City Life – A Working Family, Naya Bazar, Gurgaon
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It’s a freezing afternoon and they have just finished with the first half of their day’s work in Gurgaon’s Naya Bazar in the Greater Delhi Region—collecting the “kabad (scrap)”, from the roadside.
They are a large family. Rahim Ali and his brother Jamran Ali, and their wives, Majida and Joyeda Banu, respectively, and Rahim Ali’s young son, Namrood. They share a jhuggi in Daulatpura and wake up daily at 5 in the morning—even today when it is perhaps one of the coldest day of the ongoing winter. “It was very foggy and as dark as midnight when we stepped out of the house,” reveals Joyeda Banu, the most extrovert among them; she has a pair of safety pins tied about her silver locket. For the next few hours, the family walks about the city-lanes picking up everything that’s even remotely recyclable—from glass bottles to plastic bags, from thermocol packaging to cardboard boxes.
Now done with the collection, they are solemnly standing beside the day’s harvest, all of it piled into a giant sack. Gesturing towards his son, Rahim Ali recalls “a madam who used to teach him for free but she married a year ago and stopped coming.”
The little boy smiles, shyly confessing he has not yet decided what he wants to be in life.
The family arrived in the city five years ago from their native Assam “where there is not much work and not much money,” says Mr Ali matter-of-factly. Together, they lift the heavy sack and place it carefully atop a rickety cart that they will wheel to their jhuggi.
“We’ll first have lunch after which we shall sort out today’s collection,” explains Joyeda Banu. But for now they all settle down on the footpath for a chai break—to regain “taazgi (freshness)”.
Joint family… at work