On the banks of Yamuna April 2012
Okhla, a suburb in South Delhi, knows how to hide the ugly: a riverbank settlement that lies ignored on its fringes. A two-kilometre stretch along the banks of the dying Yamuna River hosts a compact, impoverished quarter for the immigrants from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Bangladesh. Every monsoon, this temporary settlement is submerged under several feet of filthy water: filth that has become synonymous with life and livelihood here.
Merely fifteen minutes away from the city centre, the stench of reality is unavoidable. Instead of South Delhi’s customary symbols of urban pomp, the riverbank here is punctuated by afternoon gilli danda games, where local boys wager two or three pieces of roti.
Life here usually involves aspirations of joining the seemingly inaccessible city outside the settlement’s invisible walls. It is a space kept well hidden. The Delhi-Noida-Direct Flyway on one side provides only a vague view of this unwanted neighbourhood. The Batla House colony on the other keeps outsiders a good distance away. So does the neighbouring Okhla industrial area, blowing disinterested smoke out of its chimneys.
The dhobi-ghaat covers most of the bank, providing some semblance of a stable livelihood for the locals. The children go to a free school in the morning, play by the river in the afternoon, and watch TV with their families in the evening before falling asleep under patchy, provisional roofs. Some of the houses have windows too, with one of two views: the putrid river on one side, or the skyward ambition of illegal real estate on the other.
The magnificence of this place lies in the nostalgia for a lost river and the trades that plied on its banks. Now Okhla grows ceaselessly, silently, ignoring the river growing heavier with the load of sin the city dumps in it. Today, the river barely drags on, hauling with it bits of carrion of a forgotten lifeline. But the people, whose lives depend on it, keep dreaming of the day when they won't have to.
~ Sreedeep is an independent photographer who recently completed his PhD in Sociology from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
~ Kamalini Mukherjee is a research scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
Romila Thapar addresses invitees at the
Southasian relaunch of Himal Southasian,
IIC, New Delhi, January 2013.
China, Southasia and India
On May 19 2013, newly appointed Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived in New Delhi for a series of meetings with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The visit is Keqiang's first outside of China since assuming power in March.
From our archive:
Purna Basnet discusses Chinese engagement in Nepal vis-a-vis security issues in Tibet and broader geo-strategic plans in Southasia (April 2011).
Fatima Chowdury relates the story of Calcutta's Indian Chinese community through the lens of political and economic upheavals in Southasia and China (May 2009).
Simon Long notes the importance of the Sino-Indian relationship for the rest of Southasia (September 2006).
J.N Dixit ruminates on the strategic concerns of the 'Middle Kingdom' in the wake of India's 1998 nuclear tests (June 1998).