Mission Delhi – Changa Kumar, Hauz Khas Village
One of the one per cent in 13 million.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The water in the bucket is as freezing as the 4.30 am air. But the stairs in this four-floor apartment complex have to be washed daily at this hour. “It’s a job and it has to be done,” says Changa Kumar, 20.
In a contrast to his jet black skin, his yellow teeth give a whitish glare every time he talks. A resident of Delhi for two years, Mr Kumar is an errand boy in an apartment complex in Hauz Khas Village, Delhi’s artsy neighbourhood consisting of ruins, art galleries, restaurants and flats. He makes Rs 3,500 a month and his employer has given him a room – en suite, no less – for free.
He has no complaints. His own bathroom is a luxury that Mr Kumar did not have back home in Bihar, one of India’s poorest states. “My village is near Bhagalpur,” he says. “We have five cows, five brothers, one sister and one bigha land.”
Unlike most Bihari migrants to the Capital who came here to flee their wretched poverty, Mr Kumar wanted to get away from his parents. “I’m the eldest,” he says. “But pitaji (father) would beat me and maa (mother) would not give me any food.” The rift started a few years ago when Mr Kumar’s father suspected him of stealing Rs 50,000 from the family locker, their yearly income from farm produce.
It’s unlikely that this man could be a thief. The Delhi Walla talks to Ravikant Gochwa, Mr Kumar’s employer, who says, “Changa is a very honest, hardworking boy. He also does the daily cleaning in many other flats, and not one resident has complained of anything missing from their rooms.”
In Mr Kumar’s room, the possessions include a quilt, a bed, a stove, an FM radio. Pictures of Guru Nanak and Sai Baba are pasted on the wall. “I believe in all gods,” he says, “but I always go to the Kali temple in Chirag Delhi.”
While he does have a mobile phone, Mr Kumar cannot use it to call people. Being illiterate, he can’t navigate the menu. “Pitaji took me off school so that I could be with the buffaloes while they grazed in the jungle.” He was five then, but remembers his teacher. “Guruji once said, ‘Son, do whatever in life but never ever think ill of anyone’, and this advice has stayed with me. Whatever I’m in my life, it is because of Guruji.”
Walking against the 14th century walls of Huaz Khas ruins, Mr Kumar says, “When I have no work, I go to a cave there and listen to songs in the FM radio.” Pointing to the lake in Deer Park, next to the ruins, he exclaims, “See, ducks!”
Four months ago, Mr Kumar visited his parents in Bihar. The father hugged him at the bus stand; the mother cried when he got home. He gave Rs 7,000 to the family. “I’m also saving for my sister’s marriage,” he says. “I already have Rs 10,000 for her.”
Mr Kumar’s dream for himself, however, has got nothing to do with money. “I want to be neither rich, nor poor. The rich look so tense. But the poor also have tensions in their life. I just wish that nobody should hate me.”
[This is the eighth portrait of the Mission Delhi project]
Hello, Mr Kumar
Mr Kumar’s room
Mr Kumar’s FM radio
Mr Kumar’s bed
Mr Kumar on his building’s balcony
Mr Kumar’s world
Mr Kumar, Hauz Khas Village