Joys of Christmas

Christmas is the most universal of festivals celebrated worldwide. India’s capital New Delhi is no exception. Connaught Place – the city’s oldest and toniest shopping district is decked up on the occasion to attract well-heeled customers.

Unsung and less noticed in all the promotions and media blitz, are migrant labour that operates illegally from pavements of Connaught Place, in between parked luxury cars and trash bins. These migrants brave New Delhi’s winters to sell inexpensive Christmas items for tiny margins. Unlike the decorated show windows, these people attract customers by decorating themselves with whatever that they are selling. The municipality often confiscates their goods as setting up such business on the pavement hinders traffic. Customers often haggle over the already low prices or buy nothing but ‘borrow’ a prop to take a selfie. But despite the many hardships, the profit margins give the migrant sellers some income and lend a new meaning to the joys of one of world’s oldest festivals.

Despite the unusual appearance, these migrants, who go back at the end of the Christmas-New Year season, represent a universal picture common to working class, unorganized labour in various parts of India and the world.

I have been photographing this group over the past four years. Due to fear of the authorities, most of them are reluctant to share their names and too many details about themselves.

© Vijay S. Jodha - Image from the Joys of Christmas photography project
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A migrant entrepreneur selling Christmas hats and other novelties from the pavement near trash bin and parked cars, tries to interest passing people in a pair of illuminated horns. While the stores in this upscale market in Delhi attract customers during the Christmas-New Year seasonwith their decorated show windows, modest sellers such as this woman decorate themselves with whatever they are selling, to attract customers.

© Vijay S. Jodha - Two youngsters selling various Christmas headgear.
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Two youngsters selling various Christmas headgear.

© Vijay S. Jodha - Teenager wearing all three times he is selling, waits for customers.
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Teenager wearing all three times he is selling, waits for customers.

© Vijay S. Jodha - Doorman of an upscale restaurant decorated on Christmas in New Delhi's Connaught Place shopping district.
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Doorman of an upscale restaurant decorated on Christmas in New Delhi's Connaught Place shopping district.

© Vijay S. Jodha - Seller with his son, waits for customers while sun sets in Connaught Place, New Delhi.
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Seller with his son, waits for customers while sun sets in Connaught Place, New Delhi.

© Vijay S. Jodha - Teenager wears a light mask – one of the many inexpensive items he is selling off the pavement.
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Teenager wears a light mask – one of the many inexpensive items he is selling off the pavement.

© Vijay S. Jodha - As setting up shop on the pavement is illegal, some sellers such as this young lady carry their goods around in baskets.
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As setting up shop on the pavement is illegal, some sellers such as this young lady carry their goods around in baskets.

© Vijay S. Jodha - Image from the Joys of Christmas photography project
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Migrant labour have no backing and face harassment from police and municipal authorities. Customers also take advantage by haggling over already modest prices or, as in this case, do not buy anything but 'borrow' a merchandise to take a quick selfie.

© Vijay S. Jodha - Woman with an infant waits for customers.
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Woman with an infant waits for customers.

© Vijay S. Jodha - An elderly man wearing a novelty over his traditional cap, waits for customers.
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An elderly man wearing a novelty over his traditional cap, waits for customers.

© Vijay S. Jodha - Lady puts her baby to sleep in Delhi's cold winter while awaiting customers.
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Lady puts her baby to sleep in Delhi's cold winter while awaiting customers.

© Vijay S. Jodha - Teenager selling caps and horns.
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Teenager selling caps and horns.

© Vijay S. Jodha - Lady with merchandise and stray dog, awaits customers.
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Lady with merchandise and stray dog, awaits customers.

© Vijay S. Jodha - Children try out light glasses while waiting for customers.
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Children try out light glasses while waiting for customers.

© Vijay S. Jodha - Men dressed as Santa Claus to promote a store selling kids wear.
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Men dressed as Santa Claus to promote a store selling kids wear.

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