Mission Delhi – Rukhsana, Central Delhi
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The road is teeming with afternoon traffic. The pavement, here in central Delhi, has a small plastic mat sprawled along it. A child is sitting cross-legged there, barefoot, with a pink bag, his tiny green chappal lying nearby. He is writing numbers (“1, 2, 3…”) on the copy lying open on his lap, in a slow steady fashion.
The child’s “mummy” is standing beside him, manning a cold drink cart. “Farhan is my younger son,” says vendor Rukhsana. Gesturing towards another boy sitting atop a tall metallic stool, she says that “Anab is my older son.” Her third and eldest child, daughter Khatija, is away for “tuition.” Running her fingers through son Anab’s hair, Rukhsana expresses her disappointment of not being able to help the children with their studies. “I can hardly read,” she confesses, absentmindedly staring at her younger son’s maths copy. Her husband, Zunaid Alam, also is unable to read much, she says. He has walked away briefly to their home, nearby, where he must be having the lunch Rukhsana prepared in the morning.
Rukhsana is grateful that the sarkari school demands no fees, and that they provide extra tuition classes at no cost.
In her late 20s, the working mother describes her days as supremely hectic. “I have to run this cart with my husband, and I have to look after the children too — their school, their clothes…” She says that her husband has an equal share in performing the chores.
Briefly distracted by a group of women purchasing cold Maaza bottles from her, Rukhsana expresses gratitude for having a family. Earlier, she had nobody with her, she says. “My mother died when I was a child, and my father followed her soon after… I was alone.” Years later, one of her relatives, her phoofa, helped arrange her marriage.
Today, all she desires is to help her children get educated, “so that their lives will be much better than that of their mummy papa.”
Soon, Rukhsana’s husband will join her. They will keep the cart running until 6 in the evening, and then they will return home.
[This is the 495th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
The family of a woman