HaB is proud to announce a border-crossing collaboration between Fudan University and Ambedkar University, Delhi (AUD). This collaboration between an Indian and Chinese university focuses on the idea of a city through the lens of the residents. Surajit Sarkar of the Centre for Community Knowledge travelled from Delhi to Fudan University and organized workshops on setting up community museums. As a part of this collaboration, the students have organized an exhibition on Delhi that will be the first of many cross-border cultural collaborations between AUD and Fudan, Delhi and Shanghai, India and China.
Delhi is a city where peoples and cultures meet, and a home to more than 26 million people sharing the same name of “Dilliwale” in spite of different dialects, religious beliefs and occupations.
Our exhibits, provided by Ambedkar University Delhi, cover photos of the city of Delhi from the year 1858 to 2016. We invite you to experience the vitality of Delhi from a Dilliwala’s perspective. Here, you can see fruitful details of Dilliwale’s daily life and trace the changes of the city. In the course of more than one hundred years, Dilliwale have left their unique marks through embracing changes, extending traditions and weaving stories. You can feel the exclusive closeness with Delhi by reading and comparing the additional parallel stories of Shanghai. Whoever you are, you will find it easier getting close to a city by focusing upon its lively citizens.
The Chair’s Revolution
The original urban structure was challenged when the British colonists built a new city outside the old city of Delhi in 1911. The elites in Delhi, facing a choice between the two cities, either embraced or forced to accept the new rulers and their lifestyles. As a result, changes took place in clothing, customs, architectures, entertainment, etc. The colonial culture also influenced common people who then rearranged the functions of urban spaces. Together, people reconstructed the city of Delhi under the influences of British colonists.
A Cobbler’s Success
Handicraft and service industries in Delhi made full use of every corner of the city. In the past, cobblers,tinkers and barbers wandered around the streets and competed in the most profitable part of the city for the best earnings. Handicrafts like bangles, garlands and pottery were made in family workshops. Nowadays, some jobs are killed by urbanization and industrialization while some others keep pace with them. Family workshops move into factories.Vendors gather into markets.Some jobs even develop to become “advanced manufacturing”.
When Mules are Unnecessary
German human geographer F•Ratzel once said, “Transportation shaped the city.” The steady extension of bridges and roads and the evolution of vehicles brought upheavals to lifestyles. Also, transportation reformation represented by the invention of buses and trolleys played an important role in shaping the cities. These gradual changes left traces that can still be found in the fast-changing city today. From these pictures, we can directly tell the development of Delhi’s modern transportation.
The Song of Ferris Wheels
Dilliwale have an intuition to seek pleasure. They played chess and cards in streets, jumped hopscotch and spun tops in empty spaces, took a ride on traditional hand-operated Ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds, flew kites in squares during sunny days in raining seasons. For Dilliwale, seeking happiness is a natural instinct and a response to worries. These simple funs became a panacea in the face of dense population and cramped living spaces during the process of urbanization. Even foreign city dwellers were attracted by the fun in these simple games.
The Celebration of Tilaka
The collective emotions and religious beliefs are key to city life in Delhi. They bring Dilliwale together, shape their souls and give them inspirations. No matter how the city develops, Dilliwale never lose their commitment to the old traditions like wearing Tilaka and Sari. On city streets, in open squares and other public areas, Dilliwale love holding religious and cultural ceremonies, which are externalization of their emotions and preservation of the memory of the city.
Spiritual Oasis for Wanderers
The city of Delhi had been built along the River Yamuna. Historic sites scattering around the whole city had been places where all the memories of ancient Delhi resided. Dilliwale’s daily activities around the River and historic sites had drawn the city and its citizens closer and enhanced their senses of identity and belonging. However, due to the rapid pace of urbanization, River Yamuna was polluted so severely that the mother river was discarded and forgotten by Dilliwale. Meanwhile, as the historic sites have been circled for strict protection, they turn from intimate companions of Dilliwale into isolated and inanimate monuments. Today, the flowing river and the erecting monuments no longer interact with human beings as they used to. Are they still the spiritual oases where Dilliwale find their sense of identity and belonging?
The wind of history gently blows through India and spreads seeds of changes to Delhi. With the urban spaces being reshaped, Dilliwale start to learn how to adapt to the city’s renovation. During the course of this change, people still pursue for emotional and spiritual satisfaction, shape communities to their needs and enjoy their social lives. But on the other hand, Dilliwale’s close relationships with the nature and the history, as well as their senses of belonging, are now hanging by a thread, pushing us to rethink about the relationship between men and cities.
Stories in Dilliwale’s Diary are fictional, but the emotions are true. Similar stories take place all the time, in Delhi, in Shanghai and in any other city. No matter where we are, we would face changes in the relationship between men and cities. Economic transformation, human migration, cultural integration – these seemingly distant issues are, actually, closely related to us. Dilliwale’s stories are about to end, but our own stories are always “to be continued”.