Photo Essay – The Shadow People, Lodhi Road
Homeless in winter streets.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
One cold December midnight, The Delhi Walla was walking on Lodhi Road. It had rained in the day. The homeless people were sleeping on the pavement, which was still wet. The streetlamps had lit up the road, leaving the people in darkness. A few of them were awake. Some were sitting by the fireside. One woman was listening to Hindi film songs on FM 102.6. She was smoking a beedi. There were rings on her fingers; a shawl covered her head.
“Why you don’t have a home?” I asked. She shook her head, smiled and said nothing.
A little ahead was a woman lying alongside her four children. Three of them were asleep. The oldest, about four-year old, was watching the traffic. The headlights of passing cars would briefly cast a glow on his face. They all were snuggled in a cream-coloured quilt that had floral patterns.
“Where are you from?” I asked.
“We’ve come from Calcutta,” the woman said.
“Why are you on the roadside?”
Then, a boy, who was warming his hands by another fireside, walked towards me and offered his cigarette. Wearing blue jeans and blue blazer, he was barefoot.
“Where’s your home?” I asked.
“I won’t lie,” he said. “I ran away.”
I walked past a row of homeless people. All had blankets. “Rich people come and give blankets to us,” said the boy before returning to his fireplace. Some people, I noticed, had newspaper sheets for mattresses. A few were sharing their ‘beds’ with a stray dog or two. Close by, a group of maimed beggars, slouched on wheel chairs, were gathered around a dying fire.
When I reached under the Oberoi Hotel flyover and focused the camera lens towards a homeless woman, she stood up in rage and said, “You bastards. You click photos of us people and sell them in Amreeka. Vote is mine, and money is yours. It won’t do. Go away.”
Shh, he’s sleeping
Switch on the heater
Cold night, Poopoo
Where’s your blanket?
Gone to his getaway
Mummy, hot milk please
Radio will kill the night
This night too shall pass
“You bastards. You click photos of us people and sell them in Amreeka. Vote is mine, and money is yours. It won’t do. Go away.”
Did you ask this woman if you could take her photo? You are doing your fellow Delhiwallahs a disservice if you don’t.
Nicely, and sensitively done, Mayank. Social commentary/journalism always runs the risk of voyeurism to a certain degree, but I think you have presented a balanced portrait of a group of people who are mostly ignored by the rest of us.
Someone’s helplessness and state of deprivement is a “photo-essay” for someone else. Waah ri Dilli!!!
I can relate to to the woman yelping ‘sending our pitures to amreeka’, I faced a similar comment from a mochi ih Rawalpindi
Yet the photo essay gives a voice to the otherwise voiceless.
With all due respect, could you please explain what “voice” is being given by this article to the people shown here? Its just a few shoddy clicks and an explanation of the locality in the night. “Gives voice” huh, you wanna do something for them? Go out and help build a night shelter for the guy sleeping on the newspapers, clicking their pics and posting them on a blog wouldn’t do shit. All it could do is to get an “awwwww….poor people” from people like you.
It is the strangest part of year in Delhi.Just a look of the city’s nightlife reveals the rarest combination of Bentleys and BMWs vrooming back from the late night parties,with the swaying of the swanky cars clearly displaying the inebriated states of those behind the driving wheels,and fires from the garbage being lit out at regular distances down the roadside where you would see both humans and dogs vying for a closer spot to the fire to shield themselves against the bone biting winds.A rare mix of the plights of the children of the mightier and the lesser GODs.
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