Mission Delhi – Karua, Meethapur
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
There’s a saying in Hindi—baal ki khaal ukharna, to peel off the skin of the hair.
That’s what this grey-haired man is upto, on a pavement here in central Delhi. Except he is deftly slicing off slim wooden stripes that are already as slim as a hair. Each time a curious passerby looks on, he throws a friendly smile but stays absorbed in his work.
“I’m preparing a jharoo,” he says, not lifting off his eyes. He describes himself through a gesture, momentarily lifting his arm towards a small board fitted to an adjacent pole—it says “Dada”, and gives his mobile number. “That’s me… everyone knows me by this name, my grandchildren gave me this name… but my real name is Karua.”
In his 60s, Dada has retired from his day job in 2017 — “but I feel restless at home.” So, every morning he leaves his house in Meethapur, boards a DTC bus, and stations himself for a few hours on this spot, where he makes jharoo.— “unless a neighbourhood resident calls me on my mobile for a service, such as a drain cleaning.” Dada will tie up these “seek” together into a single broom, he says.
For all these years, he worked as an employee in the municipality, and his job included sweeping of the streets every morning in this very locality. “My father, who was from Tundla, was also an employee in the municipality.” His wife is employed in the same organisation, he says. She still has few years to go before she retires. Two of their three sons have landed in the same organisation as well. His third son works in a shop, and his only daughter lives with her husband elsewhere.
“I’m still young… I have years of work ahead.” Turning the conversation to the jharoo’s stripes, he observes that “it is good if each seek is thin and sharp… Because the jharoo then is able to scrape things off the road easily, and it (broom) feels lighter in the hand.” In fact, he says, he often makes new replacements for his wife and two sons. He runs his hand across his hair, remarking that “broom is similar to comb, in the way that they need sharp teeth to run effortlessly.”
It’s around 10. By afternoon he will be back home and served a hot meal by his daughters-in-law. “After which I will sleep and relax for the rest of the day,” he says, laughing, “like a retired man.”
[This is the 491st portrait of Mission Delhi project]