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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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?