City Home - Roommates of Rubble, Central Delhi

City Home – Roommates of Rubble, Central Delhi

City Home - Roommates of Rubble, Central Delhi

Cold night comrades.

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

It is one of the coldest nights in the city so far this winter. Under the foggy sky, a group of young men are huddled around their cooking stove, its fire rustled out of wood pieces collected randomly from “idhar-udhar.” Dinner is almost ready. It is pitch dark. The stove’s dancing flames are momentarily lighting up somebody’s eye, somebody’s nose, somebody’s forehead.

These seven colleagues work and live together, and are right now sitting on a great pile of the broken remains of a demolished bungalow—a house whose final days were featured a few weeks ago on this page. The men specialise in the systematic dismantling of bungalows. “Every day old bungalows are being demolished in Dilli,” says one. Another explains: “An old makaan reaches its expiry date, and multi-storey flats are built on its site.” The man making the rotis speaks up: “We routinely move from one site to another, razing down the bungalows… from Gurgaon to Ghaziabad.” He continues speaking: “We came here from Nirrman Vihar, we will next go to Defence Colony.” A man sitting some distance away informs: “Our work in this bungalow is almost over.”

One of the men notes that they break down a house with hands. Another makes a correction to the statement: “We use auzar such as hathora… you cannot do the job with bare hands.”

A voice rises: “We will continue to do this work until we grow old… then we shall return to Sambharpur, our village.”

A stubbornly silent man finally speaks, fluently, in long sentences: “Nobody of us wants to stay permanently in the lower rung of the ladder of life. We want to eat nice food, wear nice clothes, and have our families live in comfort… we have dreams but we know it is difficult to make them real… but we have other options, we can become momo seller, or we can go back to farming, We are pushtaini farmers…”

Minutes later, the men settle down for the meal. They daily cook a variation of paneer for dinner. One of the men takes out his mobile from his pants’ pocket and carefully keeps it against a brick so that the diners can comfortably watch the live streaming of a cricket match.

The men will sleep in the plastic tent set up along the pavement.

PS: Seen in the photo—Durgesh, Rajesh, Dhiresh, Guddu, Maneesh, Rajkumar, Ram Khiladi