Delhi Loves Me ?
At the time when invited to be part of the Public Art Project-2006 from KHOJ, the Delhi government’s dream, plan and action to transform the city into an international city with international standards of public spaces was going on at fast pace and was discussed in the media. A number of slums and the inhabitants were being dislocated from the prime locations. Preparing for the Common Wealth games to be held in Delhi in 2010 was another reason for evicting people from certain locations to far away under developed areas without any basic facilities.
Location chosen by me was around Khirki village, part of which was being redeveloped. KHOJ is also situated in Khirki. So people living in Khirki and Hauze Rani knew KHOJ Studios and could relate - where I was coming from.
Instead of a popular text on available stickers I Love Delhi, I had created a counter text ‘Delhi Loves Me? to begin.
whilst meeting and communicating with the local settled communities and the migrant population , in their work spaces such as small scale embroidery workshops producing for fashion industry and other laborers waiting to be picked up by Dalals/agents every morning primarily to be taken to construction sites, I was amazed at - how half way through our conversational attempts the narration of poetry responding to the text Delhi Loves Me? began emerging - questioning and stating their cultural identities in relation to geographical territories, and the ‘choice to belong’ in relation to the ‘socio–political and culturally constructed power structure’, which caused alienation. I was told by a number of individuals who had migrated to Delhi for work that the “choice to belong anywhere or everywhere is not applicable to everyone equally in recent times”. Delhi had begun to ‘clean’ the city for the preparation of then forthcoming Commonwealth Games and was in the process of eviction and demolition of settlements of the poor for squatting - displacing them further and further. The tensions between choices to belong (Delhi Loves Me?) and my own freedom of choice as an artist and privileged reminded me of what Homi Bhabha said in his writing ‘Double Visions’… “The globe shrinks for those who own it; for the displaced or the dispossessed, the migrant or refugee, no distance is more awesome than the few feet across borders or frontiers”.