City Life – The Mother as a Waste Picker, Gurgaon
Parenting a child.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
They are mother and daughter, Manorama Begum and her Majnu. Both are walking home. It is afternoon.
“We are done with work,” says Ms Begum. In her 30s, the woman says, “I’m a kabadiwalla, a waste picker.”
Every day she walks the streets of Gurgaon, with her 8-year-old daughter, looking for empty plastic bottles. Majnu, like her mother, is also carrying a sack on her back. Unlike “mummy”, she is wearing two different slippers.
“What to do,” the mother shrugs her shoulders. “We have no money to spare for Majnu’s chappals… we excavated these dissimilar ones from the kabad (waste).”
Ms Begum lives with her husband near the railway station. “He does the same kind of work,” she says, drawing a circle on the pavement dust with the plastic rod she is carrying.
“This is to keep the dogs away,” she says, tilting the rod. “They always run after us kabadiwallas… They probably mistake us for thieves, with these bulging sacks we have to carry.”
Little Majnu still hasn’t seen the inside of a classroom. On hearing the word ‘school’, she shyly starts sucking the end of a plastic bag she is holding as if it’s a toffee.
“They say sarkari school is free but where will the money come to get her the uniform and copies,” the mother says with a somber expression, as if she had often thought of the subject, each time with great deliberation.
“She will grow up to become like me, I think,” says Ms Begum, smiling. Manju blushes and hides behind her mother.
The two women then walk away towards their “home”. Ms Begum has the afternoon all planned out. She will cook the meal and Majnu will play with the ball.
Dreams for her daughter