Through its food one will discover that India is colors, smells, flavors and personalities. Like so many aspects of India, its food too is an elutive thing to define because it is made up of so many regionally diverse dishes. This image of a man in India is an archive image and is not directly related to the theme.
Not long away from the main streets of Delhi, you can find the Chowk Nai Basti area. In this blog post the photographer Kristian Bertel takes you inside this area of Delhi, where slaughterhouses are almost laying side by side.
Meat in India
While India probably has more vegetarians than the rest of the world combined, it still has an extensive repertoire of carnivorous fare. Goat known as mutton since the days of the Raj, lamb and chicken are the mainstays, religious taboos make beef forbidden to Hindus and pork to Muslims. Local residents are watching in the Chowk Nai Basti area of Delhi, while the district's proud working men are slaughtering animals in the many tin shacks. One of them is standing with the knife in his mouth and is posing in front of the camera. In one of the other streets of Chowk Nai Basti in Delhi, India, a young man is acting fun with a knife towards one of his colleagues, where the slaughterhouses are situated side by side.
When walking in the streets of Delhi's Chowk Nai Basti district the smell is distinctive from the many pools of blood in the streets and in the alleys. The blood comes from the animals that are slaugtered in the many slaghterhouses located here.
Beef is big business in India
As a traveling photographer in Chowk Nai Basti it is easy to see and get the feeling that beef is big business in India, despite the fact that many Indian states ban the slaughter of cows outright. Over the past few years, beef exports have surged by more than fortyfour percent, while domestic consumption has climbed by a comparable amount. Meat produced by registered slaughterhouses jumped from 557,000 tonnes in 2008 to 805,000 tonnes in 2011. Income from bovine exports are expected to reach 18 billion rupees in 2013. However, it is unclear how much of this beef comes from the sacred cow and how much from other bovine creatures because the industry is not well-regulated. Indian media reported that the products that meets international standards are sold to markets abroad, while meat sold domestically is substandard. Moreover, the treatment of animals in Indian slaughterhouses fall far below acceptable standards, where the animals are overloaded in vehicles and transported without food and water. None of the meat exporters pay attention to the condition of animals. Of course, some Hindu traditionalists are appalled by the rising consumption of beef in the country. The cow is their mother, it they feel it is their duty to protect her.
In India they believe in what the cow represents in our country, our culture and in the Hindu religion. The 'prohibition' on eating cow meat stretches into Indian antiquity thousands of years ago, bulls and oxen were sacrificed to the Gods, and their flesh was eaten. However, at some point, perhaps due to a sudden shortage of cattle, cows became protected and even revered. Given that cows provided milk, butter and fuel, they became economically indispensable.
Young guy playing with his meat knife in Delhi, India. When eating street food in India check how and where the vendor is cleaning the utensils, and where the the food is covered. If the vendor is cooking in oil, have a peek to check it is clean. If the pots or surfaces are dirty, there are food scarps about too many buzzling flies, do not be shy to make a hasty retreat.
Slaughtered meat in Delhi, India
In northern India you will come across meat-dominated Mughlai cuisine, which includes rich curries, kebabs, koftas and biryanis. This spicy cuisine traces its history back to the Mughal empire that once reigned supreme in India. Meat is also dominated here in the narrow streets of Chowk Nai Basti where honking scooters and overcrowded vans on wheels are filled with slaughtered meat. Meat, where the flies are swarming around the flesh, while pieces of fabrics are covering the modest van.
In this image simple shacks are functioning as slaughterhouses in Delhi, India.
Concerns of slautering - public health
Slaughtering animals on a large scale poses significant logistical problems and public health concerns, with public aversion to meat packing in many cultures influencing the location of slaughterhouses. In addition, some religions stipulate certain conditions for the slaughter of animals so that practices within slaughterhouses vary. There has been criticism of the methods of preparation, herding, and killing within some slaughterhouses, and in particular of the speed with which the slaughter is sometimes conducted. Investigations by animal welfare and animal rights groups have indicated that a proportion of these animals are being skinned or gutted while apparently still alive and conscious.
For many in India, food is considered just as critical for fine-tuning the spirit as it is for sustaining the body. Broadly speaking, Hindus avoid foods that are thought to inhibitpsycica and spiritual development, although there are few hard-and-fast rules. This image depicts a scenery outside one of the slaughterhouses.
Images of meat in India
Delhi, with its many slaughterhouses can be downright confronting and confounding for the first-time visitor. As a photographer visiting this area in Delhi should not muddy the plus points of this truly multidimentional metropolis. A city where the photographer scrathed beyond the gritty surface and swiftly discovered that India's capital is sprinkled with daily gems, captivating moments in an area like the one portrayed in this blog post. "- It is important for me to see not only the glittering gems with ancient monuments, magnificient museums and some of the subcontinent's yummiest places to eat. But also to see an area like this in this slaughterhouse district, where the everyday life can be seen", the photographer says.
In this image an Indian woman is hiding herself away from the camera, while she is preparing meat on the bare ground. The taboo on eating beef, where the cow is holy to Hindus, is the most rigid restriction.
Stray animals in India
In India stray cows and bulls on roads are actually claiming more lives than a slaughterhouse probably. And many accidents on roads in India are caused by these stray animals. Eating cow's meat, as they say, may be prohibited for a practicing Hindu but those who are followers of other religions must not be compelled to follow your ways. Moreover, though the if not thinking religiously, it can be belived that one life is just one life and every life has equal value, it may be a human being, cow, chicken or any other animal. Those who are vegetarians, while harvesting wheat may cause a life loss to approximately 1,000 lives per acre which are insects, pests and rodents and so on. And one beef, one life, cow can feed more people than one tenth of an acre of wheat, which may represent one hundred lives. The issue is there has to be some disposal routes for male bulls who are just left stray by so called dairy farmers and culled cows. Those who stop trucks and vehicles carrying theses animals and man handle the drivers, never take these animals to their homes or a shelter even. These people's activities are for making news only and not for anybody's good. As far as the water shortage situation is concerned and some saying that raising beef requires a lot of water, have some look at the data of water consumed in raising paddy and rice crops. Such situations when imposed due to political gains should hamper the dairy farming as well.
Severed goat heads prepared directly on the streets, only placed on a thin piece of cardboard. when eating in India restaurants are the biggest risk factor for contracting travelers diarrhorea. Ways to avoid it include eating only freshly cooked food and avoiding shellfish and food that has been sitting in buffets.
Shadow sides of India photographed
The photographs by the photographer are part of a series of pictures showing the shadow sides and daily life of India. Through a careful selection of images from his Indian series, the portrayal may show an inside look of the back sides and shadow sides of the country, which normally is known for its colorful and beautiful culture. Shadow side of Delhi, a city that once was the capital of the Mughal Empire, and it became the birthplace of Mughlai cuisine. Delhi is noted for its street food. The Paranthewali Gali in Chandni Chowk is just one of the culinary landmarks for stuffed flatbread the so-called paranthas. Delhi has people from different parts of India and thus the city has different types of food traditions its cuisine is influenced by from the various cultures. Punjabi cuisine is common, due to the dominance of Punjabi communities. Delhi cuisine is actually an amalgam of different Indian cuisines modified in unique ways. This is apparent in the different types of street food available. Kebabs, kachauri, chaat, Indian sweets, Indian ice cream commonly called kulfi, and even western food items like sandwiches and patties are prepared in a style unique to Delhi and are immensely popular. Despite its image for venerating the cow as a sacred beast and regarding the eating of beef as taboo, tens of millions of people in India do indeed eat beef on a regular basis.
Observers are laughing in the Chowk Nai Basti area of Delhi, India. In this neighborhood not only butchers can be seen but also people living next door to the slaughterhouses.
Eating Indian style
Once your meal is served, the Indians are mixing the food with their fingers. If they are having dhal and sabzi, which are vegetables, they normally only mix the dhal into their rice and have the sabzi in small scoops with each mouthful. When people in India are having fish or meat curry, they mix the gravy into their rice and take the flesh off the bones from the side of your plate. They also scoop up lumps of the mix and with their knuckles facing the dish, use their thumb to shovel the food into their mouths. Indian children grow up with spicy food so there are rarely separate menus for them in restaurants. However, there are plenty of dishes that do not have a spicy kick, like roti, rice, dhal, curd, soup, cheese and sandwiches.
Most Indians eat with their right hand. In the south, they use as much of the hand as is necessary, while elsewhere they use the tips of the fingers. The left hand is reserved for toilet duties and other unsanitary actions such as removing grotty shoes. In this image stomachs floating out from the primitive shacks.
Meat-carrier in the narrow streets. Hygiene may here be on a very low level. The meat is not covered and attracts flies. This image represents the photographer's many images from Delhi, India. Images that are not only travel related but also give an insight view of the daily life in India.
Photographing with curiosity
Kristian Bertel is a dedicated photographer, who photograph life as he sees it through his lens. His portfolio is a mix of portraits and images of daily life in India, like in this blog post a photo essay of an area in Delhi. "- Taking images broadens my view of the world, where I with my curiosity get an insight look of how life is outside my own country", he says. His images from India have been shown online as photo essays, documenting many aspects of the daily life particularly in India. He works as a photographer and he is available for editorial photo assignments all over Europe, Asia, Africa and in the Middle East. For further information and inquiries please:
Contact the photographer
More images from India
If you are interested to see more photos and imagery from India, you can see one of the slideshows, which also appears on the photographer's website.
See the slideshow | press here