Mission Delhi – Surya Ramasamy, India Habitat Center

Mission Delhi – Surya Ramasamy, India Habitat Center

One of the one percent in 13 million.

[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]

What are we but hapless humans trying to adapt to a constantly changing world. There must have been a time when our most intimate relationships were restricted to the immediate geographic space we lived in. Today, they thrive on the internet.

This idea became clearer one evening when The Delhi Walla came across a young woman who seemed to be wandering aimlessly in the open-air area of the India Habitat Center. She had a laptop in her hand. Probably in her twenties, the woman was talking to herself, but her eyes were darting around absentmindedly as if they had no connection with her thoughts. Suddenly, she laughed. On coming close to her, I heard her say in a very loving tone – “Amma.”

The woman’s laptop screen showed three people, who were sitting in what seemed to be a room. I could hear their voices too. They were talking in some unfamiliar tongue.

The penny dropped.

“Are you skyping to your parents?” I asked, referring to the online video call service.

The woman turned around, and said, “No, they are my parents-in-law.”

Introducing herself as Surya Ramasamy, the woman said that she was a banker. “My office is in this complex itself.” She waved her free arm towards the red-brick multistorey structures of the India Habitat Center.

Ms Ramasamy said that she grew up in Chennai and arrived in Delhi only six months ago. A Tamil speaker, she said that she studied Hindi in her school but is not fluent enough to carry on a sustained conversation in that language. She lives alone in Delhi.

“My husband is a software engineer in Washington, D.C. We live apart because of our jobs but we visit each other after every three months.”

Ms Ramasamy has no friends in Delhi apart from her colleagues in the bank. “I live in Defence Colony. Sometimes after exiting the office, I talk to my folks in Chennai, and then I walk back home. It takes me exactly 40 minutes to reach my apartment.”

The banker rarely visits the Delhi markets. “I do all my shopping online,” she says, adding, “I’m used to Chennai-style food and I don’t find it anywhere in Delhi. Once I tried the masala dosa at the Saravana Bhavan in Connaught Place but it did not taste homely. So, I cook myself.”

Pointing to her laptop’s screen, Ms Ramasamy said, “Meet my father-in-law, Shri Kottaidurai. And she is my sister-in-law, Hemalatha. And here is my mother-in-law, Shrimati Jeyavalli.”

All three of them waved to me one by one.

Ms Ramasamy then returned to her people. Chatting in Tamil, she seemed oblivious to Delhi’s gathering twilight.

[This is the 90th portrait of Mission Delhi project]

Delhi, only virtually