Mission Delhi – Ganju, GB Road
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
He continues to look carefree. As if the world was still the same. To be fair, his life hasn’t been altered at all by the coronavirus pandemic. He never stepped out of the house in the BC (Before Corona) era. He still doesn’t step out. He keeps to his uneventful life, his hours punctuated with sessions of predictable restlessness and lethargy.
Ganju is a brown goat. He lives in Delhi’s most central red light area, in GB Road. This afternoon he is standing on the second floor balcony of his house, absentmindedly looking down towards the road. The stretch is empty. No soul to be seen. Until a few weeks ago the road would be teeming with a traffic of reri wallas transporting all sorts of goods on their hand-pulled wooden carts between Ajmeri Gare and Mori Gate. There would also be pimps, and scores of men pacing silently about the pavement, trying to make an eye contact with the sex workers standing in the corridor downstairs or in the little balconies above. The exact same kind of balcony on which Ganju is standing right now. He spends most of the day in this cramped outdoorsy space in fact.
It must be said that Ganju cannot be seen from the road. Indeed, the goat is very short and the balcony’s railing is topped with potted plants lovingly nurtured by the humans living in this particular establishment. They include the kotha owner and his family, comprising four children, and a few single women who live in this shared space, giving a part of their earning to the owner as rent.
“We named him Ganju because he is bald… he has no seeng (horns),” explains one of the children, chatting on WhatsApp video. He has come out into the balcony to facilitate an interaction with the goat; the photos are taken through the phone screen that connects the boy to The Delhi Walla.
Ganju is about two years old and was purchased that many years ago from outside Jama Masjid, for six thousand rupees—-the great Mughal-era mosque in Old Delhi is just a short picturesque walk away from GB Road.
Ganju is loved by all the residents of the kotha, including the customers who regularly come to visit the women here and have become familiar with the establishment. “Ganju understands Hindi very well and his ears shoot up every time we say something to him,” says the young boy. “But he doesn’t follow English even a little!”
Sometimes Ganju has a sadistic urge to annoy, and starts chewing the leaves off the potted plants. “When it happens my mother scolds him, slaps him on the head, which upsets him. Then he doesn’t eat anything for the whole day,” the boy informs.
Although Ganju eats almost everything that is consumed by the rest of the Kotha dwellers, his primary diet comprises of Gular leaves “which my older brother buy every other day from a stall nearby or pluck them from a gular tree near Ajmeri Gate.”
Meanwhile the women in the red light area are being greatly affected by the pandemic, the boy’s father, the kotha owner, says. Most women depended on their daily earnings for day-to-day living. That income has stopped for the moment. Some relief is provided by a few NGOs that frequent the area to distribute necessary rations to the red light residents, including packets of cooked food. “But these organisations tend to give parcels only to the women who come outside in the corridor,” the kotha owner says, emphasising that “many women are too shy to come out of their kothas upstairs, and they miss receiving the food.”
By now, Ganju seems bored of the balcony. He enters the verandah and sits quietly beside a woman perched on a bench. The boy follows him with his phone camera. Some minutes later Ganju hops out back into the balcony. Looking refreshed, he jumps up to look out onto the road. It is without life.
[This is the 295th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
A life in the red light