Mission Delhi – Sunita Kushwaha, Wazirabad
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Her days are so hectic that she hasn’t really found the time to look back and trace the arc of her life. Therefore Sunita Kushwaha has never thought of herself as a feminist. But that’s what she is. She was raised in a conservative UP village where women would hardly get out of their homes, and would appear in public only in a ghunghat, their face completely hidden beneath the veil. But look at her now—everyday she interacts face-to-face (these days it’s mask-to-mask, though) with hundreds of strangers. She is a “ladies security guard” in a Gurgaon mall in the Greater Delhi Region. She is 32. It’s her third year in the job. Though she has been living in the city for eight years.
“I’m also a wife and a mother,” she says, talking on WhatsApp video this afternoon, during a small break in her 11 am to 7 pm shift.
Like many women with day jobs, Ms Kushwaha enjoys the benefits of having a supportive child. “By now Akansha has learned to like her own company in the house during the day.”
Ms Kushwaha’s husband, Ram Milan, is a maintenance man in a motor showroom, and he too is out during the day, working. In any case, her “bhabi” (sister-in-law) lives just next door and keeps an eye on the daughter, who often crosses over to the relative’s house to pass her hours—especially during these days when the schools are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Ms Kushwaha insists that her husband is a very helpful mate, respects her co-role as a family breadwinner and helps her partly with the household chores.
“We wake up every morning at 5.30 and prepare the lunch together—I make the atta dough for the rotis and he chops the vegetables.” The couple’s home comprises of a single room, and the kitchen comprises of a gas range placed upon a corner table.
Ms Kushwaha’s residence is in Wazirabad, a 15 minute walk from the shopping mall. In the pre-corona era, she would first drop her daughter at school but now she leaves for work alone, while keeping lunch and snacks, like biscuits and namkeen, in accessible parts of the house, so that her daughter’s hands can reach them easily.
“Every day after lunch, when my daughter feels bored, she calls me—we have given her a mobile—to ask how I am doing and to chat for a bit,” she says laughing.
Ms Kushwaha reaches home not long after 7 pm, and straight gets down to the household job—washing the laundry (by hand) and cooking the dinner.
But isn’t she already exhausted after her day of work?
Ms Kushwaha doesn’t make any comment. She later says: “This job is important for me because it helps with our expenses.” She waited for her daughter to start the school before launching herself into her current career. And here the lady adds that she has a dream for her girl. “Actually it’s Akansha’s dream…. I think she saw it in some TV serial… she wants to be a doctor and wishes to open a clinic in a village because she thinks that villages have no good hospitals.”
But now Ms Kushwaha must get back to her duty. Today she is stationed by the mall’s entrance. A visitor enters. She quietly measures his temperature and squeezes the sanitizer spray towards his hands.
[This is the 355th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
A life in everyday feminism