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March 15, 2005

When is recycling not recycling?

When the recycled or re-purposed item never really had a purpose in the first place. These papers, have been left on the ground (location across the street from Jantar Mantar, Delhi), as far as I can tell, for no other purpose than to be repurposed. The image on the left is a stack of paper left on the street as an offering to the gods of the recycled chaat-bag-makers.

Packaging for chaat is often nothing more than a bag made from old newsprint or repurposed paper, or for the wetter stuff, a leaf plate. The bag pictured on the right was made from some terribly interesting literature about bonds. One can see the imprint of the deep-fried sweet peas contained within being absorbed into the paper making a pretty pattern.

Posted by debra at 03:41 PM | Comments (0)

Nomadism as Architecture

The idea of nomadism as an architectural construct is very poignant in Delhi. To be sure, this is a city of massive physical proportions. But even more so, I think, it is a city of constant motion, of sinuous paths. Perhaps more important than the physical architecture of the city is the nomadic architecture of the city. The paths of taxis, auto-rickshaws, bicycles, land cruisers, and feet form the vital paths of Delhi in all three sense of the term "path". The first sense is the action, the act of moving from one place to another. The second is the narrative, the stories of spaces crossed. And the third is the architectural object, the path as a line across space. Francesco Careri contends that nomadism is the oldest form of architecture, yet still the most vital and least considered by architects.

Posted by Julian at 08:20 AM | Comments (0)

Space and Refuge

Delhi is a continuous public drama, played out in the constant swirling flow of people, vehicles, animals, smells, colours, and noises. There is little open space; most space is packed full, save fr the sanctuaries of religious temples, private homes, and parks. But for the poor of Old Delhi, perhaps the Jamu Misjid mosque is the only refuge, the only large empty space whose ediface points resolutely towards Mecca. The expanse is filled with the music of water and wings. Sunlight flashes from the surface of a fountain where revelers wash and children make boats from newspaper. Pidgeons arc and turn as hawks watch from the minarets above. Descending into the old city below, the senses are molested with noise, dirt, but more than anything, I think, the lack of open space.

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"The most important part of a window is the empty space
in the center. The most important part of a door is
the space through which you pass. The most important
essence of things is that which you cannot see."
-Tao Te Ching
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Posted by Julian at 08:13 AM | Comments (0)

Paan virgin spits like a girl

Everywhere in Old Delhi, on every cornerpost of every building there is a reddish haze the colour of terracotta. For awhile I thought it was just the iron oxide in the dirt and dust and so much of the architecture (for example the Jantar Mantar observatory) has this colour. But after a few hours of walking around I saw a few fresh splotches of red and realised what it was. Paan spit.

Paan is a 'digestive'. A leaf, painted with all manner of spices, flecks of gold leaf, sugar crystal and proportedly even opium. You take the leaf roll in your hand from the paan-wallah who has lovingly prepared his special version from 20 or so fine tins of ingredients and ingest it like chaw, I think. This morning, before the coffee I tried my first chew.

What a tenacious taster I was, and this was entirely ridiculous because PAAN IS GOOD. Paan tastes like perfume smells, paan tastes like delicious spices and sugar, bitter, everynow and again a bit of sour. Riding around in a rickshaw in Delhi, between whiffs of exhaust and... well let's just say mostly exhaust, you get a whiff of heavily perfumed air. That's what paan tastes like. Delicious. The texture is as grainy and juicy, I'm sure every paan is different.

And the buzz? Well, I notice a slight tingling in the back of my throat which is probably clove related, and the mind-altering quality is less than that of a cup of coffee. Of course now I'm interested in getting into something a bit heavier.

Next time I'll attempt a truly peaceful savouring of the paan and will be working on my spitting technique. It turns out, surprise surprise, I spit like a girl!

Posted by debra at 07:19 AM | Comments (1)