Home Sweet Home – Daily Wager’s Mansion, Galli Choori Wallan
A whole world.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
As the eyes adjust to the darkness, The Delhi Walla realizes that the bare walls are of lakhori bricks. The thick columns seem to be hewed out of stones. But, oh, the floor. It’s all sand.
I’m at the home of Geetam, Munna and Ashok in Old Delhi’s Galli Choori Wallan. The three laborers have been living in this… what should I call this place? Probably the remnants of a haveli. The three men living here call it ‘purana khandahar’, the old ruin. They haul construction material on wooden carts to different parts of the Walled City for a living.
Despite its architectural elegance, the place has the character of a godown. Sacks of cement are stacked in the corners. The entrance is choked by piles of red bricks. But we also see shirts, pants and check lungis hanging down from hooks. A large closet stands beside the door. A constructor who lives in the vicinity owns the godown.
It is almost midnight. Geetam is smoking a beedi. Munna is already asleep–his bed consists of a sack laid out on the sandy floor. Ashok is talking about his home in Badaun. All of them are from this town in western UP.
“Why don’t you come with me to my home?” He asks me. “I’m going there… Come! I’ll show you around my city. We’ll go for just a few days.”
Ashok has been living here for 10 years. In his twenties, he must have started working as a laborer in his teens. Geetam, the eldest here, is forty. He has been here for twenty years.
There are no windows. Doesn’t it get insufferably hot during humid summer nights? Ashok playfully points at two small ceiling fans.
The men never cook. Their breakfast consists of fen and chai at Sultan’s tea stall. The dinner is always at Sharma Hotel in the Cycle Market.
As the needle on the clock crosses the zero hour, Ashok takes out his mobile phone and plays a Hindi film song in low volume.
Munna continues to sleep and Geetam starts a new beedi.
Daily wagers’ haveli