Mission Delhi – Kishen, Hazrat Nizamuddin East
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The night sky is jet black, with no star to be seen. Slowly, the darkness starts to fade away, and it is morning.
Despite witnessing the same scene day after day, the moment’s subtlety amazes Kishen every single time. “It is like watching magic.”
A guard in upscale Hazrat Nizamuddin East, Kishen keeps an alert eye about the house he guards during nocturnal hours. Ensconced tonight inside his tiny cabin—it is 9pm—he waves towards the surrounding apartments. “The house over there… the lights in that balcony… the black dog in the A block…”
The nature of Kishen’s job obliges him to be alone from late evening to early morning, “but I don’t feel lonely or scared”. Cars go by all through the night, “comforting me with the fact that I’m not the only one who isn’t in his bed”.
When the minutes feel too long, he turns to news debates on his mobile phone. “Sometimes I take a stroll in front of my cabin, stretch my limbs, chat with other night-shift guards in the vicinity, one of whom has become a friend.”
Kishen was in a different “line” a few years back, working in a factory “where I would make rubber”. Following its closure, he chose not to return to home-district of Gaya, launching himself into his current career. This significant shift took place late in life; he has already married off his eldest daughter Mamta. “We are looking for a match for our younger Aditi.” Son Manish, the family’s youngest, is in college— “his fate will decide his life.”
While the children are in the village, wife Annu lives with Kishen. During the day, when he is resting at w home, she is away on her assignments as a part-time maid in a couple of households. Despite her hectic schedule, Annu always packs a lunchbox for Kishen, which he eats in the guard’s cabin shortly after midnight.
During the ongoing monsoon’s intolerable humidity, the noisy cooler in Kishen’s cabin is helpful only to a point. The mosquitoes complicate the situation. “At some point in the night,” he says, “the birds fall silent.” Hours later, “I suddenly hear the crows, the parrots, many other birds, and though the sky is still black, I know the morning is coming.”
[This is the 553rd portrait of Mission Delhi project]