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