Neeti Modgil

The Car Walahs

Living in the secure confines of Princess Park in Lutyens Delhi, I was intrigued by the ruckus that would frequently emanate from the lanes behind my house. A cacophony of loud voices and laugher regularly interrupted my sleep making me increasingly curious about the source of these sounds. When the whirring noises accompanying the voices was particularly loud one night, I mustered up the courage to explore the lanes behind my home. To my surprise, I discovered a slum inhabited by young boys and men from Bihar. I also discovered the source of the loud whirring sounds – their remote toy cars.

By interacting with the owners of these toy cars, I learned that they were migrants who had moved to Delhi in search of a better life. Unfortunately, their struggles in the Capital have dampened their dreams of making it big.

With their toy cars in tow, they rush out of their dwellings each night to provide joy rides to children and families visiting India Gate. After tirelessly haggling with customers and competing with each other to maximise their earnings, they are chased away by the Police. It is the sound of them rushing back to disappear into their tightly packed homes that has woken me up night after night.

I have focused on these Car Walahs as subjects, disregarding their environs. Using the studio backdrop, I have tried to give their occupation a semblance of dignity and recognition. These unknown faces would otherwise be lost in the sea of people that throng the venue.