Home Sweet Home – A Mother’s Handmade Cradle, Central Delhi Pavement
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Baby Aslam is lying snugly in his padded swing hanging from a tree while Mom keeps a watchful eye out for him. “He’s just turned three months,” says content-looking Firdaus, a ragpicker in her early 20s who lives on this very central Delhi pavement together with her husband, also a ragpicker, and their three other children hovering about.
Her husband is still working, she explains, adding that they often leave all their kids to the care of fellow pavement residents. Without any hesitation whatsoever.
“I made the cradle myself, just took a day to sew it up,” reveals Firdaus without betraying any hint of pride in her skills. She managed to obtain a baby car seat from “a motor walla sahib,” then used some old clothes in the family trunk to sew the cradle cover. “I did that cover with thread and needle, because nobody on this pavement has a sewing machine.”
Necessity is the mother of invention. The fabric from which the cradle is hanging is a sturdy scarf purchased three years ago at a bazaar.
Holding the cradle, Firdaus recalls that her parents in their home village also had placed her in a cradle hanging from a tree as they busied themselves as farmhands “in the rich people’s fields.”
Now, she gazes proudly at her cosseted baby, silent but content. A family tradition is being carried on—cradles on trees—right here on this busy urban pavement.