The Sullied Fibre Glass Windows of ISBT

[notes from a series I'm shooting on Modernist Buildings in Delhi]

The Death of Modernism
[Main Departure Hall, ISBT, New Delhi, 2010]

Bus terminals always induce this feeling of nausea in me. It might be the diesel fumes, but come to think of it - vaporous diesel has never really bothered me. It is probably the pent up anxiety of a long journey to come. I'm sure it has everything to do with school buses.

Walking through the subterranean levels of ISBT(Inter State Bus Terminal) Kashmere Gate, my hypochondriac self, swallows tufts of dust to put that feeling in my stomach straight. Dim-lit bare concrete columns block out the the mid-day winter sun. The cacophony of grunting state transport buses mixes easily with the apprehension of waiting travelers and the slow high pitch calls of bus conductors. It is hard to walk through the soothe and shadows and not perceive , perhaps wrongly an element of danger. It is a different feeling from the nausea, this one hits you a little higher in the diaphragm and makes your heart beat a little faster. It's difficult not to feel alive in a bus terminal in India.

The Death of Modernism
[The bus arrivals and departure levels of ISBT, 2010]

I climb a level higher into the waiting area and the world changes. You see glimpses of the bloodlines of Le Corbusier's vision in Rajinder Kumar's design. Broken fabricated chairs and derelict ticket counters fall into a certain insignificance under the rhythm and scale of the three storied columns, rising like a great forest in the dulcet light. It is this light, filtering from above from sullied fibre glass windows, that draws my eyes upward to the higher reaches of mildew covered concrete. There is never politeness in scale, it always meant to be imposing and remind you of your insignificance. Only welcoming when seen in whole, even then it hits you with a certain decibel level. They should be playing Wagner on loud speakers but instead the only thing you hear is the tired shuffle of weary travelers.

The Death of Modernism
[The geometry of the conical light windows sullied by Delhi's dust and grime, 2010]

The Death of Modernism
[The upper atrium of ISBT. 2010]

Up a narrow ramp and you bear witness to the building's facade. A geometry of concrete windows, stacked rhomboids rise over a terrace to the sky. On the inside the light get dimmer as the angular parallelograms go to work painting incomplete triangles of light and shadow. The light is where sleeping men in patched up blankets find solace from the Delhi winter. I emerge onto the terrace again and into the winter sun. Where bored babu-log huddle together in a small circle, eating their lunches.

The Death of Modernism
[The geometry of the facade of ISBT, where babu-log eat their lunches, 2010.]

The Death of Modernism
[The geometry of light and shadow in incomplete triangles painted by the front facade of ISBT, 2010]

Lying around me is the mish mashed mosaic of the Old city. Remnants of the now broken wall of the walled city, remind me Delhi is an ancient city older then Rome. Yet the this medieval wall co-exists with the modernist geometry of ISBT and the even newer glass fronted metro station a few meters away. The irony being that Delhi is also a new city, it's collective memory not more then 100 years old. What I hope to do through this series(and coming posts) is plot the anxieties of the 'nation building' generation of 50's and 60's through modernists spaces, outcrops of the Nehruvian dream and see what relevance they hold visually in in 2010s.

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Annie said...

lovely. and the writing's great too!

Rain Girl said...

"There is never politeness in scale, it always meant to be imposing and remind you of your insignificance."

loved it.

Sujata Khanna said...

Very nice! Did you teach youself to write too?

Cursuri Engleza said...

Hi you have some very beautiful photos, please tell me what lens you used? And if you used a tripod for photos? Thanks for your answer

Akshay said...

Thanks, Annie - I'm not much of a writer.

Sujata, I guess so. I don't write very well - my grammar is all over the place and I don't have much patience for editing.

Cursuri Engleza, I use 50mm lens and I don't use a tripod.