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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How technology is changing the way Indians work

An extensive survey reveals the forces that are shaping our new workforce 

Shreya Srivastav, 28, a sales professional, logs in from a cafe. After catching up on email, she connects with her colleagues to discuss, exchange notes and crunch numbers coming in from across India and the world. Shreya who works out of the café most of the time, is employed with an MNC and is a ‘remote worker’. At her company headquarters, there are many who defy the stereotype of a big company workforce - the marketing professional who by necessity is a ‘meeting-hopper’ on the office campus or those who have no fixed desks and are often found hobnobbing with their colleagues in the corridors for work. There are also the typical deskbound knowledge workers.

These represent a new breed of professionals in India. Gone are the days when an employee was bound to a desk and the timings of the workplace – the new set of professionals thrive on flexibility which leads to better creativity and productivity as well as work-life balance. There is one common thread to all of them – technology, tailored to their work styles, which delivers on speed and ease of interactions. Several influential industry studies and economists have predicted that digital technologies have been as impactful as the Industrial Revolution in shaping the way people work. India is at the forefront of this change because of the lack of legacy barriers, a fast-growing economy and young workers. Five factors are enabling the birth of this new workforce:

Smart is the way forward

According to the Future Workforce Study conducted by Dell, three in five working Indians surveyed said that they were likely to quit their job if their work technology did not meet their standards. Everyone knows the frustration caused by slow or broken technology – in fact 41% of the working Indians surveyed identified this as the biggest waste of time at work. A ‘Smart workplace’ translates into fast, efficient and anytime-anywhere access to data, applications and other resources. Technology adoption is thus a major factor in an employee’s choice of place of work.

Openness to new technologies

While young professionals want their companies to get the basics right, they are also open to new technologies like Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence. The Dell study clearly reflects this trend — 93% of Indians surveyed are willing to use Augmented/Virtual Reality at work and 90% say Artificial Intelligence would make their jobs easier. The use of these technologies is no longer just a novelty project at firms. For example, ThysenKrupp, the elevator manufacturer uses VR to help its maintenance technician visualize an elevator repair job before he reaches the site. In India, startups such as vPhrase and Fluid AI are evolving AI solutions in the field of data processing and predictive analysis.

Desire for flexibility 

A majority of Indians surveyed rate freedom to bring their own devices (laptops, tablets, smartphones etc.) to work very highly. This should not be surprising, personal devices are usually highly customized to an individual’s requirements and help increase their productivity. For example, some may prefer a high-performance system while others may prioritize portability over anything else. Half the working Indians surveyed also feel that the flexibility of work location enhances productivity and enables better work-life balance. Work-life balance is fast emerging as one of the top drivers of workplace happiness for employees and initiatives aimed at it are finding their way to the priority list of business leaders.

Maintaining close collaboration 

While flexible working is here to stay, there is great value in collaborating in person in the office. When people work face to face, they can pick up verbal and body language cues, respond to each other better and build connections. Thus, companies are trying to implement technology that boosts seamless collaboration, even when teams are working remotely. Work place collaboration tools like Slack and Trello help employees keep in touch and manage projects from different locations. The usage of Skype has also become common. Companies like Dell are also working on hi-tech tools such as devices which boost connectivity in the most remote locations and responsive videos screens which make people across geographies feel like they are interacting face to face.

Rise of Data Security 

All these trends involve a massive amount of data being stored and exchanged online. With this comes the inevitable anxiety around data security. Apart from more data being online, security threats have also evolved to become sophisticated cyber-attacks which traditional security systems cannot handle. The Dell study shows that about 74% of those surveyed ranked data security measures as their number one priority. This level of concern about data security has made the new Indian workforce very willing to consider new solutions such as biometric authentication and advanced encryption in work systems.

Technology is at the core of change, whether in the context of an enterprise as a whole, the workforce or the individual employee. Dell, in their study of working professionals, identified five distinct personas — the Remote Workers, the On-The-Go Workers, the Desk-centric Workers, the Corridor Warriors and the Specialized Workers.

Dell has developed a range of laptops in the Dell Latitude series to suit each of these personas and match their requirements in terms of ease, speed and power. To know more about the ‘types of professionals’ and how the Dell Latitude laptops serve each, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Dell and not by the Scroll editorial team.