Friday, 30 September 2011

Colours of the city

As with any big city, Delhi has its fair share of grey. Historical treasures aside, much of the architecture is fairly uninspired and the rapid expansion of the city has led to a proliferation of (usually fairly potholed) tarmac that generally lurks behind a fug of exhaust fumes. But Delhi is nevertheless a city of colour. It's everywhere, and the flashes of brightness that one experiences every day here are one of the things I love most about it.

Firstly, and most obviously, green. You might not believe it as you enter the city on the 8-lane highway from the airport, but Delhi is one of the most luxuriantly green cities I've ever been to. A lush canopy hangs over much of the city, which becomes apparent when you go up a flyover or ride the metro and realise that much of the city is obscured from view beneath the foliage, with taller buildings rising up like lost jungle citadels.

Green is also represented by the parrots that flock all over the city, ignored by Indians and cooed over by tourists who spend significant amounts of time trying to snap them in mid-flight (OK, I do this too). Given that my point of comparison is the mangy, grimy pigeon population of London, I have to say that I think most Delhiwallas don't fully appreciate these flashes of emerald darting about above their heads.

Yellow is another colour I  associate with the city, because it's such a popular colour for clothing. Of course, people here - particularly the women - take tremendous pride in their clothes and you can't walk down the street without running into three or four ladies dressed in graceful, vibrant saris or salwar kameez that would turn multiple heads in London. But my favourite is the deep, golden yellow in the photo below, which you see everywhere and which I love because it looks so wonderful against Indian skin tones (I've always liked yellow but rather fear that most white people just can't get away with it):

And it's not just the women who know how to use that splash of colour to have an impact:

Indian women's sense of style knows no bounds of age or class. While you can always see when a woman has money by the fineness of the fabric she wears, even simple and coarse cloth is worn with aplomb and dignity. Older ladies are often even more carefully turned out than their younger counterparts, though there is a discernable tendency towards floral patterns among the senior generation (you see the same sort of thing with wallpaper in the UK...):

Not all the colours sported by the city's denizens are so aesthetically pleasing. The picture below represents a sight that is, sadly, all too common among Delhi men of a certain age. This particular predilection of the Indian middle aged male is entirely baffling to me.

With apologies to the brilliant lifeandlentils blog for nicking the photo!

Indians also have a knack for using the most mundane objects to add a bit of vibrancy. I love the pink hue of many of the city's old monuments, but I was particularly taken with the multicoloured row of water jars sitting outside this mosque at the Qutub Minar (the squirrel was an added bonus):

And I especially liked the way the purple jar exactly matched the pattern on the rug in front of the mosque:

I could write a very long post trying to catalogue all the colours of Delhi, and how much they brighten up my days, but it's getting a bit late and I'm flying back to grey old London tomorrow. So I will keep some back for future posts. I may go a bit quiet for the next couple of weeks while I'm away from Delhi, but I will be back in mid-October and keen to reinvigorate the blog. Please keep reading!


Ranoo Singh Yadav said...

nice article..i can't wait to come for my march India visit after 1.5 years. can't wait to wear salwar kameez and saree and the colour yellow....i wonder how much india has has changed since i left but guess not that much, as reflected by your blogs.

Kay in India said...

Enjoyed reading this post. You see this city with completely different lenses than I [or many Indians from other cosmopolitan cities] do and it's a refreshing point of view.

passionateself said...

I can't forget the orange color on the hair!