Mission Delhi – Bhawani, Sector 15, Gurgaon
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
For years Bhawani’s life stayed the same. Earning a living as a “maid” in a score of middle-class households in Gurgaon in the Greater Delhi Region, she lives with her husband who sells fish in the market. They have five children.
In her late 40s, Bhawani is obliged to work equally hard in her own home—she cooks the meals, washes the dishes and does the laundry. Six months ago the family got an addition—a washing machine. It wasn’t new. “I bought it from a kabadi walla for 3,000 rupees,” says husband Ram Kumar. Bhawani faced no difficulty in operating the machine “because I’ve been encountering them daily in my employers’ kothiyan (houses).”
This afternoon at her home in a slum in Sector 15, Bhawani is busy with the family laundry. The washing machine is installed outside the house, beside the main door; the one-room dwelling is already crammed with “too much furniture.”
A lack of running water facility obliges the couple to store water in a bunch of buckets and tubs.
“It takes the same time for me to wash the clothes with the machine as it did with the hands but at least it’s less exerting,” Bhawani admits, and firmly rules out any suggestion that the washing machine might have drastically transformed her life.
“I leave the house for work every morning at 6am to do washing and cleaning in other people’s houses. I return at 1pm and then I have to do the same washing and cleaning in my own house. I leave again at 5pm for the evening assignments and return at 8pm when I have to cook the dinner.”
Taking out clothes from the washing machine’s drier, she says, “No machine can change my life.”
Looking at her affectionately, her husband gives a smile. The smile spreads to Bhawani’s face, too.
[This is the 271st portrait of Mission Delhi project]
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