Mission Delhi – Beena-Ji, Outside RK Ashram Metro Station
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
When a loved one dies, does the grief solidifies and becomes a permanent appendage to one’s daily existence? Or does it slowly dims with time? Beena-ji have been living through these thoughts for long. In fact, she has been living with them since the time her only son passed away 13 years ago. “Jawan ladka gujar gaya,” she mutters, emphasising on her boy’s youth “when he had a whole life ahead of him.”
This afternoon, Beena-ji is sitting at her usual spot, attending to her roadside establishment, just outside RK Ashram metro station. Her kiosk is stocked with cigarette packets and sachets of mouth fresheners. Most of her clients happen to be the area’s rickshaw pullers and auto drivers. “Until three years ago I used to sit wahan,” she says, gesturing towards a shabby market complex across the road. But there she was exasperated by too many people buying from her on credit.
“I have now stopped giving udhari.”
Beena-ji’s husband died two years before her son’s passing. “They both died of illnesses.” She gazes at the cars and autos rattling away on the road. “I cry and sob, I beat my chest… but they will never return… ultimately you have to live, and if you have to live, you have to earn, and if you have to earn, you have to work.”
A rickshaw puller arrives to get a sachet of Naveen kuccha tambakoo.
A grief perhaps becomes more bearable when it is shared. Beena-ji doesn’t say this in as many words but this is what she hints at as she describes her domestic arrangement. “I live with my daughter. Sonia’s husband died some years back. Together we adjust.” The daughter has two children—the boy is 19, and works as a labourer. “Otherwise it would have been difficult to run the house from just my stall… I manage to earn only 100-150 rupees daily.”
Every morning Beena-ji walks from her home in nearby Motia Khan, carrying the lunch prepared by her daughter. She opens her stall by 10. She returns home at 7 in the evening. “My son’s name was Vinay… his photo is hung on the wall of our house… once every month I fast for him,” she says. Acceding to a request, she prepares herself to be snapped. Amused by the mobile phone camera, her face melts into a smile.
[This is the 512th portrait of Mission Delhi project]