Amidst the vibrant colours and overwhelming bustle, there are two images that stand out when you wander around the North West of India - the Hindu heartland of the country. One is the photograph of an alternately grinning or pensive Narendra Modi, claiming credit for a new bridge, road or giant statue.
They were there long before the general election posters went up. They will stay up for a while to come, as the PM claims a landslide victory.
The other image is very masculine. It’s actually an image of absence… The apparent rarity of women in public life - and by that I don’t mean politics, but in jobs that have any kind of public interface. At times it seems that every scrap of work is being done by men. Police officers, bus drivers, cafe owners, taxi drivers, tailors, shop keepers, receptionists, waiters, cabin crew, cooks, ticket sellers, telephonists, stall holders, clothes washers…
Southern Indians suggest to us “it’s a Northern thing”; but beyond that : it’s dangerous to place much reliance on observations made during a scant month between conferences.
But statistics back up the idea that, in India, women are disappearing from the work place.
Sources differ, but it looks like female participation in the workforce has declined from nearly 50% in the 1990s, to just above 30% now.
Last year, India was placed 130 out of 189 countries, when measured for women's participation in the workforce. And in a leaked report at the start of this year, 27.2% of young urban women are reported to be looking for work, while in the countryside it’s 13.6%.
Indeed, it was in the countryside we saw larger numbers of woman at work - breaking stones to repair roads, or tending crops.
The hope was that India’s tremendous economic growth, and improved education system (many girls are leaving state-provided secondary schools for the first time) would lead to women boosting the workforce both in numbers and in skills.
Why that hasn’t quite happened is an enormous puzzle to researchers.
They suggest there might be two main reasons…
One is that increased wealth means that families can afford their womenfolk to remain at home. The second is that woman are opting to stay in education longer, and will emerge into the workforce eventually. A qualification to that last argument is the finding that while college graduates and the un-educated do get jobs, those in the middle - the new high school leavers - are less likely, in comparison.
When he started his first term as Prime Minister, Narendra Modi made the rash promise to produce around 15 million jobs a year - that’s roughly the number of school leavers that India has annually.
This spring we learned that India’s overall unemployment rate climbed to its highest since the 1970s, actually worsening since he initially took office in 2014.