Photographs by Priyanka Parashar.

It’s 11am on a Thursday and the Jor Bagh metro station in New Delhi is busy. It’s a relatively small station, but a range of people pass through its corridors—from those working at the many government offices that line Sri Aurobindo Marg to the scores working at Khanna Market’s convenience stores.

As people come closer to the turnstiles near gate No. 1 of the station, a few walk ahead without a glance, some regain their weekday morning pace after a momentary stumble; others stop to take a closer look. Rare pictures of Mahatma Gandhi taken by Independence-era photojournalist Kulwant Roy line the walls of this corridor.

Roy is considered one of the pioneers of photojournalism in India, and his intimate portraits of national leaders show the connect that the leaders and masses had during the Independence movement.

It is this connect that the curators of the exhibit, Aditya Arya and Indivar Kametkar, hinge the exhibition upon. The 20-odd pictures that form the ‘Gandhi in the Metro’ exhibit form a compact tribute to Gandhi and his connection with the classlessness of train compartments. These pictures are all from Arya’s ‘India Photo Archive’ collection, a treasure that he inherited after his family friend Roy’s death in 1984. The simple premise of this exhibition is that if Gandhi—who disliked fuss and valued cleanliness and efficiency—was alive and in Delhi today, he would have commuted by the Delhi Metro.

Arya says “archive art has to step out of its protective domain" and find ways to reach ordinary people. He “jumped at the opportunity" when Alka Pande, the consultant arts advisor and curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the India Habitat Centre (IHC), approached him for this ‘Art in the Metro’ project that is organized in collaboration with the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC). Earlier, in January, it was announced that Jor Bagh and Mandi House metro stations would display tri-monthly art exhibits under the larger ‘Art in Public Spaces’ project.

A big banner announces the name of the exhibit, with two pictures of Gandhi getting off a train.

A grocery store assistant on his way to Khanna Market stops momentarily to look at it.

A government employee spends a couple of quick minutes at the pictures of Gandhi with Subhas Chandra Bose’s INA soldiers.

Some commuters stop to take selfies. The guards jump up to stop them and point instead to the kiosk in the corner that has free postcard-versions of some of these pictures.

No photography allowed in the metro stations, you see.

‘Gandhi in the Metro’ is on at the Jor Bagh metro station till 15 December

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