Sometime in July, I was contacted by the people at Future Brands for documenting street fashion in a bunch of small towns in India. The project was for one of their clients, Madura Garments-one of the biggest apparel retail companies in India.
My brief was to document fashion in these towns as I’d previously done in Jodhpur & Shillong…with the focus being on men’s fashion. My end task was to provide insights via photographs that’d probably help them understand the ‘underlying ethos of dominant aesthetic preferences’ in contemporary India, and maybe help find answers to questions like: How certain fashions develop in small towns? What affects the general style of dressing? Why people wear what they wear…?.& so on…
I would be posting about all these towns separately a little later. This is a preview.
I’ve also done a long story(3000+ words-before getting edited) for HT Brunch – it’ll be out sometime in October. The story mostly covers trends I noticed in these small towns, analogies that I drew between street fashion & urban fashion(similar to this and this), and things I experienced while being on the road…
Aurangabad. Here, I was detained by cops for two hours for taking photos inside the high court premises. And this other time I was followed by two drunk men who wanted money & my camera.
Asansol. The only people I found interesting here were the rickshaw-walas and the day-labourers(actually this was the case pretty much in all towns).
Salem. Salem was the cleanest of all these places, surrounded by hills(and a small hill station-Yercaud), and the only place I wouldn’t mind going back to.
Rest other towns were not appealing at all & there was nothing much to do. That also made me a little sad. I would often think about the kind of lives kids here live and couldn’t help but compare it to mine in the city. All the things I can do and have access to, while people here don’t….even if it is as trivial as deciding which wifi enabled coffee shop to sit at. That may not be a great example but in a big city one has many options and choices- where to go; where to eat; where to shop; where to hang out…while in small towns it’s always this one average looking place where everything seems slow and everybody looks disconnected. I’m sure the town has its own reasons to be like that…
In Salem, it also seemed like there were no young people in the age group of 15-25. Someone said, “Most youngsters go to the big cities to study and when they come back for the weekend, they stay inside their homes. Once they’re finished with college they get jobs outside+there is nothing really to do here for anybody to stick around for long..except for the old people.”
Bareilly. I got mobbed here.
I took about 2000+ photos & mostly ended up photographing the poor working class people on the streets as slightly-urban, middle-class fashion was nothing new or different(I did take photos for the sake of documentation). Another thing common in all these places was the crowds in the markets. It seemed like no matter what, people just never stopped shopping. I find that slightly crazy.
My travel screenshop looked like a mini-India in itself. This is via google-maps..right in the beginning when I was calculating and figuring out the trip.
The trip was about 20 days long with me spending about 3-4 days in each town – involved 6 flights(two I missed). a few train rides, many cab rides, and a lot of walking in the July sun. All these small towns were about 200 kms. away from the big cities. So it was always plane to the big city and a train/cab to the small city.
Each time I flew, I took a window seat just so I could marvel at the crapulous civilization from above, admire the shapes clouds made, stare at the horizon that stretched to eternities, think about how amazing it is for planes to fly in open spaces with no physical barriers and go from one exact land point to the other…and lot of other trivial stuff..
Hazy earth is obviously Bombay. Blue-green is Delhi. Intestine is somewhere in West bengal.
One day I’d like my pre-travel map to look like this. A giant steak.