Mission Delhi – Manju, Outside Kasturba Hospital
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The baby’s tiny bed is a pink polka-dotted mattress, with prints of teddy bears floating inside white clouds. The baby is wearing a mustard green jacket, and is wrapped in a pink blanket. The only visible parts are his sleeping face, and a bit of his left arm. His small fist is lying beside his peaceful face. One wonders what dreams must be unspooling behind these closed eyes.
This smoggy afternoon, the baby is lying on the footpath, protected from dust, flies and dengue mosquitoes by a light pink mosquito net.
“His name is Aman,” says the woman sitting beside the child. She is his mother. “He is two months old… I gave him birth over there,” she says, waving her arm towards the grey wall behind, that is currently also her back-rest. This is the boundary of Kasturba hospital. The child is Manju’s first born, she says. She lives right here on the footpath. “Sometimes I work and sometimes I don’t work.” She explains that she occasionally collects scrap from the streets and sells it to scrap dealers. Her husband, Raju, brings home a more steady income; he is a rickshaw puller. “Right now he is at work… he got this jaali from Sadar Bazar,” she says, gesturing towards the baby’s mosquito net.
When the weather is hostile, like during the recent rains, Manju takes the baby into a tin shed inside the hospital premises. A parking attendant near the Jama Masjid metro station, she says, sometimes helps in getting necessary things for the child, like the mattress, towels and bedsheets. “Otherwise, these are our only things,” she says, showing a pile of stuff lying on one side. It consists of two bags, one plastic can, one paraat, one thermos, one large plastic mug, and an empty mineral water bottle.
Glancing at the baby, Manju agrees that every parent has dreams for their child. After a long thoughtful pause, she says, “I’ll like my baby to get a good education, so that he can get a good job.” She gazes upon the boy for a few minutes, looking at him with her arms propped up on her right knee. She now turns the gaze towards the road. The baby continues to sleep.
[This is the 514th portrait of Mission Delhi project]