photo roll

A photographer captures the mood and style of Delhi’s working women

Vatsala Manan has been photographing passengers as they read, wait, dream and sleep on the Delhi Metro.

For some people, looking into their cellphones is a way to distract themselves from their surroundings. For others, like Vatsala Manan, a cellphone is a window into the lives of those who surround her.

Whenever she travels on the Delhi Metro, Manan does not listen to music or tune out. Instead, she photographs the passengers in the ladies’ compartment (mostly women, but also some #LonelyBoys) and shares the images on Instagram in a series.

The series, which began nearly a year ago, shows her subjects staring into their phones, reading books or lost in thought while waiting patiently for their station.

Image credit: Vatsala Manan
Image credit: Vatsala Manan

“It’s the best thing about the Metro,” Manan said. “There are all these working women who dress up in different ways. I like to think about how their day has been or what they do. Once I photographed a group of girls wearing chef’s coats. They were students of a culinary institute. For me, what women wear to work is endlessly interesting.”

Image credit: Vatsala Manan
Image credit: Vatsala Manan

A writer and photographer, Manan and her twin sister Vartika (along with their best friend) regularly conceptualise, shoot and star in photo features for online art magazines, including Tavi Gavinson’s Rookie Mag. Manan said she and her sister have always thought of the camera and photography as extensions of their lives, not something they consciously decided to do.

One time, Manan noticed three young women returning from a game of cricket held on the grounds of Gargi College. “They kept moving around,” she recalled. “I was not being able to take a picture and I really wanted to, so I went up to them and talked to them. They were very interested in the Instagram images and started following me too.”

Image credit: Vatsala Manan
Image credit: Vatsala Manan

“I try to never intrude into people’s personal space,” said Manan, referring to her subjects. “Sometimes I do think I’m being voyeuristic and that maybe I should ask them before taking their picture. If they do notice me taking their pictures, then I tell them what my Instagram handle is about and ask them if they would be alright with having their picture uploaded on social media. Most are quite happy to let me.”

Image credit: Vatsala Manan
Image credit: Vatsala Manan

Manan said her primary fascination is with women’s clothes, but the photographs convey more than just the pattern on a pair of tights or the twirl of a skirt. In most pictures, Manan’s subjects are immersed in their phones, oblivious to the rest of the world. She said this behaviour was not something she intended to document, but unwittingly, the series tells a story about the ways in which women occupy (and close themselves off from) public spaces in the city.

Inspired by the Instagram accounts of photographers David Luraschi and Ed Templeton, Manan said she would like to migrate her Metro series to its own Instagram handle soon – right now, she posts them under her own handle.

“Luraschi’s Instagram is all about photographing people on the streets of Paris and his shots are always taken from behind,” she said. “His handle is really quirky. Ed Templeton, on the other hand, posts a picture almost daily from the Huntington Beach Pier with the #DailyHBPierPhoto.”

The response Manan has received from her followers has been positive. “I have people messaging me that on their visit to Delhi, travelling in the Metro was another experience altogether because they have been following me on Instagram and have been seeing the metro in images,” she said.

Apart from the daily Metro series, Manan also shares gifs on a handle called Stars_From_Another_Sky, which is dedicated to women in Indian cinema.

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Advice from an ex-robber on how to keep your home safe

Tips on a more hands-on approach of keeping your house secure.

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1. Get inside the mind of a burglar

Before I break the lock of a home, first I bolt the doors of the neighbouring homes. So that, even if someone hears some noise, they can’t come to help.

— Som Pashar, committed nearly 100 robberies.

Burglars study the neighbourhood to keep a check on the ins and outs of residents and target homes that can be easily accessed. Understanding how the mind of a burglar works might give insights that can be used to ward off such danger. For instance, burglars judge a house by its front doors. A house with a sturdy door, secured by an alarm system or an intimidating lock, doesn’t end up on the burglar’s target list. Upgrade the locks on your doors to the latest technology to leave a strong impression.

Here are the videos of 3 reformed robbers talking about their modus operandi and what discouraged them from robbing a house, to give you some ideas on reinforcing your home.


2. Survey your house from inside out to scout out weaknesses

Whether it’s a dodgy back door, a misaligned window in your parent’s room or the easily accessible balcony of your kid’s room, identify signs of weakness in your home and fix them. Any sign of neglect can give burglars the idea that the house can be easily robbed because of lax internal security.

3. Think like Kevin McCallister from Home Alone

You don’t need to plant intricate booby traps like the ones in the Home Alone movies, but try to stay one step ahead of thieves. Keep your car keys on your bed-stand in the night so that you can activate the car alarm in case of unwanted visitors. When out on a vacation, convince the burglars that the house is not empty by using smart light bulbs that can be remotely controlled and switched on at night. Make sure that your newspapers don’t pile up in front of the main-door (a clear indication that the house is empty).

4. Protect your home from the outside

Collaborate with your neighbours to increase the lighting around your house and on the street – a well-lit neighbourhood makes it difficult for burglars to get-away, deterring them from targeting the area. Make sure that the police verification of your hired help is done and that he/she is trustworthy.

While many of us take home security for granted, it’s important to be proactive to eliminate even the slight chance of a robbery. As the above videos show, robbers come up with ingenious ways to break in to homes. So, take their advice and invest in a good set of locks to protect your doors. Godrej Locks offer a range of innovative locks that are un-pickable and un-duplicable. To secure your house, see here.

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