Saturday, July 04, 2009

City Resident – Ms Noor Bano, The Homeless

The Delhi walla's pretension in writing makes me want to lodge a bullet in his balls - Blogger Nimpipi, the woodchuck chucks
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City Resident – Ms Noor Bano, The Homeless

One in 13 million.

[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Being homeless, sleeping on pavements, wearing the same clothes continuously for a month… no one willingly choose to live such a life. But the grey-haired Ms Noor Bano is fine with the deal. “It’s ok,” she said. “I’m used to it.” For more than twenty years, Ms Bano has been sleeping on a divider in Lodhi Road, bang opposite Aap ki Khatir, the popular kebab joint in Nizamuddin Basti.

It was not always like that.

Once Ms Bano was a girl in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh. She had parents, two sisters, a brother. Her home had walls, windows, and a roof. After marrying Mr Alam Akhtar, a rickshaw puller, she moved to Delhi. The new life was good. They had a house in Nizamuddin Basti. There was a bed with pillows, a shared toilet; a corner in the room was converted into a kitchen, complete with a stove and masala boxes. In that house Ms Bano gave birth to two sons. Her younger sister, too, was married in Delhi.

The bad days started with Mr Akhtar’s ‘gas problems’ that led to his death. In no condition to pay the room rent, Ms Bano had to move into the road with her two sons.

Why she did not find work instead? “Son, see that hotel,” Ms Bano pointed towards the luxury resort Aman where a regular room cost $550 a day. “That used to be a park and one day when I was entering it, I was hit by a scooter.” Ms Bano showed me her paralyzed left leg.

Surely she could have found some shelter. After all, her sister lives in Lal Kuan in Old Delhi. “Being the eldest, I can’t go to her place,” Ms Bano said. Does the sister visit her? “No, we haven’t met for a decade," Ms Bano shook her head.

“I never beg,” she suddenly said. “Sometimes people give me money and sometimes my sons find work in a tea stall or some such place.” This way she makes around Rs 50 daily.

As we were talking, the night traffic whooshed past with great speed and noise on both sides of the divider. “I don’t think any bus or car would run into us,” assured Ms Bano on sensing my alarm. “These things never happen.”

What does happen is the occasional drive by cops to clear the divider off beggars. It usually takes place around 2am when Ms Bano, along with other homeless people, would be ordered to leave the road. She would then go to sleep under the Oberoi Hotel flyover. That, by the way, is her second home, more so during the monsoons.

While Ms Bano had a bed sheet rolled out on the divider, she owns just a single set of clothes. “This is all I’ve,” She pointed, without self-pity, on her salwar-suit and dupatta. Each morning she walks into a public toilet to have a shower and to wash her clothes. While waiting for them to dry, she wraps herself in the dupatta. One day the salwaar kameez would turn into shreds. “Someone will then give me another pair,” Ms Bano replied.

Having no friends, Ms Bano passes her day hours sitting listlessly on the roadside. “Don’t you get bored?” I asked. She laughed and said, “Then I start praying.” But that can’t beat loneliness. “Alone I came out of my Amma’s womb,” Ms Bano said, “Alone I’ll leave this world.”

Life is beautiful?

City Resident – Ms Noor Bano, The Homeless

21 comments:

Gora Firanghi said...

In posts like this, stories at once factual, frank, and three-dimensional, you skillfully sew colorful scenarios into panels that you’ve stitch into a quilt in your blog. These human-interest stores of lives lived on the margins are touching because they are unembellished and never sentimentalized. They are plain tales plainly told. You are also skillful embroidering the brightly colored panels of vanishing Delhi-- the street vendors, the unique eateries & businesses that are the lengthened shadows of their owners, whose trades are dying with them in the homogenization of globalization. In your panels and your photos you embody Christopher Isherwood’s idea of the writer: “I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking. Recording the man shaving at the window opposite and the woman in the kimono washing her hair. Some day, all this will have to be developed, carefully printed, fixed.” Seeing the details in your panels and studying the pattern in your quilt are endlessly fascinating. Someday I would like to see them carefully printed and fixed on paper and not just in electrons.

Ro said...

I am touched. The sheer range of ideas covered in this blog is reason enough to keep me coming back. Your take on homosexuality being the highlight for me. :)

dreamer said...

do not know what to say..to say that this is life and move on feels insensitive, to say ohh how pity and move on would again be the same except that its acceptable, to say i care would be lying because most of the time i pass thru these homeless at every red light, i dont even care to notice. Is it cuz im too insensitive and selfish or is it because that is how everything works? is that is the way it is?

dreamer said...

@gora firanghi

you just crossed a homeless.. u dint notice, did u?? wt@$%^^

Anonymous said...

It's written in the Quran that it would be as tough for a rich man to go to the Jannat as it would be for a camel to pass through the hole of the needle ...

you see this injustice!

Spare your visits to cafe turtle my dear !

Rajeev R said...

Even I do write...and that too, since when I was in third standard. Why is that, You always touch my heart, with ur stories, as much as I check it first thing in morning...last thing before I sleep, and still, I am not able to write as u do?

Kudos, Delhi Walla! Kudos, Sufi! Way to go! Ability to move mountains!

Am a regular reader in HT City, of ur articles!

Rajeev R said...

btw....a very happy belated Birthday! Hope u had a blast!!




Raj
http://bharatmelange.blogspot.com
http://routeisbusy.blogspot.com

Ehsan Ali Jahan said...

Ms Bano is a very wise woman. Her reply to your comment on her state of loneliness, that she came alone into this world and alone she will depart, was very powerful indeed and completely unexpected. Your delving into her past life, revealing that Ms Bano was not always living on the streets but had a house, a family, a sister show us how life and the set of circumstances we find ourselves in are precarious.
Reading about her, I feel no pity towards her. All I feel for her is complete admiration in her strength of character and her undiminished belief in Allah and His will. JazakAllah khair Ms Noor Bano.

BRUISED INDIAN said...

I'd like to help the lady monetarily.
Let me know if I can send you the money to give it to her.

dreamer said...

@BRUISED INDIAN

1.wake up.
2.shit
3.drink coffee
4.grab your glares
5.walk out of your home
6.go to the nearestlal batti (traffic signal)
7. You will find Ms. Bano there.

Niya Karma said...

Even though there is so much unjustice in the world, life IS beautiful. Ms Noor Bano is amazing.

P.S. I love how this is written.

Anonymous said...

Sad sad

Dreamer i understand what you are trying to say but bruised Indian has good intentions and let us not discourage a person with noble intentions

peace

Anonymous said...

"There, but for the grace of God, go I."

Good story, Mayank. Heartbreaking, none-the-less...

Peter
(in ny)

Kaushik Chatterji said...

Unfortunately there are too many Noor Banos in the world, all thanks to a faulty social order that has somehow prevailed for centuries.

The Wanderer said...

Great post, Love the personal touch you bring into your writing...I find myself seeing your blog daily....what a style...great going Mayank.

Your fan, VJ.

BRUISED INDIAN said...

@ DREAMER:
Am not based in India! Hows that for a rebuttle to wake you up from your dream world!! Get a life A-hole and dont tell me what to do.
Mayank; my offer still stands. I can Western Union the money to you. Let me know when; and it shall be done.

Steve said...

Dreamer seems to think everyone who reads this blog lives in someplace like Delhi where there are desperately poor everywhere. The Internet does reach places like small towns of a 1000 and not one of them homeless.

This was a fascinating story, and one of my favorites. But it leaves me with too many questions. For example, why did she choose that divider in Lodhi Road and not some other location? Why has she not chosen a roomier spot in all these years? Is she unable? The pecking order amongst the homeless isn't addressed. After living there for 20 years, does she have any friends from the divider?

Steve said...

Dreamer seems to think everyone who reads this blog lives in someplace like Delhi where there are desperately poor everywhere. The Internet does reach places like small towns of a 1000 and not one of them homeless.

This was a fascinating story, and one of my favorites. But it leaves me with too many questions. For example, why did she choose that divider in Lodhi Road and not some other location? Why has she not chosen a roomier spot in all these years? Is she unable? The pecking order amongst the homeless isn't addressed. After living there for 20 years, does she have any friends from the divider?

spanditnyc said...

Given your interest with Arundhati Roy and also documenting voices from the margins of society, I recommend you read Roy's new article entitled, "Is there life after democracy?"

http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/world/06-is-there-life-after-democracy-rs-07

Best Wishes,

Sujay
New York City

P.S. I also recommend you listen to some early music by Ani DiFranco. :)

dreamer said...

@ bruised indian!!
how am i supposed to know that you are not in INDIA??
if u r an indian then Ms Bano cant be a surprise to you.. There are umpteen NGOs working for this cause.. have u ever tried helping that way you bastard??Il be more than happy to see you help but watch out your tongue man!!

dreamer said...

heyy.. not fair mayank.. u blocked my comment.. atleast shudv given me a chance to reply.. !! ok remove the bastard from my comment.. :-D