Inside the walls.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
One morning The Delhi Walla knocked at the house of Nand Ram, 45. He lives with his wife, Beni, and son, Bablu, in Green Park, a posh neighbourhood in South Delhi. Mr Ram’s house consists of one room. The roof and walls are of yellow, blue, black and white plastic sheets. “We bought them at wholesale rates from Gautam Nagar Market,” says Bablu. The plastic was originally used as packaging for consumer goods.
The structure of the house rests on a scaffolding of twigs that the family gathered from the nearby Deer Park, the popular destination for the area’s morning walkers. The white plastic at the entrance is printed with red letters that warns: FRAGILE.
Owning no land in Begha, his village in the Tikamgarah district of Madhya Pradesh, Mr Ram and his family arrived in Delhi in 2009. For two years, the family, along with other labourers, has been laying the pavement between Aurobindo Market and Hauz Khas Village with brown-and-red bricks. (Their house is on the same pavement). This is one of the many construction projects through which the city is being apparently raised to World Class standards. Employed by a contractor, all three members earn a combined income of Rs 9,000 monthly. “Food prices are very high,” says wife Beni. “We are able to save only Rs 3,000.”
Inside, you can’t stand upright. The roof is too low. The mattress is spread out on a stretcher made of wooden rods. A ply board is used as a table on which is resting a bowl of leftover curry, a jar of milk and a cake of soap. The family takes bath outside, next to the kitchen, which comprises of a mud stove on the pavement. A can of Diet Pepsi is used as mug.
The man, woman and the son wakes up every morning at six. The wife prepares the meal, which they eat before eight, when they leave for work. At 6 pm, they return. Four hours later, they are asleep. In the monsoon the rain water drips through the gaps in the plastic sheets. When it’s raining in the night, the family wakes up and returns to sleep only after the rain stops. Sometimes the shower continues for hours.
Small house, big home
What was cooking?
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