City Life - Portrait of a Marriage, Central Delhi

City Life – Portrait of a Marriage, Central Delhi

City Life - Portrait of a Marriage, Central Delhi

Two lives

[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]

One of the many things that make Delhi truly cosmopolitan is the fact that so many of its citizens are not Delhi natives. Almost everyone, or at least their parents or grandparents, comes from somewhere else. This is also true of Janaki and Santosh. The wife and husband are a two-member team of freelance labourers, and they are from Jhansi district, in UP.

The couple agree with the assessment that very many labourers in the capital happen to be from their part of the world. In fact, they themselves live with a large group of colleagues, all of whom are from Jhansi.

Some of the many Jhansi labourers The Delhi Walla has earlier encountered would complain of the depletion of water in their villages, forcing them to make repeated exodus to big cities for work. “It is not completely true,” argues Janaki. This afternoon, the couple are working in a central Delhi repairing site. Santosh is removing the old tiles from a wall with the help of a machine, and a great amount of dust is blowing about him. Janaki has taken a two-minute break. She explains that the couple have agricultural land in the village and “currently, my husband’s father and his younger brother are busy with the moongphali crop.” But, she adds, income from the agriculture isn’t enough for them to make a good life. “The truth is that if you have to earn money, and if you want to build a pucca house in the village, then you have to work as a mazdoor in Delhi, at least for some time every year,” she asserts. Janaki and Santosh spend at least six months every year in the city, before returning to give a helping hand to the family’s agricultural concerns. “We have been coming to Delhi for work since 2012,” Santosh says, turning to look at his wife. He refers to her respectfully as “inki.” Both are in their 20s and have two children. Son Ganesh is in third standard and is currently at the sarkari school in Angoori Bagh, while daughter Sandhya is too small to be enrolled in school. Aged 3, she is here with her parents, playing with mummy’s mobile.

Right now Santosh’s hands are covered with white dust, while Janaki’s hands are adorned with henna. She laughs. “I got the mehendi some days ago for karva chauth.” That evening, Janaki made special food for the family in the evening—paneer subzi and pooris.

She now rejoins her husband, and soon her hands too are covered in dust.

A family


City Life - Portrait of a Marriage, Central Delhi


City Life - Portrait of a Marriage, Central Delhi


City Monument - Sunheri Masjid, Near Red Fort


City Life - Portrait of a Marriage, Central Delhi