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Photo essay: India - The Streets Before Lockdown

Updated: Mar 25, 2023

A different country, a different life. From the chaotic streets to delicious food. This is New Delhi, the capital of India. Here is a lens into the bustling city before coronavirus and before lockdown.

Old Delhi city view

In 2019, New Delhi was the fifth most polluted city in the world, recording an average Air Quality Index (AQI) of 113.5. ‘Good’ air quality records a 0-50 AQI. But recently, statistics from the Central Pollution Control Board show the AQI dropping down to the 50s and 60s. Just after COVID-19 isolation measures began.

All photos by Youssef Saudie

These are the bazaars of Old Delhi sitting side by side before the COVID-19 lockdown call.

The chaotic streets of Old Delhi in 2019, before the crisis. A week ago, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told everyone to stay indoors for three weeks.

New Delhi hasn’t always been the capital of India. Initially, the capital was Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal. The Red Fort is a palace that helped inaugurate New Delhi as today’s capital.

Here Muslims pray in one of the largest mosques of India, the Jama Masjid. Islam is the second largest religion in New Delhi. According to the India Times, COVID-19 has left mosques "deserted" with Muslims now practising Friday prayers at home. Though recent reports show a missionary group, Tablighi Jamaat breaking the social distancing rules, leaving dozens positive for coronavirus and seven reportedly dead.

Auto-rickshaws are a large part of Indian transportation. The three-wheeled vehicle is like a taxi, but less than half the size. As many as 11,000 new e-rickshaws hit the streets every month, according to Bloomberg. Today, however, it’s unlikely drivers would get many passengers, if any.

According to UN Women, India has some of the highest rates globally, for violence against women. From child marriages to sexual violence. Some auto-rickshaw drivers use bumper stickers to advocate for change.

A man cooking Jalebi, a famous Indian dessert made by deep-frying flour batter in intricate shapes, which are then soaked in sugar syrup.

This is the Jalebi coming out of the fryer. After it is coated in sugar syrup it would usually be sold in the markets.

The bustling markets at night. This is a photo of a "slow" night, according to locals. The population of New Delhi is over 30 million. By comparison, the entire population of Australia is only 25 million.

The difference in population size and density emphasises the threat COVID-19 poses to India. Already, thousands have been forced out of their homes after being unable to pay rent, according to Prime Minister Modi. Millions are reportedly out of work.


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