Mission Delhi – Gayatri Devi, Near Gandhi Market
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
One jar is filled with mouth freshners. Another has cigarettes. A red pack has tobacco powder. Another packet is full with beedis. These are neatly arranged upon a low table, here on a dusty pave near Gandhi Market. The stall is so small and meagre of goods that all the things on sale could be tossed inside a handbag within a fraction of a minute.
Yet the stall owner is looking harried. May be because Gayatri Devi has to administer her establishment simultaneously with her three children. 5-month-old Karan is napping on her lap. Naughty Ghanshyam is trying to sneak his way towards the traffic-heavy road, obliging Gayatri Devi to keep an eye on him. The 11-year-old Jyoti Kumari, though, is behaving way beyond her years. Standing beside her mother, the girl is preempting Gayatri Devi’s tasks. At one point she even holds the baby bro in her arms, as “mummy” hands two Centerfresh to a customer.
“I’m used to difficult circumstances,” Gayatri Devi says solemnly, bending down her head to look at the little one on her lap. Her husband “joins me occasionally at the stall, otherwise I alone take care of things.”
Gayatri Devi arrived in the city some months back. “It is difficult to earn well in Saharsa,” she says, referring to her Bihar hometown. Staying at elder sister’s place “near dhobhi ghat,” it takes her 20 minutes to walk to this spot.
Glancing at her stall, Gayatri Devi admits she will have to work “very hard” to thrive in a new place. But she has a role model for inspiration. “My sister have been living in Delhi for many years. She and her husband run a dhaba near the (New Delhi) railway station, where they make fish curry and bhaat for labourers and rickshaw pullers…. sister puts in a great amount of mehnet (effort) everyday to earn.”
Recalling her early life, Gayatri Devi talks of how she was obliged to spent her entire childhood helping parents with their vegetable stall. “But I will have my daughter admitted in the government school.” Jyoti Kumari shyly places her arms on mother’s left shoulder.
Suddenly it starts to rain. Passersby start to walk faster. Jyoti Kumari pulls out a pink plastic sheet (see photo), and with mother’s help, quickly covers the stall. They all sit tight under the sheet, and quietly watch the cars and autos on the road.
[This is the 506th portrait of Mission Delhi project]