Mission Delhi - Ashu Prashar, IP Extension & South Point Mall

Mission Delhi – Ashu Prashar, IP Extension & South Point Mall

Mission Delhi - Ashu Prashar, IP Extension & South Point Mall

[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]

He is in his early 50s and wishes to write a book. He has already started preliminary work. “It will be a book on housekeeping ethics and style,” says Ashu Prashar, an assistant manager, soft services, at a city mall where he administers the housekeeping staff.

For ten years Mr Prashar has been making the excruciating long commute from his home in east Delhi’s IP Extension to Gurgaon’s South Point Mall on Golf Course Road in the Greater Delhi Region. It takes him about two hours one way and “just before the (coronavirus-triggered) lockdown began, I started to write ideas for my book on the mobile phone while travelling to office.”

A father of two, Mr Prashar was formerly working in the insurance industry as an advisor, “which I didn’t enjoy at all.” His long years as a housekeeping manager introduced him to a “workforce” comprised of people whose lives and hardships he wasn’t intimately familiar with—migrants from other states who were obliged to move to big cities like Delhi and Gurgaon to envisage a different future. “Over the years I have come across people who have remained houseboys, cleaning the floor or rest rooms or staircases all their working lives.” This makes the manager uneasy. Ideally, he wants the folks starting as “houseboys” to move up in life, to graduate to supervisors and eventually—why not—to his own designation. “So I’m hoping to write a book that may help the young staffers to grow professionally.”

It was during his commute in the metro that Mr Prashar laid the foundation of his book-in-progress. He started by putting his own spin on the word ‘house keeping’; he got that ready in two weeks of shuttling between IP extension and Golf Course Road. The author feels no hesitation in sharing it publicly:

H is for honest

O for observer

U for unique

S for supportive

E for efficient

K for knowledgeable

E for energetic

E encouragable

P for punctual

I for innovative

N for neatly

G for gentle

Indeed, Mr Prashar is already sharing this “formula” with his mostly young staff of men and women. Since a great number of them, he says, are from backgrounds where basic education is tough to access, the gentleman himself give them lessons in maths, English and Hindi—“most of our folks have arrived newly from West Bengal and don’t know the North Indian languages that well.”

Almost all of his recent housekeeping staff left for their villages during the lockdown and the team that newly assembled following the mall’s reopening on July 1st comprises of fresh arrivals. “A lot many live nearby, in Chakarpur and Sector 56 areas… they arrive in the city with only their spouses, leaving the children behind, with their families, back home.” Both “Mr and their Mrs” pick up work, with the “Mrs usually becoming household cooks in apartments,” informs the manager.

In his book, Mr Prashar confides, he will also lay out tips on the new ways of housekeeping “because that old way of jharoo-pocha is over and things are now more mechanised.”

Since his days — like for most people who have to shuttle daily between Delhi and Gurgaon — are so hectic, he has decided to write a major portion of the book during the course of his working day. “I’ll carry a pen and notepad in my pocket, and as soon as a line or an idea strikes my mind I will immediately jot it down.”

Mr Prashar gives himself a couple of years to finish this book. “After which I will try to get it published both in Hindi and English.”

He now formally poses for a portrait with a part of his team, who probably will learn the tips of the future book in real time, and even before the author pens them down.

[This is the 353rd portrait of Mission Delhi project]

Housekeeper, the author


Mission Delhi - Ashu Prashar, IP Extension & South Point Mall