Sunday, May 18, 2008

Photo Essay – The Joys of Poverty

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The Joys of Poverty

Shame and shamelessness in the walled city.

[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Every city has its own Calcutta, that mythical city of the living dead where white people come to write books like The City of Joy. The walled city is Delhi’s private Calcutta.

The region around Jama Masjid has no romance. The breathtaking beauty of the Mughal monument has no pride. This is as it should be. For this historic quarter is unfolding an unending tragedy: the brutality of extreme poverty and how it has stripped some of our fellow human beings of all dignity and how we, the priviledged, have grown used to it.

Take a walk here. Look around. Look especially into the eyes of pavement people. You will notice there is nothing there. Not even despair. That too has died.

These men, women and children sleep over gutters, scavenge for garbage rotis, eat maggoty meat and smoke smack to get away from this world. Silent and listless, they have become so much a part of the Old Delhi scenery that they are no longer noticed by people like us.

Women gossip, men get haircuts, boys watch naked women’s posters, and tourists walk past on their way to Kareem’s restaurant without even a glance at these wretched of Old Delhi. In our scheme of things, they have already died.

Happily hopeless

The Joys of Poverty

What's life?

The Joys of Poverty

No today, no tomorrow

The Joys of Poverty

Gutter dreams

The Joys of Poverty

Arms and the man

The Joys of Poverty

Smack buddies

The Joys of Poverty

The living dead

The Joys of Poverty

Let's have more

The Joys of Poverty

No regrets, no disappointments

The Joys of Poverty

Don't wake me

The Joys of Poverty

Some hope this

The Joys of Poverty


VK said...

may be they haven't really died..

may be it is something within us that has...

Raza Rumi said...

thanks for these evocative pictures. What a forgotten tragedy..

The term "people like us" deserved a little elaboration - did you mean the journos/bloggers who find good material for the soup de jure or the self-satisfied, booming Indian middle class who'd rather let a 'strong' government eliminate these wretches?

Mayank Austen Soofi said...

The term "people like us" perhaps include both categories mentioned by Raza Rumi above. After all, these pictures and the accompanying text can also be interpreted as just another 'satisfying' post by just another blogger around town.

James said...

Why the snarky comment about white people writing books like City of Joy? Aren't those photos just as voyeuristic as anything a foreigner could come up with? After all, every city also has its first world enclaves.

Anonymous said...

You're quick to spot the problems. What about offering some solutions? How does one help?

Arun Seth said...

Pathetic. Soofi, was it satisfying to take pictures of these people while the posed for you? Did you pay them? Did you buy them food? Not. But, it must have been a fun trip to take the pictures and exhibit their whatever pride is left for the world to just say "oh poor them".


diksha said...

a poet does what he knows best...
dont blame a poet for being a poet...
tragic indeed it is, so do do you deny them the right of even being the muse???

m a v e r | c k said...

yea Soofi....
Why did you take these pictures??? To put them on display on your blog to get more traffic????
I'm sure everyone has seen these pictures before.
You could have researched places people like these get help from so your readers ccould contribute instead of just sitting in our cozy chairs in our air-conditioned houses ans feel helpless if not ashamed.

Anonymous said...

this is truly a piece of journalistic voyeurism at its worst. your blog stinks.

Anonymous said...

There is a wonderful project known as the 100strangers project. Mayank - do you ask before taking photographs? Maybe worth consider trying it out. Maybe.

Anonymous said...

Well done Mayank, you have managed to finally impress me - you do finally see beyond the veil.

I admit I am a sick old man - I can't resist offering temptation.

So now would you like to give the harder part of this a try?

Would you like to try coaxing a story out of one of these people in the images?

Not some yarn about a mythical kingdom they lost - but a real story where they tell you how precisely the got to where they are.

Such a narrative would certainly serve as a guide to great minds who think that some great society is around the corner in India - some magical wheel of Dharma is about to start spinning radiating righteousness and justice all around.

A pox on their kind I say... so how about you tell me a story - a real story from these parts.

Anonymous said...


I think you are showing how things are... how did they get that way? (e.g. the man without hands?).

You have shown the "reality" of many people's lives...

Thank you. Great Photo-jouralism!


Priyanka said...

The most beautiful thing about your blog is your CAPTIONs!
Amazing sense of photography and seriously just a fantabulous blog!