City Region – Slum and ‘Society’, Sector 15, Gurgaon
Our disparate lives.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The neighbours are loitering outside their homes, making small talk about the cold weather. Soon enough, the conversation veers towards a “multi-storey society”, or as they would like to call it “society”, coming up behind their houses. It’s not really very high, but looms large because the rest of the houses seem so small here in Gurgaon’s Sector 15 in the Greater Delhi Region. These are single-room dwellings, many of them with tarpaulin sheets as their walls.
“Everyone here is either a labourer or a servant,” says Savita Rajat who works as a cleaner in “kothis”. Her husband is an auto-rickshaw driver.
The other gentleman, Muhammed Irfan, is a knife seller. He lives in a one-room house with his mother, wife and four children. Looking up at the “society”, he remarks that “just last year there was nothing at that spot!”
Ms Rajat informs that all the flats in the “society” have already been sold though nobody has moved in yet.
It is impossible for her as well as Mr Irfan to even dream of living in a “society” like that, they both confess. “Flats come for lakhs and crores of rupees,” Ms Rajat laughs. “Nobody in our lane manages to earn more than 300 rupees daily,” says Mr Irfan.
Pointing at her young daughter among a crowd of children playing in the muddy ground nearby, Ms Rajat wistfully says that the children here have never seen the inside of the so-called society flats. “Memsahibs (owners) in the kothis don’t like us bringing our children,” she shrugs.
The elderly Rashida Begum, another resident here who too used to work as a cleaner, talks of how her employers would not let her bring her slippers inside their homes.
Whatever, they all say that every child here goes to school. “Although currently they are enjoying their winter vacation,” Mr Irfan informs.
While accepting that “our life would not improve”, the parents in this neighbourly gathering feel that their children’s future could be different from theirs. “We are giving them school education… they might be able to live in a society like that,” says Mr Irfan in a confident tone.
Ms Rajat nods. And then they all turn to look at the new society.
Dreaming under the ‘society’