City Life – Migrants Going Home, Gurgaon Railway Station
Big city disappointment.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Blue denim jeans, small enough to be of a child. A pair of white pajamas. A red lehenga with golden border. A blue sari with white polka dots. These are jlsome of the many clothes drying on a bench. A very ordinary scene, you would say. It wouldn’t look out of a place in a private courtyard. But this is platform 2 of Gurgaon railway station in the Greater Delhi Region. And the clothes belong to a group of migrants, about a dozen people from the village of Risor, in Maharashtra.
“We arrived a week ago, but we are leaving tomorrow,” says middle-aged Burund, the “mukhiya”, chief, of the group. Comprised of three families, including women and children, the group is camping at the far end of the platform.
It’s late afternoon and a few of the children are asleep on the floor. Some time back the families finished their lunch, cooked by the women discreetly on one side of the platform. The metal dishes have been washed and are neatly stacked around a lamp post. The women also washed the laundry today— in the station’s public toilet. They spread out the clothes to dry on the platform’s benches.
The mukhiya says that the group had originally planned to spend a month in the city as construction labourers. “Some people from our district are already here… they had asked us to make this trip.” But those acquaintances were no longer to be found at the given address, the mukhiya says. “They must have moved to some other place… we tried finding them but couldn’t. Their mobiles aren’t working either.”
By now these men and women have exhausted almost all the money.
Gurgaon is not for us, one of the women says. Others nod. Feeling suspicious about a city they barely know, the group is reluctant to pose for the camera but allows its possessions to be photographed, including the improvised washing line on the station’s platform. A green Saru is drying on another bench.
The group’s plan is to quit the city the next morning. They will board a train to Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station in Delhi from where, the mukhiya says, “we will catch Mangala Express and get off a day later at Bhusawal.” Then, they will catch a train to Akola, and from there a bus back to the village.
The departure terminal