My Building and the Shahar
Abstract: The project presents a visual essay on our building, where about 100 Mathur families reside. Shree Ganesh Group Housing Society is one of the many housing Societies in Patparganj that came up in the 80’s, defining a new way of life for middle class Delhi.
The Mathurs are a close knit community and have a special relationship to the city of Delhi. Most families from this building can trace their history to the old city or Sheher.
This relationship between the community and the city was once well known and evident. It was apparent in the way of life, language, food, clothing and culture. The photographs document how the community has adapted to suburban living while continuing with some of its traditional ways. The project also contains an archive of these old traditions, such as typical songs and recepies of the community.
Through this assemblage of the present documentation and the archives of the past, this project attempts to map out the journey of the community and the city from the past to what it is today.
Bio: Venu Mathur and Abhinandita Mathur moved to Shree Ganesh Group Housing Society in April, 1990. Abhinandita moved to Bombay in 2002 where she works on research projects and takes photographs.
Venu Mathur works in a five star hotel where she heads the Telecommunication department. It is the first project of this kind that she has worked on. She continues to live in the Mathur Society. Venu is Abhinandita’s mother
Contact: abhinandita @ gmail.com and venu.mathur @ gmail.com
This is Abhinandita Mathur, my mother Venu and I have collaborated on this project titled, My building and the Shahar funded by Sarai this year.
This is a study of a community living set up in a middle class east Delhi suburb, Patparganj .
The study seeks to observe and document the day-to-day life in Shree Ganesh Group Housing Society where more than 100 Mathur families live together!
Dilliwale Mathurs are one of the early inhabitants of Delhi and lived in the walled city. Shree Ganesh Group Housing Society was formed by the Mathurs who were jointly moving out of the old city. The project engages with the following ideas:
The history of the Mathur community and the city are closely related. Therefore by researching the history, studying the changing culture and documenting the community life of Dilliwale Mathurs the project attempts to correlate the history of the city and the community. Also, how does this community view the change in the city?
Community and culture
Certain cultural practices are developed and nurtured within a community setup. How has this Mathur community retained some of these cultural practices and how have these changed since the days of living in the Shahar? What strategies did the community develop to retain some of these cultural practices and how have they adapted to change?
Concept of community living
The community can be a site of conflict between the individual and society. The idea of personhood is determined by the competition between the individual v/s family v/s clan v/s caste v/s class v/s state… In the clash between tradition and modernity which of these social units are becoming more dominant over the others? How is this Mathur community facing up to these challenges?
How is the idea of a community changing? No longer confined by physical and geographical proximity, old communities are using telecommunication technologies to retain and propagate their networks. How is this Mathur community coping with nostalgia? Is there a clash between the hardliners and the liberals and who is winning? Have the individuals of this community found stronger associations in newer communities based on alma mater, profession, class status, specific interests, political affiliations, sexual preferences, etc.?
This shall be presented as an interactive multimedia website with a virtual model of the building complex. Clicking on the different flats in the virtual model shall allow the user to enter the house, so to speak, and access the biographies of the residents, their photographs, stories, recipes, songs, clips of shaadi videos etc.
About us: We moved to Shree Ganesh Group Housing Society in April, 1990.
I grew up here in Delhi and moved to Bombay after BA in 2002. I do research and take photographs. I am in Delhi for the next few months.
Mummy works in a 5 star hotel where she heads the Telecommunication department. She is super excited and it’s the first project of this kind that she would be working on.
We also have blogs but they have been quite dead past few months. But now we will be uploading updates and photos as regularly as we can. Here are the links:
abhinandita.blogspot.com and venumathur.blogspot.com
Thank you for your time and have a remarkable day!
Abhinandita with Venu
Here is an update on our work and experience with the project so far and a tentative plan for the coming weeks:
We shared in the last post that this project would be presented as an interactive multimedia website which shall comprise visual and audio records like photographs, stories, recipes, songs, clips of shaadi videos etc. It is for this reason that we were unsure about what to write this time…beyond the usual updates and plans…as we are working towards putting up a website to start uploading photos and other stuff.
This project in many ways is a personal one and thus the experience of pursuing it, very special. It is pretty strange to reconnect with all old associations and ties (including each other) in context of this project.
I moved back to Delhi/home and the Mathur building. The first task we undertook after the official announcement of the grant was telling our near and dear Mathurs about the project, its objective, rationale, purpose etc. We took 5 print outs of our proposal and shared it with our uncles, aunts, sisters, nephews and so on. And we have received all sorts of comments and suggestions!! We thought it might be interesting to share some of these reactions in this post: The response in general has been stimulating and intriguing. While al our Mathur friends and relatives have appreciated our “initiative” to take interest in the community (sometimes understood as community activities), a number of them are questioning the purpose and ” fayda” of a project such as this.
On one hand, the project is viewed as a noble contribution in service of the community, art or sociological good in general; on the other, some people find it to be total waste of resources. A cousin pointed out that rather than doing a study like this one…which doesn’t really help the community in a direct way, we should perhaps start something like an activist’s campaign to get the status of a Scheduled Caste which will actually benefit the community.
The other frequently asked question is: “WHY MATHURS” “abe tujhe kuch aur nahi mila”, “mathuron mein kya rakha hai ab”,
“apni society…don’t be silly yaar…you really think its worth studying?”. Interestingly, mostly people under 30 years of age fail to understand why anyone would be interested in our lives. Mathurs, many of them feel are an inconsequential lot. While the older ones feel we should actually write a book on mathur riti reewaz.
In the proposal we spoke about certain peculiar cultural practices in the community like, language, eating meat, drinking and music. And that they could be very particular about maintaining their typical way of life. The emphasis in life was to eat well and drink well. One Mathur in response to this observation pointed out that “as Mathurs mostly worked in the courts of Shaukeen Emperors, they were often obligated to drink to give company to their masters and they never disobeyed orders”.
A close friend from the building, Nalin, has been following the story of this project from the time of its inception. Nalin is 23 years old. He works as a software consultant for a multinational company. When we started working on the project last month, Nalin and I spoke about a number of things including the pros and corns of growing up in this building, the experience of living here, Mathur khana, peena, aesthetic, attitude and the role all this has played in shaping us as people. He is keen to participate more actively in the project. He wrote this piece titled “Balconies at Shree Ganesh”:
One does not need to see Jerry McGuire to realize that one experiences a defining moment which just changes one’s life; for good or for bad, that’s my topic for another article. Well, to be honest, I have yet to experience this life defining moment, but I have had numerous instances which have had some impact or the other on my conscience and behavior and have resulted in the package that I am today. Most of these moments were experienced while I was up to something, at times with someone-not-so-special and once with someone special. And generally, when I was doing nothing but looking around mindlessly. But the point I want to make here is that such moments can be experienced at the most unexpected places. For me my balcony is one such place. This is primarily because my balcony opens up right into what you call the heart of SGA. With a perfect view of all the residential blocks, badminton courts, car parks, jhulle wala park and health club, I witness the very spirit of SGA whenever I step into it. Every Sunday, with sarson ka tel all over my body and nimbu ka ras on my hair, I just sit in my balcony and observe life from close quarters (apart from enjoying the smells of parisnde and aloo – bedween from neighboring kitchens), I often wonder if I have learned so much by just sitting here, is it the same with everyone else?
Arguably then, balconies in Shree Ganesh Apartments are the most socially productive piece of land. For house wives, which sums up to 30% of SGA’s population, it acts as a modern day equivalent to a chajja from where they can have a keen look at who’s visiting whom, who’s wearing what and who’s going where. And importantly who’s hanging out of this coveted architectural wonder to have a friendly talk with, about the daily chores, which usually consists of how busy they have been and how its time that Tulsi Virani should start believing an eye for an eye policy. This conversation often takes place at decibels which can put the latest innovation in sound technology by Bose to shame. Moreover, balconies assure them a virtual invitation card to every mehendi, shaadi and mundan. Not that I am complaining. Because these Mathur functions are the hunting ground for eligible bachelors. And I am 23 and in a bit of a hurry.
For uncles, both paternal and maternal, the balconies act as the platform which empowers them with freedom of expression which I believe they can’t practice at home because of some very obvious reasons which every married man faces. Thus, the balcony acts as a place from where they can preach everyone and anyone who cares to listen; from newspaper wallah to security guards to car washmen each of them is told how to improve their quality of service along with every possible advice one can give under the sun. The balcony probably makes them feel like the Pope standing majestically over the famous verandah at the Papal Palace , giving his followers an audience. Other than that, uncles are seen in balconies only on diwali, lighting diyas and candles.
And for people like me, who very strongly believe that the world would be at their feet in no time, the balcony acts as the holy spot where they can think of productive strategies, spend some time in solitude and attain nirvana, invisible to the outer world behind dozens of impeccably washed clothes, neatly placed over the twine to be dried. At least the balcony is way better than some sort of sleeping gas induced bedrooms or tear gas induced kitchen or toilets which more often that not are subjected to gases owing to some major gastronomical complexities. With the emergence of cell phones and importantly telephones etiquettes (we got to thank BPOs for that), the number of people paying their balconies a visit have increased phenomenally. The balcony has also undergone a major face lift. It is like being directly proportional to the rise in stock markets. Earlier balconies meant gas cylinders, a couple of money plants and a bulb. But now, balconies are kept as tidy as the living room. Gas cylinders have been replaced by cane chairs, tulips and roses now give company to banyan tree sized money plants and the bulb resides within designer glass. Even the trademark chimtiya have started vanishing. But what still remains in almost all balconies is a picture or a wall hanging depicting some deity.
One might say it is because of vaastu but I say this the way Mathur balconies are.
All these responses shall pay a role in shaping this project. Next month we plan a walk through the gallis in old Delhi with boys, girls and kids from the Mathur building. This weekend we will go for our first shaadi shoot. Venu has been working on a short essay titled “the Mathur bahu”. She plans to work on it full time next Sunday and have it ready for the next due posting!!
Project is taking shape slowly…shall upload pictures on our blog soon. Also…so sorry we could not respond to the earlier mails for us. but will make sure we do now on…
Abhinandita and Venu
We have set up a blog for our project “My Building and the Shahar” and uploaded pictures and notes from the Holi celebrations at the Mathur building, amongst other things. Holi is a major affair in the cultural event’s calendar at the Mathur Building. Not as glorious as it use to be till some years ago, nevertheless it was totally fabulous. Dinner and cultural programme were organised by the Society Managing Committee on the eve to revive the festivities. According to an organiser, Mr Mathur, (!) “Things have changed a lot and for the worse in the last few years. People are too busy with their jobs and families. Initially, everyone looked forward toparticipating and celebrating all festivals together utilizing the common space in the building premises, but now people tend to celebrate with their families and not participate in the society activities. The whole point and essence of community living is lost!
It is for this reason that we decided to organise a free dinner on the eve of Holi. And to our surprise all enthusiasts from the past and other unexpected members turned up. We wish to restore the charm of such festivities and hope to rejuvenate the essence of community living”
Here is the link: http://www.mathurbuilding.blogspot.com
Our friend Nalin Mathur from the building has contributed another article titled “different kinds of Mathurs” that makes a fun read. We are now in the process of setting up a website to be able to upload audio and video format files.
In the meantime here is a popular Holi time recipe!
Kaleji and Gurde Kapure:
1 kg kalegi/gurde kapoore
3 large onions (chopped finely & fried golden brown)
3 large tomato (either grinded in mixi/puree)
3 -4 large spoons of cooking oil
1 1/2 large garlic bulb [paste]
1 piece of ginger [ paste]
½ tsp turmeric powder
¾ tsp red chilli powdersalt to taste
2 tsp Kasturi Methi1½ tsp coriander powder
1 cinnamon stick
8-10 black pepper seeds
3-4 illachi large and small
Wash Kalegi well and keep it in a deep pan for 1/2 hour after adding salt. Put oil in a Pressure cooker add fried onion, garlic and ginger paste, tomato paste/ puree, coriander powder, salt, chilli powder, kasturi methi,turmeric powder and fry well on slow fire till oil gets separated
Meanwhile wash it again.
Then add kalegi pieces in the gravy and add crushed cloves and blackpepper, Cardamom. Cook on slow fire. Keep the utensil lid lightly covered. Cook on slowfire till the water dries.
Then add little water and close the lid of the pressure cooker. Switch off the gas after three whistles. When it is cooked dry the water after opening the lid.
abhinandita and venu
Hi Abhinandita / Venu Saw your articles on mathurs on the net with the images of the Holi functions , we are Mathurs having a very big family tree based in Delhi , Amroha , Muradabad and Jaipur. My Baua comes from traditional mathur family in Chandni chowk and babaji hails originally from Alwar , Mom’s ancestral trees are in Amroha and Muradabad , hence dad’s nansal becomes Delhiwaalas and mine based in Muradabad and Jaipur . Also many of our relatives stay in Ganesh Apartments only. We would as well like to join ur group and become a member of the strong Mathur team. Waiting for a positive response from ur side. Sachin Mathur
We missed a post last month. But here is the update.
A lot has happened in these last few weeks as life goes on in the Mathur Building (totally impervious by demolitions, NBA trouble, or any other issue not directly related or obviously so to us here). Including, Total TV shooting an episode of “Mrs. Total TV”, our friend Mohit’s wedding to a non Mathur girl (!!!), lots of interviews, group discussions, fights over parking, Annual General Body Meeting etc.
There are some new pictures on the blog. www.mathurbuilding.blogspot.com. But we haven’t got the space and time to articulate, write and reflect upon more critical issues and questions that come out from a project of this nature, in a serious way. So we are still at the ‘data collection’ stage, so to say.
Because of work commitments, Personally, i have not been able to spend much time with the project work. I go on leave soon to work on the project.
On May 24th we are organising a walk through Shahar (old delhi) for kids from the building and anyone else who might be interested. Will soon post details here and on the blog.
Venu and Abhinandita
Walk through the Galis with children from the Mathur Building turned into a day long outing. Very fun.
Pictures and details: www.mathurbuilding.blogspot.com