Mission Delhi – Pinky, Meharchand Market
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
She is rolling out yet another atta ball, building up a stack of perfectly round garma-garam tawa rotis. Meanwhile her little daughter is glued to the mobile phone screen. Her son is sitting on a chair, feet up.
It could be a commonplace scene in any home. And it is, up to a point.
Pinky’s roadside establishment is parked towards the penumbra portion of Meharchand Market. Her business is to rustle out “ghar ka khana.” Her 50-rupee homey thali meal comprises of dal, roti, rice, sookhi subzi and a paneer dish. Friendly yet reserved, she is an entrepreneur and a single parent.
“I’m alone raising my kids, they are very supportive,” she says. Ishika shyly lifts her head. Krishna looks conscious, smiling.
Pinky launched her food stall during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, shortly before her husband passed away after a prolonged illness. “Earlier I used to work in kothiyan,” she says, referring to her former career as a home cook in upscale Jorbagh bungalows, nearby. Following the pandemic, she lost most of her assignments “because families were afraid to let outsiders in (for fear of catching Corona).”
Pinky’s husband, who was an auto-rickshaw driver, too was out of work. Besides, his illness was making it difficult for him to continue active work. Eventually, she acquired a “readymade” cart from Kotla Mubarakpur for 15,000 rupees.
Now a customer arrives, and Pinky gets busy with the job at hand. Her day is often busy, and always long. She lives in the “jhuggi” behind the Meharchand showrooms, getting up at five to cook breakfast for the children, and to start meal preparations for the stall. Later, she walks the children to their school auto—they attend Sarvodaya Vidyalaya in Jor Bagh. At 9am, she opens her eatery, winding it down at 10pm.. “We eat the same food at home for dinner that I make for my stall.”
After posing for a photo, Pinky chitchats about her children. “My daughter sometimes wants to be a doctor, sometimes wants to be one of those people who fly the hawai jahaz.” The daughter gently says, “Pilot.” Pinky rolls her eyes, marvelling at her girl’s cleverness.
[This is the 551st portrait of Mission Delhi project]