Liminality

Thousands of years of tradition fading into globalization, in the India of the twenty-first century. Modern and ancient, dust and glitter blend as a result of this change. In this environment in transition, I search for the unique, the dazzling.

Liminality

2011 has been a turning point. For the first time in history, the number of people living in Earth’s cities exceeded the population of rural areas. In the winter of 2010-2011 I’ve spent 5 months in the largest cities of India, documenting the characteristics of some of the fastest growing metropolises on the planet.

The many thousand year old Indian culture entered a liminal state, when due to a huge economic boom, ancient tradition is merging with the new lifestyles of the western world. Being one of the most powerful countries in Asia, Indian cities are now expanding in a faster rate then ever. India’s population doubled since 1967, providing a constant problem for city planners. While the British colonial style buildings of city centers are slowly decaying amidst sprawling vegetation, the construction of new suburban areas are constant on the outskirts.

The large number of new inhabitants, and constant renovations within the city creates serious case of waste management problems. Globalization also leaves its unmistakable marks. The densely decorated streets now present a showcase of western icons and symbols, as deities of a new age, while billboards and advertisements suggest a modern, appealing lifestyle, not yet accessable to most of their audience.

The relevance of observing such a phenomenon lies in the fact that in Eastern Europe (where i spent most of my life so far) most of the above had already happened. But not anymore are we able to tell the difference between our traditional and adopted cultures. Also, by looking at these megapolises, we may have a clue about the the future of mankind, as the powerline of Earth is steadily moving towards Asia.

Máté Bartha
 
 
Each day, over a thousand new inhabitants arrive to Mumbai to settle down, live, and work. This creates a need of constant, rapid creation of new residential areas. Outside city limits, several hundred square kilometers of land are construction sites, filled with empty buildings.
28% of Mumbai is covered with vegetation. This ratio is even higher in cities like Delhi, where this number reaches 46%
Neon lights tinting the colour of trees and skies. Indian cities are suffering from severe light pollution, which is disrupting plant growth, killing several hundred billions of nocturnal insects, unbalancing the biological clock of birds, and causing psychosomatic problems in humans.
Most of this excess light is generated by advertisements and illuminated billboards. A considerable amount is emitted by religious, and festive decoration. And the least part is the result of street, and traffic lights.
While also utilizing the latest technologies, construction workers still use ancient, well-known methods, such as cheap, lightweight, and easily assembled bamboo sticks as siding.
Stray dogs are a very common sight all over the country. It has recently been a severe problem, as more than 20.000 people die yearly of rabies. The Indian government is taking serious action, wanting to sterilize over 8 million dogs over the next 10 years.
Photography course in a special school, dedicated to talented slum children. For supporting this case, Kodak India is donating dozens of compact cameras for similar educational facilities
Over 10 million street vendors work in India, providing invaluable services for everyone. Still, these people are more and more treated as a nuisance, while trying to make a living from a minimum income, without any rights, and regularly beaten down by the local maffia. The most common items are types of street food, vegetables, clothes, and household items. But as times change, new, spectacular “products” find their dealers. In this case: a mixed Mickey Mouse - Goofy mask, equipped with a pipe, and a dune buggy for children.
It is common to decorate any kind of public or private space with images of gods and saints, and new western icons find their places in a really similar manner, as they actually can be taken as deities, with their own attributes and characteristics. 
Spiritual tourism is one of the most prosperous businesses today in the catering sector. Since the first hippie vagabonds of the 60’s and 70’s, Indians have adopted to this need of the typical western tourist, creating an entire entertainment system to fulfill their desires. Today, anyone can
buy enlightement, ranging from an expensive Vipassana course, to souvenirs of any size, colour and type. At the same time Indians themselves approach spirituality in modern way: the TV Buddha (could be an hommage to Nam June Paik) is telling fortune for the cost of an sms.
There are 24 million christians in India (2,3% of total population), most of them live in bigger cities, or in the state of Goa (once a Portugese colony). 
Ayurvedic medicine has a long history, and is held in a high esteem among Indians. Also, a set of other approaches to healthcare can be found as an equal alternative to the western methods. Interestingly enough, new products appear on the streets and in pharmacies, promoting a 21st century idea,
with ancient, traditional scientific background.
Bollywood (Hindi film industry) produces over 1000 films per year. While originally based on ancient Indian epics and Sanskrit dramas, the modern Bollywood movie uses a plot often completely copied from one or more western films (such as James Bond, Terminator, Superman, etc).
The percentage of people living in slums is aproximately 60% in Bombay, 50% in Delhi, and 30% in Calcutta. These areas can be visualized as permanent-temporary campsites, with small huts (shanties) stiched together from a variety of materials and disposed items. These pictures were taken in Dharavi,
Asia’s largest slum, located in Mumbai, and giving home to 700.000 people, living on 2,2 square kilometers.
An image of Sai Baba, one of the most popular saints in India. Died in 1918, and having an ever growing number of followers and disciples since then from all over the world. He interpreted the religious texts of both Hinduism and Islam, encouraging everyone to be compassionate and forgiving, and not to have an attachment to perishable things. 20.000 pilgrims visit his temple every day, and on religious festivals this number can reach 100.000. His teachings promote charity, and kindness to the poor and weak. A famous quote: “Why do you fear when I am here”.
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