City Life – Ms Rani & Ms Chandra, Hazrat Nizamuddin East
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Ms Rani’s feelings seem to be as strong as anybody’s but she has a quietness about her. Ms Chandra (left) is showing more eagerness in everything, her nature being gregarious. They are friends.
“We have known each other for 30 years,” says Ms Chandra, her arms swaying in the air with every lilting turn of her words. As Ms Chandra talks eagerly of their bond, Ms Rani frequently nods to acknowledge the friend’s affirmations.
This morning the women are ensconced in a circular park in central Delhi’s Nizamuddin East. They are housekeepers in separate households. “My home is very near, in Nangli, so I commute on legs,” says Ms Chandra with an easy chuckle. “Rani lives far away in Trilokpuri, so she comes by bus.”
Each morning the two women briefly sit in the park before walking away to their work places. In fact, they first met all those decades ago in this very park, informs Ms Chandra. “I was sitting here alone, and then Rani appeared… as soon as we discovered that we both are from Madras, we started chatting in our Tamil.”
How did they learn to speak Hindi so fluently?
Finally, Ms Rani speaks. “Because we have been living in Dilli for so long…. I came here after my marriage.”
The conversation returns to the texture of their friendship. They have never been to each other’s house. “We only meet in this park… our lives are too busy,” mutters Ms Rani. Affectionately keeping her arm around her friend, Ms Chandra says that she cherishes the few minutes she gets daily to be with Rani. “We share sukh, we share dukh,” she says. Ms Rani supports the claim, saying, “I share my mann ki baat with her, she shares her mann ki baat with me.” Ms Chandra says, “We talk about our children, grandchildren, our villages… and we feel light.”
Longtime friendships pass through ups and downs, strained by occasional misunderstandings and disappointments. Ms Rani and Ms Chandra cannot recall such moments. Although Chandra does mention that “I cannot think of any time when either of us helped each other with any particular problem.” The women fall quiet. Ms Rani offers a thought: “May be we never had to face a problem that needed help.”
The friends now start chatting in what they say is Tamil.