Hauz Khas Series – A House in the Village, Chapter 2
Life in Delhi’s prettiest neighbourhood.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
My house looks to the Hauz Khas monument. This morning I got to know a family that lives inside that monument.
I met Pappu and Usha on the Hauz Khas Village road, a tree-lined stretch that connects the neighbourhood to Aurobindo Marg. The husband and wife are daily wage laborers hired by a contractor to work at Feroze Shah Tughlak’s tomb, the restoration of which is going on for more than a year. That’s why, Pappu said, they have been allowed to set up a temporary home inside the monument. Pappu and Usha call it ‘gumbad’, the Urdu for dome. The husband is dark, slender with a light mustache; the wife is slim, strong and quiet.
The couple was walking down with their five children who were sitting on the family’s rickshaw cart. Today they were going to another work site. One son was sitting on the crossbar, wearing a military-green basketball cap in reverse; the others were on the wooden cart squeezed with plastic buckets, jars and an axe. Pappu was manning the handle; Usha was pushing the cart from behind. Migrants from Jhansi, central India, together they earn Rs 400 daily.
On reaching the intersection at the Chhoti Gumti monument, I turned left to Green Park Market to have my 8am latte. Pappu and his family continued ahead. “Come home tonight,” he shouted, before being shooed away by a honking Toyota Innova.
13 hours later, I’m standing outside the monument. It is dark and a toffee vendor stationed outside is saying that the monument has shut down for the day and that no ‘labour’ is living inside. The main gate is padlocked so I enter through a side entrance that is barricaded with wooden batons.
The stone pillars are looking as black as the sky. I cry out for Pappu. Silence. I can’t hear any baby noise, nor see any kitchen fire. About half a dozen iron grills are stacked against a wall. Empty plastic bottles are lying on the ground. Two boys are sitting towards the lake-facing part of the ruins. One of them is holding a guitar.
Suddenly a uniformed guard emerges and asks me to leave. I’ll get Pappu tomorrow.
[This is the second part of the series A House in the Village]
Burden of four
Life is a journey