Sunday, May 09, 2010

Mission Delhi – Sunita Pandit, Palika Bazaar Park

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 – Sunita Pandit

One of the one per cent in 13 million.

[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Intently looking around, her eyes focus in on the the corner bench. A joda (couple) is sitting there. Sunita Pandit, 56, walks up to them. The Delhi Walla follows her. It is evening and we are at the park above Palika Bazaar parking in Connaught Place. The summer sun has just gone down and the park is beginning to attract people eager to take in the evening’s cool air. There are families, groups of friends, and couples. Since there are only a few benches, most sit on the grass. A little later the place will be swarming with homosexuals; the park is a popular cruising zone.

Reaching the bench, Ms Pandit claps to get the attention and stretches out her right palm towards the embarrassed couple. “May God keep your companionship intact,” she says. “May you both always be happy.” The boy withdraws his arm from the girl’s shoulder, takes out Rs 20 from his shirt pocket and gives it to Ms Pandit.

She then walks to a group of three people – two boys and a girl. They are sitting on the grass. “Please give something. God will keep you blessed.” The girl reminds Ms. Pandit that she had given her money only two days ago. “Oh, I think I must’ve forgotten.” Smiling and shaking her head, Ms Pandit walks away.

I catch up with Ms Pandit as she takes a short break from the dhanda (profession) to rest against an iron railing. There are holes in her pale green kurta. She is staring blankly at the Regal Theater, a colonial-era cinema complex that can be seen on the right side of the park. The golden light of the twilight hour has brought her day-old stubble into sharp focus. The hairs on her arms are more conspicuous than her large ear danglers. Her lipstick is red and the eye lids are brushed purple. There's a large red bindi on her forehead.

“I realized I was a hinjra when I was five.” Hinjras, or eunuchs, are one of India’s most mysterious people; they earn money by flaunting their ambiguous sexuality but remain secretive about their personal lives. They live in groups, under the guardianship of a guru. Every group has its own ‘neighbourhood’. At every birth or wedding in the area, the hinjras go to the household, sing, dance, and demand money. They are rarely sent back empty-handed since it is not considered a good omen to receive the ill-wishes of a hinjra.

However, Ms. Pandit operates alone. She has no guru and belongs to no group. She lives in a one-room house in Paharganj, a residential area that is walking distance from Connaught Place. “The rent is Rs 1,800.” Ms Pandit wakes up daily at 5 am, goes out to a tea-stall to have chai, returns home, showers, and does the morning prayers. By 7 am, she is in Connaught Place.

For someone who earns by blessing romantic couples, Ms Pandit herself doesn’t believe in love. “I never feel lonely. I never felt the need for a lover. Then you will have to work extra to feed him too.”

Just then two beggar children come close to us. Ms Pandit asks them to leave. They refuse. She suddenly picks up a stone and throws at them. The children start abusing her. She responds back. “Choot. Maa ka bhosra. Teri maa chudh jaye.”

Ms Pandit’s family home is in a village near Allahabad, in eastern Uttar Pradesh. “I have parents, brothers, sisters-in-law and nephews at home. They all give me izzat (respect) though I was born a eunuch.”

Then why do you beg? Why don’t you go back to your family?

“As long as I can earn, I’ll stay on in this city.”

Next week Ms Pandit will be taking the train to Allahabad. She will be gone for a week. “My nephew is getting married.”

After a few minutes of silence, Ms Pandit gets up from the iron railing and starts looking for more couples. She spots one at the far end of the park. Before going she turns to me and says, “May God give you his barkat (blessing).”

[This is the 21st portrait of the Mission Delhi project]

Looking for the 'couple'

Mission Delhi – Sunita Pandit

May God bless you all

Mission Delhi – Sunita Pandit

Taking a break

Mission Delhi – Sunita Pandit

May you all be happy

Mission Delhi – Sunita Pandit

Over to the other side

Mission Delhi – Sunita Pandit

I'm loved; I'm not lonely

Mission Delhi – Sunita Pandit


shilpi said...

The whole concept of 'Mission Delhi'seems so fresh and intriguing. Kudos to you Mayank for coming up with such an extraordinary idea. All the very best for your mission!!

zeevie said...

no words are enough to praise U.

A.A. Hasan, KSA said...

Mayank !!!
I read each and every word by you in "The Delhi Walla" blog. I can feel myself like I am in Delhi, even being apart. Your articles consist a variety of topics from revealing the forbidden history of the city to portraying a local fellow.
In this article, You wrote even local hindi slangs to give us the real feeling of the situation at that time. But I dont think that those words will leave good impression on your readers. I beleive that you could explain the situation without using those original words.
So, I will not greet you , as I did in all my previous comments. "Keep it up, Mayank"

Anonymous said...

Whyyyyy :-(

Nayantara said...

standard issue life stories..this concept aptly is the backbone of your writing it is you have stretched it by far too long, let it not become your life support system..
loyal followers, can't think of enough words befitting praise for you, i'd advise a thesaurus..

Anonymous said... keep track of visitors, interesting blog which has so soon achieved religious followers

Vishal said...

Mate, what happened to responsible journalism.

This post includes expletives but no warning that it contains mature content and must be read by only those at least 18 yrs or older.

Stories on shunned or taboos e.g. eunuches and curse words may pique readers interest, this irresponsible writing may get you literary pervert readership, please be a responsible online citizen.

MAS, mate I am disappointed only for this reason, I expected better from you. Apart from that, I applaud the article, as you know I am a regular follower and a fan.

Ishan said...


Profanity is acceptable if it isn't used in a crude fashion. He didn't use "F-this n F-that" language in his article. He was depicting the life of a hijra in India who speaks hindi n use hindi cuss words when provoked. So readers are responsible enough to understand that and enjoy that in it's real context.

Aloorat said...

"ambiguous sexuality"? - why don't we call them the "third sex" or he-she", or whatever the insensitive phrase of the day is?. They are trans-sexuals or trans gender. Since they cannot afford/get a sex-change operation in India, they are left to ridicule and derision - aakhir woh bhi insaan hain, as you've so aptly described.