Art

Capital memories in sepia

A glimpse into the past: Humayun’s Tomb (Deb Mukharji)

A glimpse into the past: Humayun’s Tomb (Deb Mukharji)  

Three senior citizens are showcasing online, what Delhi looked like over half a century ago

The lockdown does have a bright side afterall. Three friends, who as Delhi University students in late 1950s and ‘60s pursued their passion for photography, have now unearthed their old frames of Delhi for an online exhibition. They had explored the city as students, and captured its many avatars in black and white images. Vinoo Bhagat, a lawyer; Kishan S Rana, and Deb Mukharji both career diplomats, met as undergraduates in St Stephen’s and were part of the college’s Photo Society.

The idea of the Three Amigos was born during the lockdown,when they found that the Delhi of those days looked somewhat similar to what the city has become, post-lockdown. Deb, a former Ambassador to Nepal, says, “It does, for all the wrong reasons.”

In those days, “We would go into embassies which had no armed guards and request for stamps of the country. Delhi was a peaceful place. And there were vast empty spaces. What is now Vasant Vihar and JNU was then a part of the ridge.”There were no ticket counters at the gates of monuments, and visitors could enter free of cost.

But the photographs aren’t just a throwback to old times. “These pictures are a beautiful part of our heritage. They deserve to be seen and preserved,” he says.

Indira Gandhi (Vinoo Bhagat)

Indira Gandhi (Vinoo Bhagat)  

There’s the picture of a young Indira Gandhi in 1955, comfortable in the company of friends, for instance. In 1955, when Bhagat, a lawyer by then, took her picture she was known only as Pt. Nehru’s daughter. “I knew Elizabeth Gauba (in the frame), German educationalist, whose daughter was to get married that evening,” which is how he got the photo.

There’s another of Pt. Ravi Shankar, who Bhagat had come to know when he was just 11. The fact that Shankar was learning to play the sitar made him curious about his neighbour in Lalla Shankar Lal Mansion, on then Curzon Road.

Pt. Ravi Shankar (Vinoo Bhagat)

Pt. Ravi Shankar (Vinoo Bhagat)  

The lockdown has been a blessing in disguise for Mukharji, as he sorted through thousands of images that had been scanned and stored in hard disks. There are 45 pictures of the city’s landmarks, like Connaught Place, Qutab Minar, Humayun’s Tomb, people-less roads as well as mountains, because Bhagat and Mukharji are trekkers.

There’s one image they missed though, says Rana: “I wish I had also captured images of the Phat-Phat, which was also the common man's transport. Connaught Place to Red Fort cost just four annas per seat in those four-seaters.”

tonga ride (Kishan S Rana)

tonga ride (Kishan S Rana)  

The online exhibition concludes on May 18; Iicdelhi.nic.in

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Printable version | Jul 11, 2020 10:06:22 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/capital-memories-in-sepia/article31599323.ece

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