Mission Delhi – Sudhira Devi, Subhash Chander Bose Park
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[By Mayank Austen Soofi]
It’s late winter afternoon, but the midday is already feeling like evening. Sunlight is washing her face in gold here in Gurgaon’s Subhash Chander Bose Park in the Greater Delhi Region. “I’m thinking about not so good things… like the fact that I’m not finding much kaam (work) these days,” says Sudhira Devi. Dressed in a purple sari, she is sitting alone on a bench. Her head is tilted upwards, as if wanting to soak all the sunshine available. She says she is a housemaid, but right now, “I have got only one kothi (as a part-time employee).”
Ms Devi lost most of her “kothis” some months ago due to her daughter’s illness. “Anaar had a bimari.” The daughter, herself a mother, was brought by Ms Devi to the Millennium City for ilaaj (medical treatment). “I didn’t work for four months in order to care for my girl.” The young woman has recovered, she says, and is back with her family in Bihar. Ms Devi reveals that her husband, too, lives in her native Bihar. “He doesn’t work, he has no source of earning, but my son and daughter-in-law give him some money for each month’s expenses.”
Ms Devi is 60. She smiles at the possibility of enjoying a retired life in the village with her husband. “It is wiser to depend on one’s own earnings,” she says enigmatically. The salary she draws each month from her “current kothi” is ₹1,500. It is not much, she laments. “But madam is very nice… she gives me breakfast everyday, including 5kg atta, 2kg rice, and cheeni and chai-patti for the whole month.”
Ms Devi lives in Sector 17 and walks daily to work in Sector 14. “Today I am here early, so I decided to spend the time in the park.” Delving into the satisfaction and disappointment she has accumulated over the years, she observes that she has no complaint against life. “I will hopefully get more kothis (in which to work as a housemaid).” Next instant, she looks amused and says in her singsong accent, “Lekin kaam nahi hai (there’s no work).”
She shrugs her shoulders. After some time, she gets up, walks along a paved pathway and disappears from view.
[This is the 454th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
Woman on the bench