Inside the walls.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
One afternoon The Delhi Walla entered the home of Muhammed Rashid Khan. There is no doorbell because there is no door. Mr Khan, 40, lives with his wife and three children on a pavement in Ranjit Singh Road, central Delhi. Their neighbours are a few abusive homeless drug addicts. The family keeps its distance.
Mr Khan was a rickshaw puller in Allahabad, a town 500 km from Delhi. He arrived in the capital a month ago. His wife, Noorjahan Begum, suffers from great pains in the stomach. Since doctors in Allahabad could not treat the disease, the couple decided to get a medical check-up at the Lok Nayak Hospital in Delhi.
Noorjahan Begum’s medicine box forms a substantial part of the family’s possessions, which includes two bags stuffed with clothes, two bed sheets, one pillow, a plastic water bottle, one steel tumbler, five pairs of sandals, and – most important of all – Mr Khan’s voter I-card, his only identity that the government recognizes.
The Khans are not returning. They had a one-room house in Allahabad’s Gadhe Walli Street (in Akbarpaur intersection) but they sold it to meet the medical expenses of their younger son Nazim. The 6-year-old boy suddenly lost his eyesight two years ago after a severe bout of “latrine and fever.” Today, the child communicates to Mr Khan by moving his fingers up the father’s arms and over his face.
The other two children are Kasim, 9, and Yasmin, a 2-year-old girl. Kasmin has a tendency to smile at every possible opportunity; the quiet Yasmin is pleased if given a packet of Parle-G biscuits. The parents are planning to enroll the children in a government school as soon as Mr Khan starts earning. Mr Khan has talked to a few rickshaw pullers in the area. They might help him rent out a rickshaw.
Presently, the family is surviving on Mr Khan’s savings. The house has no kitchen; the family dines at an inexpensive eatery. The meals include rice, dal and vegetables. Late in the night, Mr Khan smokes a few beedis.
Since the municipality-run bathroom facility is expensive (Rs 20 for a shower), the Khans use it only once in two weeks. Washing the laundry is a luxury as unthinkable as privacy. But the family is hopeful about its prospects. The city seems promising.
A home on the pavement
Muhammed Rashid Khan
Look mama, I’m smiling
Hoping for a better life