Mission Delhi – Cheeku & Peeku, Deer Park
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It’s very tough to make out who is who. Cheeku and Peeku are twins. Barely a month old. They don’t speak much. They stay together. And they seem to have recovered from the great loss they suffered a bit too soon in their life.
“Their mother died a few days after their birth,” says Ratan Kumar. It is evening and he has brought Cheeku and Peeku for their regular evening outing in south Delhi’s Deer Park. They live in nearby Jia Sarai village. Mr Kumar quietly watches as Cheeku and Peeku hover around his feet. It is a humid evening but the siblings are looking like fresh balls of snow.
Cheeku and Peeku are rabbits. “I bought their mother from Adchini for 650 rupees,” says Mr Kumar, looking at the twins as they fiddle about the greens, just outside their empty steel cage. “We don’t keep them inside the cage at home… it’s used just a carriage to bring them to the park.”
Mr Kumar, a security guard in a monument, was never really fond of the idea of keeping pets, but he bought the twins’ mother after being persuaded by his four kids. He says that Cheeku gets his name from his mother. “She was originally named Cheeku by my daughter Komal.”
There is no knowing how deeply the twins felt the death of their mother, confesses Mr Kumar. “But for a week or so they barely moved about the house, they would keep lying on the floor together, their heads slumped one upon the other. Many times we had to force them to eat.”
Now Mr Kumar silently spreads out his arm and, as if on cue, both rabbits raise themselves on each of his palms. Lifting the twins closer to his face, Mr Kumar says in a flat tone that “by now they have forgotten their mummy.”
He turns to look at the woody expanse beyond the park’s boundary, and gesturing vaguely towards that direction, he says, “I buried the mother there… my son Ankuj was with me.”
Absentmindedly dropping the rabbits on the cushiony grass, he nods towards Peeku and says, “This one is very sharp, very clever and far more active… Cheeku is dull, peeche reh gaya (he’s left behind).”
If the twins have overheard these words from their human father, they show no reaction.
“Everyone in my family loves them both equally… we feed them with roti-subzi and fruits, and all the other things we ourselves eat daily.”
Meanwhile, it is getting dark. A few evening walkers are going past the twins but they don’t show any excitement on spotting the rabbits—perhaps they are used to seeing them here around this time. A black dog is lying nearby, looking bored.
Soon it starts to drizzle. A rainbow forms up in the far corner. Mr Kumar gently nudges Cheeku and Peeku to go inside the cage as he prepares to walk home.
[This is the 360th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
So, who is who