Mission Delhi – Simran, Janakpuri
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
This is how it is. Simran feels most alive when she’s walking on the streets, perhaps somewhere around the historic Jama Masjid in Old Delhi, with her hefty DSLR camera hanging around her neck. There, she looks out for sights that will touch her heart so intensely that she’ll immediately want to capture them in her lens. Very often, clicking is not enough, and she also types down raw thoughts on her phone’s notes.
And then she moves on, prepared to embrace more sights, containing more wonders.
Simran is a flâneur. And if a female flâneur — a flâneuse, the French say — is not something unusual to come across in the alleys of New York or Paris, this gender specification makes a big difference in a place as hostile to women as Delhi.
“The fact that Delhi is unsafe for girls does pop up in my head, but once I’m transported to a place the thought disappears,” says the 20-year old fashion technology student. She’s chatting on WhatsApp video from west Delhi’s Janakpuri, where she lives with her sister and parents. Confined these days mostly within the walls of the apartment, Simran hasn’t been able to hit the streets since the first coronavirus-triggered lockdown began in late March. Until then, she had regularly been going for explorations—sometimes with heritage groups or friends, but mostly alone.
Indeed, like most flâneurs, Simran wants the street she is walking to be her only friend as she walks it. When she is by herself, strolling in — say — Matia Mahal Bazar, “I like to click pictures of the place and immediately write what I feel about its vibes, before the moment goes.” Her current camera was a gift to herself, from savings she made on the pocket money her parents would give her. It wasn’t a vanity purchase—the camera is necessary to her, she insists. “The moments I encounter might never have existed before, and the places I capture might not always stay the same.”
Simran has been maintaining an Instagram account in which she puts up these pictures, but is reluctant to share it with readers “because I haven’t told Mummy Papa yet of the work I do.” (Oops, by now they will get some idea of their daughter’s pursuits!)
Simran’s Janakpuri is far from the Delhi places she loves the most, but “free rides for women in the DTC buses are a perk.”
Alas, all that travelling seems like another life. Hopefully, one day soon, the pandemic will fade away and Simran will again be sighted sauntering about the streets of her city, holding her camera. Meanwhile, she agrees to pose with it in her home.
[This is the 379th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
A female flâneur