Kristian Bertel | Photography
Archive story
In this archive story we are photographing a man working in Paharganj in Delhi, India.
Read the background story of this archive photo by the photographer.
As you step out of the New Delhi Railway Station and cross the road, you stand at the entrance of Paharganj Main Bazaar. Stretching for about a kilometer, it is a bargainer's paradise for a photographer in India. Chaotic, noisy and dirty, the market is only for shoppers who are rough and tough. Paharganj, literally 'Hilly neighborhood' is a neighborhood of Central Delhi, located just west of the New Delhi Railway Station.
As you step out of the New Delhi Railway Station and cross the road, you stand at the entrance of Paharganj Main Bazaar. Stretching for about a kilometer, it is a bargainer's paradise for a photographer in India. Chaotic, noisy and dirty, the market is only for shoppers who are rough and tough. Paharganj, literally 'Hilly neighborhood' is a neighborhood of Central Delhi, located just west of the New Delhi Railway Station.
Kristian Bertel, Photographer By Kristian Bertel, Photographer
– Updated on April 11, 2024

Paharganj in Delhi

Walking through the narrow lanes of Paharganj, the photographer was immediately engulfed by the energy of the place. The streets are a kaleidoscope of activity, with vendors hawking their wares, rickshaws weaving through the throngs of people and the aroma of spicy street food wafting through the air. It is a sensory overload, but amidst this chaos, there is a certain charm that is unmistakably Delhi.

Where is the Paharganj neighborhood located in Delhi?

Paharganj is nestled in the vibrant heart of Delhi, just west of the historic Old Delhi area. Located adjacent to the New Delhi Railway Station, it is easily accessible by road and rail.

The photographer realised working conditions
While photograhing here the portrait photographer realised that the unorganised labour in India has been divided into 4 groups and this classification categorized India's unorganised labour force by occupation, nature of employment, specially distressed categories and service categories. The unorganised occupational groups include small and marginal farmers, landless agricultural labourers, share croppers, fishermen, those engaged in animal husbandry, beedi rolling, labeling and packing, building and construction workers, leather workers, weavers, artisans, salt workers, workers in brick kilns and stone quarries, workers in saw mills and workers in oil mills.

A separate category based on nature of employment includes attached agricultural labourers, bonded labourers, migrant workers, contract and casual labourers. Another separate category dedicated to distressed unorganised sector includes toddy tappers, scavengers, carriers of head loads, drivers of animal driven vehicles, loaders and unloaders.

"As the photographer continued to explore Paharganj with his camera in hand, he was struck by the complexity of this neighborhood. It was a place where poverty and prosperity coexist, where the ancient and the modern collide, creating a tapestry of life that is uniquely Delhi"

While the photographer was phototographing portraits in India he also learned that the last unorganised labour category includes service workers such as midwives, domestic workers, barbers, vegetable and fruit vendors, newspaper vendors, pavement vendors, hand cart operators and the unorganised retail. Given its natural rate of population growth and aging characteristics, India is adding about 13 million new workers every year to its labour pool. India's economy has been adding about 8 million new jobs every year predominantly in low paying, unorganised sectorand the remaining 5 million youth joining the ranks of poorly paid partial employment, casual labour pool for temporary infrastructure and real estate construction jobs or in many cases being unemployed

Hand-pulled carts in India
As a portrait photographer and traveler in India it is hard to ignore the working conditions in India and the Indian man in the photo above is using a hand-pulled cart in his transportation work. A cart is a vehicle designed for transport, using two wheels and normally pulled by one or a pair of draught animals. A handcart is pulled or pushed by one or more people. It is different from a dray or wagon, which is a heavy transport vehicle with four wheels and typically two or more horses or a carriage, which is used exclusively for transporting humans.

Over time, the term 'Cart' has come to mean nearly any small conveyance, from shopping carts to golf carts, without regard to number of wheels, load carried or means of propulsion and as the photographer found out the draught animals used for carts in India may be horses or ponies, mules, oxen, water buffalo or donkeys or even smaller animals such as goats or large dogs. Carts have many different shapes just like this one in Delhi, but the basic idea of transporting material or maintaining a collection of materials in a portable fashion remains.

"Carts may have a pair of shafts, one along each side of the draught animal that supports the forward-balanced load in the cart. The shafts are supported by a saddle on the horse. Alternatively and normally where the animals are oxen or buffalo, the cart may have a single pole between a pair of animals. The draught traces attach to the axle of the vehicle or to the shafts. The traces are attached to a collar on horses, to a yoke on other heavy draught animals or to a harness on dogs or other light animals"

Portrayed in Paharganj
Paharganj emerged as a vibrant hub for backpackers and hippies back in the 1970s. However, the area is now known for its elevated levels of crime, poverty, drug activity, sexual assaults and scams. In response to these challenges, tourism authorities are urging both local and international tourists to opt for accommodations in the newer parts of the city, particularly South Delhi. The rise in sexual assaults against women, including both Indian and international tourists, has been particularly concerning in Paharganj. Despite its enduring popularity among foreign visitors seeking budget hostels and restaurants, many Indian tourists are gravitating towards South Delhi for its perceived safety and cleaner surroundings, coupled with modern amenities.

However, South Delhi is now also experiencing an influx of foreign tourists, who are moving away from Paharganj due to the area's surge in sexual assaults targeting international travelers. This shift reflects the evolving landscape of tourism in Delhi, as travelers navigate safety concerns alongside their quest for exploration and discovery.

"His feelings were compounded by the knowledge that these people will likely never escape the daily hardships of living in one of the biggest cities in India. The experience left the photographer deeply moved, something that is sadly common amongst photographers that visit places of extreme poverty. It is a feeling of helplessness and sorrow, a reminder that despite our best efforts, poverty and its associated issues are a complex problem that needs long-term solutions"

See this video from Paharganj in Delhi made by Virtual Walker.

"- For travelers venturing into Paharganj, it is important to approach with an open heart and mind. Yes, there is poverty here, but there is also resilience, warmth and a spirit of survival that is awe-inspiring. Engage with the locals, sample the street food, browse the bustling markets and allow yourself to be immersed in the vibrant chaos of Paharganj. As I leave the neighborhood, my heart is heavy with the weight of the disparities I've witnessed. Yet, I also carry with me the indelible memories of the people I've met – their stories, their smiles, their resilience. Paharganj may be a place of contrasts, but it is also a place of humanity, where amidst the chaos, the human spirit shines bright", the Photographer says.

"- In the end, Paharganj is not just a neighborhood – it's a microcosm of Delhi itself, a city that is as diverse and vibrant as the people who call it home. Capturing the essence of Paharganj through the lens of my camera has been a humbling experience, one that has deepened my understanding of Delhi and its people. As travelers, we are privileged to witness these moments of raw humanity and it is our responsibility to approach them with empathy and respect"
, the Photographer says again.

"- So, the next time you find yourself in Delhi, don't just stick to the tourist hotspots. Venture into the heart of Paharganj, where the true soul of the city beats fiercely amidst the chaos. Allow yourself to be swept away by its energy, its colors and its contradictions. In Paharganj, you will find a Delhi that is both raw and beautiful, a city that will leave an indelible mark on your soul", the Photographer says again.

"- Amidst the images I captured, numerous smiles stood out. These were not just expressions; they were symbols of hope and resilience, depicting individuals determined to persevere and thrive despite their challenging circumstances. Each photograph I took served as a poignant reminder that, while the situation of street sleepers in India remains stark, they cling steadfastly to a glimmer of hope, sustaining themselves through the barest of means. It is my aim, through these photographs, to shed light on the plight of India's street sleepers. I aspire to offer a narrative that honors their unwavering strength, portraying their daily challenges with respect and empathy and celebrating the courage that defines their lives"
, the Photographer says again.

Read also:  Older people in India

Older people in India

Read also:  Older people in India

More archive stories

India is a land full of stories. On every street, on every corner and in the many places in India, life is rushing by you as a photographer with millions of stories to be told. In the archive story above, you hopefully had a readable insight in the story that was behind the photo of an Indian man using a hand-pulled cart in Delhi. On this website of Kristian Bertel | Photography you can find numerous travel pictures from the photographer. Stories and moments that tell the travel stories of how the photographer captured the specific scene that you see in the picture. The photographer's images have a story behind them, images that all are taken from around India throughout his photo journeys. The archive stories delve into Kristian's personal archive to reveal never-before-seen, including portraits and landscapes beautifully produced snapshots from various travel assignments. The archive is so-far organized into photo stories, this one included, each brought to life by narrative text and full-color photos. Together, these fascinating stories tell a story about the life in India. India, the motherland to many people around the world, a land of unforgetable travel moments. The archive takes viewers on a spectacular visual journey through some of the most stunning photographs to be found in the photographer's archive collection. The photographer culled the images to reflect the many variations on the universal theme of beauty and everyday life in India. By adding these back stories the photographer's work might immensely enhanced the understanding of the photographs.