City Life – Samina, the Single Parent, Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It was not easy to live alone, so Samina got back with her former partner, a fellow beggar and a one-time cleaner in a hotel. He is also the father of her child, Sufiyan. But as she was preparing to give birth to their second baby, they separated again.
That was shortly before the coronavirus-triggered lockdown and Samina, 21, was then living on a pavement in central Delhi’s Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti. Fortunately, she had had the foresight to save 4,000 rupees for her pregnancy-related emergency. “I had given 551 rupees to a dai (wet-nurse) two months in advance and she helped me with the delivery, along with my neighbours on the patri (pavement).”
Ikram was born three months ago, she says. By then Samina was back from a school in Sarai Kale Khan neighbourhood “where we patri wale were put during the lockdown.” Samina talks of the meals that she and everyone there would be served daily, twice.
These days, Samina has taken the full responsibilities of a single parent. In the evening she is often seen sitting on the pavement across the street from Zuberi Hotel, in the Basti. While baby Ikram remains perched on her lap, little Sufiyan sits crosslegged on the ground beside her, nibbling into a jalebi or a samosa a passerby hands over to them. Sometimes both kids are asleep, their faces sheltered under the mother’s dupatta.
The Basti lanes are no longer as crowded as in the BC (before corona) era, when hundreds of pilgrims would daily walk up to the famous Sufi shrine that gives its name to the historic village. Even so, Samina manages to earn enough to afford the monthly rent of 3,000 rupees for a room she has taken up in the area. “In the day I always sit on the patri on Lodhi Road side… this way we manage to get food that people distribute to beggars.”
Samina admits she is able to take care of only the most urgent daily needs of her sons. “I will have to raise them all by myself,” she answers matter-of-factly to a query. She says that her father passed away a long time ago and she isn’t in touch with her mother, who lives in Bihar.
Unlike most other beggars in the Basti, Samina doesn’t call out to passersby. She accepts whatever money or food any of them gives her. “God gives us life and it has to be lived,” she says.
Alone in the city