of 2016 was a dramatic finale to a year long of cinematic politics both at home and worldwide. As the world with bated breath followed the coverage of the US elections, a phenomenal presidential race in the history of the country's politics; back home, in India the country was stunned into silence when PM Narendra Modi announced the demonetization of Rs.500 and Rs.1000 notes. India was thrown into a massive chaos with people suddenly finding their savings in a rock and hard place. 5 months later, the country is surviving the after effects, and despite the complete economic over turn, if there is something that hasn't left the Indians, is their humour. Pink "Demon" wallets and "Apple " bottom pants are the hilarious satires of a globalized economy that worship the Western Ideals.
"Fashion is capitalism's favorite child."- Tansy Hopkins
3) Roads pe charcha: While roaming the streets of South Mumbai, I noticed men huddled in groups in different parts of the street, conversing rather animatedly. Passing by a few groups, the conversations ranged from the usual "work mumbo-jumbo" to the criticism of government policies. Over cups of chai and plates of dosas, ideologies are met and exchanged and for a brief moment of time, a revolutionary coup is formed, only to disperse once the lunch break is over.
4) The Leather Man: The earliest memories I have of my mother taking me to the market is to get my shoes and bags fixed. I remember her explaining with intricate detail the problem with the zip, the bag that needs a leather strap and the shoes that needs to be mended. 10 years later, the leather man still has his corner in the market and occasionally his son takes over the business once in a while. This memory felt like deja vu when I clicked this photograph. Lost in the hustle-bustle of the city, it is easy to miss the people engaged in small occupations. While the world will buy from Gucci, Prada and Armani flushing out thousands of rupees for that one bag, the mending of the bag will be done on the streets with a price bargained until we deemed fit.
5) Helmets: Walking further past Horniman Circle and you'll find a series of Helmet shops that have their helmets of display on the pillars and side walks on the street. The irony is that while I was taking this photograph, a biker sped past me without wearing a helmet, only to be caught a few meters ahead by a cop outside a helmet shop. The technical attempt has been made to use the linear perspective in capturing this photograph.
Nothing fancy, just going to keep my helmets in a row.
6) The Original Burger King: If there is one thing a Mumbaikar loves more than Marine Drive is the Vada Pav. Cheap, quick and easily available, the streets of Mumbai are filled with Vada Pav stalls that are crowded regardless of time of day. Hungry workers, peddlars, students, broke college students all savour the taste of the potato filled patty and bread. With the foreign imports of burgers and wraps, its true that despite the competition, Mumbaikars cannot let go of their Vada Pav. In this picture, the two girls eat Vada Pav outside the American fast food chain Burger King, almost displaying a sense of nationalistic pride.
7) Baatein: This was the first photograph that I had clicked walking through Horniman Circle. There was nothing remarkable about this photograph, just the moments of people conversely casually on the side walk on a lazy and extremely hot afternoon. The city never sleeps and yet there are moments of banality when the people take a step back and fall seamlessly into the setting itself.
8) Samosa Pav, Rs. 12/-: Often when taking a photograph, there are moments that cannot be captured in a nick of time because the visual processing is a lot faster than the physical processing. In this picture, I tapped the capture icon instantaneously, as a reflex when my friend was expressing her shock over how expensive the Samosa Pav was. In retrospect, the price of a Samosa Pav differs from South Mumbai to North Mumbai, where the price is dependent on the notion that town (the core) is richer and geographically as you move North (towards the periphery) , the prices begin to fall.
9) Of Metal and Men: This photograph is a personal favourite. I entered a narrow lane (nearly fell into a sink hole) and discovered these rundown shops with shutters closed, paint peeling to reveal a skin of metal and rust. In one of these shops, was a watchman (in the photograph) sitting on a plastic chair and singing softly to Mohammad Rafi's "Likhe jo khat tujhe" (Those letters I wrote to you). I did not notice there was a woman inside only after I clicked the photograph because she had shyly looked outside to see what was happening. In a city that is spinning like a hamster on a wheel, some people are outside the wheel, content with what life has to offer.
10) Ghost: There is an interesting story behind this photograph, while I tried to be as inconspicuous as possible to take a photograph of the cobbler at work. A few older men noticed my struggle and blocked the street on both sides for me, however the cobbler started to pose and that's when I knew the aesthetic was lost, however just as I clicked this photograph, I noticed I captured a man who walked past me so quickly that only my camera captured him. The older men apologized because they assumed my photograph was ruined but I personally liked this photograph so much more.
11) The Indian Dream: 11.98 million people reside in the glorious city of Mumbai, but still there is a blanket of loneliness that covers the inhabitants. 25 years of liberalization promised to usher in a wave of development like the Tiger economies of South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong, however the divide between the rich and poor has widened. 70 years of independence and the country stills fights on the parameters of defining a sense of "national identity". The trickle down effect of economic reforms, the blatant disparity of not just the city but the country in terms of economic wealth; everyday a child is seen begging outside high-end retail stores, with people offering no more alms than pity. A city desensitized by the the shocking levels of poverty, seems to be under the influence of the "Mumbai Dream" and this is what the picture has been captured to represent.