Mission Delhi – Shakir Husain, Central Delhi
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Like many jobs, being a waste collector is hectic. One has to walk along one’s assigned streets, go through piles of garbage to pick up the viable trash, put it in a sack and transport it to the collection point, which can be the collector’s own home.
“It’s hard physical labour,” says Shakir Husain. Himself a collector, Mr Husain operates in the central parts of the city. This afternoon he has collected enough stuff to fill up two medium-size bags. Both bags are hanging down from his right arm.
Standing by a tea stall, he says he shall now walk back to the room where he lives, deposit the trash there, and go out again for another round. “I’ve already made four rounds,” he says. Mr Husain works daily from 10 am to 5 pm.
Gesturing towards the empty shirt sleeve falling down on his left, he says he lost that arm many years ago. “I got electrocuted by 11,000 volts.”
It had happened back home in Moradabad, UP. “Losing one hand was a setback, but one has to make a living to support one’s family.” His wife, kids and mother live in the village and depend on his earning.
Not long after the accident, Mr Husain followed the footsteps of some of the folks in his village and arrived in Delhi to find a living. “One is not born a waste collector,” he explains. “Finding an employment in a big city is a matter of luck and kismet (fate)… I could have been something else, perhaps, but my destiny was to be a kabadi walla.”
He admits “that the work was very tough in the early days, because I had to manage everything using only one arm.” By now, he says, he has grown used to “the nature of my job.”
Suddenly, Mr Husain’s attention is claimed by a pile in the corner. He walks over, bends down over a large plastic bag and fiddles inside it. It has two tin boxes, and some banana peels. He tosses the peels aside and keeps the tins inside one of his two bags.
After dropping this load at home, he will take a lunch break before going back to work. “I never cook,” he says. “I always eat outside, much easier.”
He walks away.
[This is the 371st portrait of Mission Delhi project]
Just another working life