Delhi Winter – Salma in Freezing Cold, Lodhi Road
Life in winter.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It is a grueling job to survive Delhi’s brief but intense winter. More so, if the citizen doesn’t have a home with walls. More so, if this roofless person happens to be a woman.
Salma smiles, as she holds her daughter’s month-old son. The little one is swaddled in a thickly padded pink blanket. Salma too is covered in a couple of blankets, purchased the previous year. This dimly sunny morning, she is perched, as always, on her husband Rahul’s thela, parked under a tree, beside Lodhi Road. Rahul, a street recycler, is squatting on the dusty earth, cleaning the spokes of the thela’s wheels. Salma gave up her job in a “kothi” following a “haadsa” five years ago when a truck ran over her leg. Since then, Rahul have been taking care of her day-to-day living, such as washing her clothes every week in the nearby shouchalaya (public toilet). He also escorts her there for her bath. “But it is so cold these days, and the shouchalaya has no hot water facility,” Salma remarks, admitting that because of the chill she hasn’t dared to wash herself for three days straight. Besides, “you have to pay 20 rupees each time you take a bath,” she says, pressing the sleeping child closer to herself.
In the evening the baby is carried by his parents—Salma’s daughter and son-in-law who also live on the pave with her— to a nearby ren basera, the night shelter for the homeless. While Salma continues to stay with the husband under the icy sky, because “in the ren basera, the beds are upstairs and the toilet is downstairs, which is a problem for me at night due to my leg condition…”
The couple ignites a fresh round of fire as they lie down to sleep. “The aag lasts for three-four hours,” Salma says. “By then, the body feels warm and eyes close.”