Mission Delhi – Chhaya, Construction Site, Gurgaon
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Her name is supremely ironical, at this moment in the day at least. The young woman is working as a labourer under the searing noon sun, and her name is Chhaya, shade.
“But there’s no shade for me,” she says cheerily.
Directly exposed to the skin-roasting mind-numbing white light, the woman is part of a four-member “labour gang” contracted to demolish a house in Gurgaon in the National Capital Region. The task is being performed with equipments as basic as shovels and hammers. Climbing atop a dismantled door flung atop a pile of bricks, Chhaya theatrically rubs her arm over her stomach and says, “You have to work under all good and bad conditions to feed yourself.”
The lady hails from a village in Jhansi, UP, “where the wells have no water.” She works with her husband, Bhayya Lal, one of the three men on the site. “See, my shirt is totally wet with sweat,” he says. Chhaya points to the other two guys—Sarfaraz and Shakir—whom she and her husband met on first arriving at the site some days ago.
“The heat breaks us but we all support each other,” says Chhaya. She is holding a bottle of iced water that Bhayya Lal arranged from a nearby temple.
The couple works at the site from 9am to 6pm when they leave for home. “Our room has a ceiling fan but it is ineffective in such heat… yet we sleep well at night.”
Soon, the labourers decide to break up for lunch. Chhaya and her husband will have their home-made meal under a guava tree. “It gives a very nice chhaya to Chhaya,” Bhayya Lal exclaims.
The others laugh.
An hour later all the labourers are lying quietly under the said tree. Chhaya is asleep, under the guava’s chhaya.
[This is the 208th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
Chhaya without shade