Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mission Delhi – Deen Dayal, Safdarjung Enclave

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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Mission Delhi – Deen Dayal, Safdarjung Enclave

One of the one per cent in 13 million.

[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

He looks up as a firecracker whooshes up into the night sky and burst into thousands of twinkling stars. “A wedding banquet,” Deen Dayal points to the other side of Harsukh Marg, a road in Safdarjung Enclave, an upper-crust residential locality in south Delhi. The open ground, decked up in a striped tent, is lit with electric lamps. Dressed in shimmy sarees, happy-looking women are getting off their chauffeur-driven cars and disappearing into the entrance. “After the dinner is over, I will go inside to make a collection,” he says to The Delhi Walla.

Shielded from the cold by a grey pullover and a cream-colored muffler, Mr Dayal, 40, is the neighbourhood's garbage collector. Fearing delay, he had called his wife on the cell phone to not to wait for him for dinner. “I will cook here on the pavement and not bother her when I reach home.”

Setting fire to a few twigs, Mr Dayal places a frying pan on the makeshift stove. He takes out a cabbage from a polythene bag and starts peeling it. Two trolleys are parked on the pavement. Filled up with rotting food, vegetable peels, eggshells, empty beer bottles, cardboard pieces, plastic boxes and used sanitary napkins, they are giving off a pungent smell. “A MCD (Municipal Council of Delhi) truck will come to empty my trolleys.”

Mr Dayal arrived in Delhi eight years ago. He started by collecting garbage from individual households but now picks up only from street dustbins. Employed on a contract basis with a private firm that works closely with the city’s municipal services, Mr Dayal earns Rs 3,000 monthly.

“My wife gets enough vegetables to cook, my children goes to the school,” he says.

Every morning at 7 am Mr Dayal leaves his two-room house in Jaitpur, in south Delhi, and takes the 544 blueline for Safdarjung Enclave. There he moves around in a pedaled wooden cart to gather the waste from different collection points. The day ends at 9 pm, unless he gets late, like tonight.

Till a decade ago, Mr Dayal grew dhaan and urad daal on his farmland in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh. “Money came only once in six months after the crops were ready to be harvested,” he says. “Even that was uncertain for in some years the monsoon failed.”

Picking the city’s refuse was a better option than to plough one’s own land. “At least, I get money each month,” says Mr Dayal. He has not severed ties with the village. While the land has been rented out to other farmers, he regularly attends weddings and funerals. “Village life is different,” he says. “In Delhi, when you buy brinjals, you have no clue about their freshness. But in the village, you pluck them off from branches and immediately chop them into a subzi. Even the peas there taste different.” But Mr Dayal have no regrets. “The city’s regular income guarantees my children’s education.”

The garbage collector has six children: Sourabh, Radha, Roshni, Sachin, Shivam and Sonam.

“I don’t know what will be their fate. My father could never have guessed that I would collect rubbish,” he says. “Unlike me, my children must never have to depend on others to read letters. Who knows, if they really study hard, they may get office jobs.”

What if they become garbage collectors?

“No, I don’t want them to take up my trade.”

Is it bad?

“No, it gives me money. But I don’t want my children to end up like me.”

[This is the 11th portrait of the Mission Delhi project]

An honest living

Mission Delhi – Deen Dayal, Safdarjung Enclave

For children's education

Mission Delhi – Deen Dayal, Safdarjung Enclave

Money is not bad

Mission Delhi – Deen Dayal, Safdarjung Enclave

The trolley is full

Mission Delhi – Deen Dayal, Safdarjung Enclave

Good luck, Mr Dayal

Mission Delhi – Deen Dayal, Safdarjung Enclave


Saifullah Badar said...

Good to see that there are some people like you who bring the hues of life of such people to the internet junta... there are NGOs, there are social workers but these only see the poors as masses. We need more MASs to portray the emotions, aspirations and struggle of our not so well off brethren! Kudos.

ps: I am not being toady!

Anonymous said...

sad, but a very nice story,
~ the window siller

zeevie said...

waaaaaaaaalaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh.u r unique MAN.dil hila deta hai kabhi kabhi.superb>GOD BLESS U

Vishal said...


My interpretation

There is humility yet respectable honesty in Deen Dayal's eyes......

He might not even know what V-day means but he epitomises the spirit of V-day when he says I will cook on the road side and wont bother my wife late in the night.

Despite being illeterate he is crystal clear as to what he wants (work in the city for the betterment of kids) and does not want from life and for his kids, doesnt want kids to do same work.

He works hard 7am till 9pm, we complain about 40 hours a week workload.

Though he may live on a meagre income in an expensive city , he maintains his connections with his roots, villege and kin folks, keeping him grounded, giving him identity rather than loosing oneself in the crowd of 13million people.

He maximises time by utilising waiting-time to cook for himself.

There is a fineline between self confidence and arrogance. He does not come acorss someone who will beg you cuz he stands tall with pride yet no ego as he oozes humilty.

He puts us to shame. Gandhi &Mandela are too higher, hence unreletable. Heros are all around, if only we look around. Deen Dayal could be a guy we may not notice while we walk around, we take his work for granted. He is inspirational, fighting his odds with clarity and sense of purpose, yet content and happy.

Think of dignity of labour and honest work.

Next time when we come across someone like him, do not sneer, do not ignore, speak nicely to Rickshawwala, treat your domestic helper (they are not servants) nicely, carry your own plates to the kitchen, get your own water, treat the road cleaner nicely, thank or smile at them, ruffle the hair of lil boy or girl who brings chai for you at Dhaba (better still report Dhabawala to authorities for violation of child labour and notify relevant NGO). Our beloved ex-President Dr Abdul kalam said "Dream, dream, dream, because dreams lead to thoughts, thoughts lead to action". Please act.

Its is heart wrecking that we have such talent, given the right socio-economical opportunity in terms education, guidance his life coupled with his honesty and talent, Deen Dayal could have had a different life. Look at your boss or your father's boos or your CEO, Deen Dayal could have been him or her (gender equality). We are not necessarily better skilled than him, we simply had better opportunities.

Look around within your workplace or family, nurture people junior than you and give them opportunities so that they can realise their full potential, this will bring out leadership qualities in you while giving you immense satisfaction of making a difference in small way.

Thanks to MAS for highlighting to out desensitised souls with such heart stirring stories.

Thanks to Deen Dayal for inadvertantly being setting an example for us to follow (Priority for loved one, clarity of goal and sense of purpose, maintain relations and not be selfish in rat race, selfconfidence with humilty yet content with no bitterness.

Thanks to all those who read thus far cuz this rather lenghty.

Even bigger thanks to those who will act on some of it :)

Best luck and god bless. Taatha Aastu

Cheers mates!

PS: Reader is an ordinary geek with no experience in NGOs, little experience in volenter work and journalism, hence not qualified to write the above so take it with the pinch of salt. Currently based out of Singapore, employed as Regional Director for Asia for IT MNC and pursuing Doctor of Business Admin in Cross-Cultural Leadership Effectiveness from Univ of South Australia.

Vishal said...

@ MAS: Loved your multi-layered narration, your stories are like Payaz (layers of onion).

1. Introducing us to garbage, we too can smell the pungentness and yukky senitary napkins, rotting organic stuff. An ordinary jornalist would have missed the description of garbage (equaly important to enagage and make reader feel we are there and can smell it too)............

2. Drawing us into his family life, intorudcing us to his wife and kids in a subtle indirect manner.

3. TO his daily routine.....

4. To his thoughts, who he is

5. You always amaze us by finding stories that we could not even think of yet you enage and satisfy reader,

Even then you leave us wondering, wanting for more, making us think, your story stays with the reader a long after we have finshed reading e.g. what did he cook, where did he do washing, did he wash his it really possible that he can manage a family in Delhi with just Rs3000 per month?

Rishi Kant Pathak said...

i'm daily reader of this blog,mayank you have changed my vision towards life.Last many days i'm thinking to write a true story,but i could not write,i found you-who has given me perception and way to write.
Thanks Mayank.

Guru said...

One of the best blogs I have read ever ! ..keep up the good work man!