Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Arrival in Delhi: 8 -11 October

Ceramic sculpture at Sanskriti

Our base for the next few days is Sanskriti Kendra, a complex of art studios and museums housing collections of ceramic sculpture, textiles and everyday objects from across India. It is built on the site of an old farm like many of the neighbouring villas along the quiet wooded, and gated, road linking us to the busy Mehrauli Gurgaon road. The sounds of life along this road are always in the background, beyond our peaceful shaded enclave. We walk along Mehrauli Gurgaon road, turning left at our junction to reach the nearest village (Ghitorni) and left to get to the metro station, linking us to the city centre. The road is a dual carriageway, though the traffic makes its own lanes and often takes over the brick paved footpath as well, especially during rush hour or to go against the flow. The metro runs down the middle, raised 30 metres in the air on concrete pillars, it snakes and twists although the road is straight. Light from the sky opaque with smog glows between the pillars in the morning and turns pink in the evening. Lighting at night is from the headlights. A digital billboard flashes regular air quality readings above the road in severe red script, cows fill their bellies in one of the unofficially designated dumps where rubbish spills across the walkway. The way to Ghitorni is lined with furniture shops, before a narrow street lined with food sellers, market stalls and high adobe apartments, forks off and branches into a maze of squeezing people, motorbikes and rickshaws crossing, pushing and weaving there way through. Going the opposite way we reach the Metro station, a massive hull of concrete hanging under the snaking line. It is painted with incredible murals in fresh new paint. Between these two points the urban sprawl is contained to this highway, beyond is wood and scrub, which from the raised vantage point of the metro platform spreads several kilometres on either side. Despite the roaring energy and claustrophobia of urban life being carried along the road it feels rural, as our way is shaded by overhanging forest, in equal measures to towering concrete, green and fresh from the monsoon rains.

9th. Gurdwara. Chandni Chowk & Nai Sarak

Volunteers making chapatis at the Gurdwara

Listened to prayer (drums) continuous people walking in and out sitting in cool corners. Separate entrance into food hall. Kitchens, drawing volunteers making bread. Men cooking, transferring food between vast pots lined along gas cookers. Cook for 5000.

Nai Sarak, densely populated street every space utilised for stalls spilling onto pavement. Chai cooked under the counter of stalls, food carts along the street. Dense crush of rickshaws, auto-rickshaws and bikes. Tangled mass of cables take up the overhead room and the tall sides of the narrow street rise in a complex tessellation of terraces. Utilising this domain, only the troops of Macaques move freely, whilst at street level the crush of human life swells and floods into every space as the traffic ebbs and flows and jams.

In the evening I paint amongst the rows of terracotta sculptures outside the museum at Sanskriti.

10th. National Museum. Lodi Gardens

An amazing collection of miniature paintings at the national gallery. Spent the whole visit in two rooms of miniatures, 1st Pahaji (17-19th) paintings and the many tangent styles of the regions under it. 2nd the Rajasthan movement and it's region styles; included discovering Nidal Chand from Jodhpur, (layering of space and use of complex and calm). I find I can paint in the museum as no one stops me! so free to explore through colour studies. 2 minutes before we go I find 'Krishna peeping through the trees at bathing Radha' (Mewar, Choaka). This is a small landscape of nocturnal palms and pools painted in tones of entirely the same blue, then yellow pink figure in contrast create incredible atmosphere. Makes colours brighter more powerful. I see this later in the week on the spice market terraces: light moats fall through chinks in the canopy highlighting ochres, orange and red in the warm shadows, contrasting with the lilac walls of the quadrangle in cooler light. (I lost this spice market drawing on the way home. From memory could limit the palette at least for initial drawing and exaggerate e.g. WB for CB then W over).

Black kites at the Bada Gumbad tomb, Lodi Gardens

After the museum we went to Lodi Gardens. Peace, calm, lovers walking hand in hand. Beautiful Mogul tombs and and mosques rise above lush mature ficus trees so our discovered as we approach. Here Black kites gather on a dead tree and rose ringed parakeets nest in the cracks of the ruins. (look so much better here than West London)

11th. Jama Masjid. Spice market on Khari Baoli

Black Kites in front of Jama Masjid
In the morning we visited Jama Masjid. Climbing the steps to this mosque offers great views across the bizarres towards the Red Fort. Above us circle over hundreds of black kites – a scavenging bird of prey that soars and floats like a toy kite, using its long forked tail as a rudder. I follow the birds to the source of this mega flock, leading me through the Mosque courtyard and out the East gate. Here I look down onto a park, although it looks like a wasteland. At the centre of this space a man in a white kameez is throwing scraps of meat into the air – above him a whirling column of 500 kites rises 100 metres high. They are stacked almost, almost queuing to position themselves throwing distance from the man and catch one of the scraps he tosses up.

After this we visit the spice market at the Western end of Chandni Chowk, goods laid out on three levels of terraces inside a quadrangle. Dust form sacks of chillies, turmeric, cinnamon fill the air so that everyone breathing the air coughs and sneezes, including the sellers. A constant stream of couriers bring sack load after sack load through the narrow levels, outside the road is blocked with carts of spice. Its stifling but the visual overload is addictive – return.

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