ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Notes on Seeing, Observing, and Exclusion

Reading the Delhi Metro on a regular afternoon as a text lays bare the deeply casteist and elitist nature of urban policy.

On a chilly winter afternoon recently, while coming back from work, I decided to read the Delhi Metro as a text. This was not a sudden decision; I had been reading a book by Jonathan Silverman and Dean Rader titled The World Is a Text: Writing About Visual and Popular Culture (2018) in which they ask the reader to pick out an entity from their surroundings and then to read it as one would read a text. Since I had finished the book while on the metro, I decided to write on the metro itself. The authors ask the readers to start with writing down what one sees and thinks. I scribbled about the advertisements shown in the metro, the topics discussed by the people travelling and the other activities that people were engaged in. I had become accustomed to seeing these activities every day, but on that day, I did not just see—I observed, deeply.

I saw a group of women and children enter the metro, huddle around the pole just in front of the gate (even though there was an empty seat), keep their luggage close to them. They asked the children to sit on the floor, close to them. They were looking at the empty seat nearby repeatedly, but nobody sat on it. I offered my seat to the oldest lady in the group. She sat but only slightly, just at the corner of the seat unlike the other passengers who were sitting fully and comfortably on their seats, occupying the whole space. There was a sense of discomfort on the face and in the posture of not just this old lady but the whole group.

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Updated On : 16th Jan, 2023
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