Home Sweet Home – Abida’s Dwelling, Under Oberoi Hotel Flyover
A woman’s house.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The evening is mildly cold. Abida and Raja are at home, sitting by the fireside. Raja has their month-old son, Piraili, on his lap. Wrapped in layers of woollens, the baby is asleep. “He was born here – at home, not in the hospital,” Raja says. Abida nods.
The couple live in central Delhi, under the Oberoi Hotel flyover. Their house comprises a small white tent, with a roof so low it is impossible to stand up straight. “That’s why we sit outside when awake,” explains Raja.
The rush hour shows no sign of slowing down. The beam of the headlights from passing cars are occasionally falling on their faces. The vicinity is home to about a dozen families, all with similar living arrangements. Most of the people are sitting outdoors at this time. Some are having their dinner. A neighbour’s radio is playing a Kishore Kumar love song.
Abida and Raja are in their 30s. Piraili is their fourth child. Sonia, Roshni and Aamir are playing somewhere nearby with the area’s other children. Raja says he is a beldar, a labourer. Abida describes herself as a homemaker — “I take care of our home.” Raja is from Lucknow (like many Lucknowites, he pronounces it as Nucklow). Abida is from Bulandshahr. Living in Delhi for “many years”, they have dreams for the children. “We want to educate them,” says the father. “We will soon get our eldest admitted to school.” Abida gazes upon her husband with a combination of pride and anxiety, like a parent watching her child deliver a speech from the public stage. Some moments later, she lifts her head towards the flyover.
Once Raja had dreams for himself, too. “I wanted to be a doctor or an engineer.” Abida says she has realised her dreams. “I wanted to have my own home. I have a home. I wanted to be a mother. I have children.”
The couple continue sitting. They will enter their house only at 10pm, when they usually lie down to sleep with their children.