Around Town / India

Shankar Market, Old Delhi and the Weekend

Old Delhi_MG_2172November 03, 2012

Saturday night Chris’ dad left for the airport to catch a plane back to America.  We are alone in our house for the first time in over two months.

We were only in India for 10 days before Chris’ parents arrived and while it is always wonderful to have them around, there is a certain peace to knowing that I have a month’s reprieve before I have to start cooking dinner for four or more adults every night again and brewing 12 cups of coffee at 5:30 every morning.  Both Chris’ mom and dad will be back in December, but for now it’s just us.

Saturday, while Chris’ dad packed, we ran over to Connaught for Chris to visit a “bespoke tailoring” shop while I had plans to scour Shankar market in search of velcro.  Turns out, the market didn’t need much scouring.  Our first stop was a ribbon store and, at 30 rupees a yard, buying velcro in Delhi turned out to be just about the easiest and cheapest non-food purchase I’ve made since we got here.

Old Delhi_MG_2116November 02, 2012

In the alleyway behind the ribbon store, we caught a glimpse of two men manning giant vats bubbling over in shades of turquoise and hot pink, dying lace.  They poured powdered dyes into the bubbling pots, checked the color against a piece of lace taped to a bright white piece of paper, and then adjusted the mix time and time again.  Watching them, it occurred to me what a specialized skill it must be to get the colors to turn out exactly the same, batch after batch, without any written formulas, recipes or measuring utensils.

Old Delhi_MG_2115November 02, 2012

Old Delhi_MG_2118November 02, 2012

Last fall I spent many incredibly sleep-deprived hours holding infant Will while he napped.  For the first 4 months of his life I couldn’t put him down.  I didn’t have the free hands necessary to cook or write, nor the functioning brain cells to do much else productive and so–enter Pinterest.  The thing about Pinterest is that it is sometimes too inspiring, too full of felted and crafty goodness–so much so that it makes a person do crazy things.  Like request a glue gun and a stack of “fall-colored” felt for Christmas to make an “autumnal wreath,” in spite of a rather serious lack of timeliness, craftiness, and hand-eye coordination.

Which brings us back to the velcro from Shankar Market.  1 year later, I finally made that darn Thanksgiving-y wreath.  I McGiver’ed a wreath base out of some old packing materials and duct-taped them into a vaguely circular shape.  Then I alternated wrapping yarn, tangling yarn, and muttering strings of expletives for an hour while Will napped.  Then I burned myself with a glue gun a dozen times trying to make felt flowers and finally  (finally!) I velcro-ed my autumnal felt nightmare onto my wreath base.

I used velcro instead of the glue gun for the last step on the theory that velcro would allow me to switch out the embellishments seasonally–potentially accommodating a whole year’s worth of holidays with just one wreath (I am nothing if not efficiency-minded).  Of course that presupposes I’m capable of summoning up the motivation to see this felted grand plan through to the end.   As I explained to Chris’ sister the other day, I’m only crafty until I reach the half-way mark in a project–at which point I usually say “screw it! good enough!” and slap the rest together with all of the precision and focus of a drunken monkey eating pixie sticks.

Old Delhi_MG_2192November 03, 2012

Moving on.  Sunday morning, our first morning without house guests, we were sorely tempted to sleep in and slovenly lounge around the house all day, but we had made a 7am date for a walk through Old Delhi with a couple of friends.  So we slammed some cold coffee, doused Will in bug spray and away we went to the old Muslim quarter.

Old Delhi_MG_2185November 03, 2012

We stopped for some chole bhatura and watched as the vendor’s son scooped the puffy balls of fried dough out of the boiling oil and onto a plate with a dish of stewed chickpeas for us.  We drank chai and watched men receive early morning street-side shaves and hair cuts and people scrubbing clothes on the pavement and ironing trousers with antique coal-powered irons. There were delivery men pulled towering stacks of shoes and fabrics on pull-carts and and bicycle rickshaw drivers offering their goods and services every few steps.

Old Delhi_MG_2174November 03, 2012

The air was thick with fog and smoke but the scenery was interesting and the people mostly friendly, as usual.  Afterwards, for a bit of unintended dramatic contrast, and to satisfy a serious breakfast craving, we headed over to the Imperial Hotel for the fastest all-you-can-eat breakfast we’ve ever had.  It was a bit of a gamble taking a couple of overtired babies out for breakfast after our morning in Old Delhi, but we all managed to eat and down 2 cups of coffee each before the kids let us know it was time to leave.

Old Delhi_MG_2134November 03, 2012

I had hoped to get some nice shots during our walk, but my camera was acting a bit wonky and sluggish and my SD chips kept failing.  Also, and I hate to admit this, but I’ve got a bit of camera envy.  I’m just a hobbyist with a lot to learn, but it was eye-opening today to listen to the machine-gun cadence of our friends’ camera shutters firing over and over while I watched my shots blur out of focus waiting for my own shutter to close on just one frame.  I’ve tried every combination of ISO, aperture and shutter speed possible to try and get both the speed I need and the clarity I would like, but the inherent, fleeting “capture-the-moment-before-it-before-it’s-over” nature of taking photos on the street simply seems to require a bit more from my camera than it will probably ever be able to deliver.  Oh well.  Photography is just a hobby for me and there is still lots of life left in my little Rebel.

Old Delhi_MG_2186November 03, 2012
Leaves for wrapping paan, a mild-narcotic made from betel nuts and spices that is sold by street vendors everywhere in India.

Old Delhi_MG_2113November 02, 2012
Fabrics for what looks to be stoles and dupettas drying after their turn in the dye buckets.

How was your weekend?  What did you do?


19 thoughts on “Shankar Market, Old Delhi and the Weekend

  1. First of all, I love your wreath! I also love your photos and the velcro idea. We just got back from spending 2 days in Dubrovnik, Croatia and 2 days in Kotor, Montenegro. It was lovely, but we are happy to be back home. =)

    • Ooooh Deubrovnik??? That’s like one of our dream vacations! How fun! ISn’t it nice to come though too? I always tell Chris that a new place can never feel totally like home until you leave and come back to it. That’s when I finally feel “at home.”

  2. Keep shooting. I will never forget several ‘aha!’ moments I had with my rebel. And it’s all creatively interpreted by you. One of my photog friends who has shot so many different kinds of people and events, says it is 1 in 50 photos that are truly good (which tells you how many you need to take – I average about 300/session, though I am trying to get that down), and that some of the best photos in the world have been taken with a point and shoot. I think your photos are great – especially when you get out and shoot locally. Be encouraged!! Even if it’s just a hobby.

    • THanks Liz! I think that 1/50 rule is pretty accurate! Sometimes composition is everything and it pays to slow down and only take a few well-thought out shots, sometimes just keeping my finger down on the shutter button is the only way to catch the perfect moment–especially when shooting Will! 🙂 I think my single biggest frustration with the Rebel is that I’m constantly shooting at the max ISO and it’s still very hit or miss as to whether I can push my shutter speed fast enough to get a clear shot. And then of course, there’s all the grain. Oh well! Maybe an external flash? I never use flash but perhaps that’s the next step instead of upgrading to a new body?

      • Hi Dani:
        I have been told lens before body. Meaning a better lens can be worth more than just upgrading to a new body. I shot some (pretty good) photos with my Rebel and two higher end lenses before I upgraded. I am not sure what you have, but a good starter is the Canon 50/1.8. It’s affordable and should give you the ability to keep a high shutter speed with the large aperture. You’re already taking great photos with what you have though!! 🙂

      • Thanks Liz! I have been following the lenses before body advice too. Right now I have the “nifty fifty” 1.8 which I love but shooting around town it’s nice to have something wide angle so I bought the sigma 17-50 2.8 this past summer and I basically never take it off my camera anymore. (and since I usually have will with me, a little bit of zoom makes things easier). One of these days ill take the plunge and go for an L-series, but I think that will be a little while!

  3. I am fascinated by the fabric and clothes dying dudes and had been meaning to blog about them but you beat me to it… Beautiful pictures! The buckets of color and the bucket of pan leaves were my faves this time. And the wreath is a really cool idea. It turned out great!

  4. The top photo is my favourite. Beautiful photos here, and fascinating to learn about breakfast on the street. Sounds like you may need a new memory card though? Some are faster than others, so it’s worth looking for a super fast one for the street shots (and running toddlers, for that matter). I’d never be above shooting in ‘P’ mode, either ; ) The colours in India are just incredible – keep shooting!

    • the Bhatura on the streets is fantastic–who doesn’t love puffy fried dough? 🙂 I thought my cards were super fast but maybe I need to reformat them or something. P mode is a great option when I have really good lighting, but I find it’s just easier most of the time to leave things in manual and adjust things myself. The Rebel doesn’t have spot-metering so in manual I can sort of approximate it for myself, plus, P mode always turns on my flash–my ISO/shutterspeed just can’t quite hack moving people in anything less than perfect-lighting. I’m starting to wonder though whether this is all related to something wrong with specifically my camera. People always say how great hte Rebel does in low lighting and yet I’ve never had anything but a pretty terrible time with it, no matter what I do.

  5. Forget camera envy. I have your talent envy 😉

    Hahaha about the craftiness or lack thereof. I am zero on the scale of doing anything remotely Pinterest worthy (and just for that I’m going to pin your wreath). Tried making some Halloween cutouts to decorate the house and both my kids though my ghost was an octopus!

    • bah, you are making me blush! 🙂 I am soooo not crafty but I guess I finally picked a project easy enough for even me! Love the idea of ghostly octopus! I’m sure they were perfect–your kids are just going to grow up to be wonderfully creative thinkers! 🙂

  6. At least you finish your projects! I have about a million crafty items in various stages of completion laying around the house, including a baby blanket I started knitting for my brothers new twin babies. They’re almost 9 now…

    • Oh yea, I hear you!. Funnily enough I haven’t ever blogged about the half-finished pants and the scarf still stuck on the needles that are sitting languishing in my closet under a pile of untouched fabric… 🙂

  7. Pingback: Delhi India – December 2011 | Andy: Photographer, Traveller & Chef

  8. Pingback: Notable in 2012 | Hot Pot

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