Clad in a crisp black salwar kameez, MCD councillor Uma Sharma is surrounded by local women as soon as she walks in to Jamun Wali Gali in Kashmere Gate. Loud chatter, mostly about sick children and the lack of water, follows. Amid the sea of complaints, a soft voice gently says, "You should have worn a saree."
In a half apologetic tone, Sharma smiles and says, "I came here in a hurry, so did not have time to wear one." And then she gets down to business. "Now forget about the saree and tell me, how many of you have voter ids?"
Sharma, 29, is one of the 17 MCD councillors, who were in their 20s when they were elected to the biggest civic body in the country.
Between running around with files and updating their knowledge on politics, the biggest challenge for this young bunch has been finding a balance between being a modern educated man/woman and addressing a range of demands.
From requests to wear sarees to being asked to touch the feet of elders and battling to take out time for friends, it has been a constant struggle to keep tempers in control.
For MBA graduate Gaurav Khari, who is a councillor from Jharoda near North Campus, it is still bewildering when old people expect him to 'show respect' by bowing low.
"There is a lot of pressure from all sides. I got married recently and struggle to spend time with my wife. At the same time, locals also want lots of my time. It is difficult to strike a balance," he says.
This, however, seems to be much better than what these young councillors faced at the beginning of their careers. For several months, most of them could not utter a word at meetings, due to lack of confidence. Now, after interacting with senior leaders, they claim to have learned the trade.
As the election draws nearer, they are hopeful to get tickets. Some of their wards have changed due to reservation, but they hope to get tickets from elsewhere and are therefore still very active in public interactions.
But do they miss being a regular 20-something who watches hangs out with friends and spends most of his waking hours on Facebook?
Khurram Iqbal, now 31, says it's all about time management. "You have to squeeze in a lot of activities in a day," he said. He has an active Facebook account and likes watching movies.
"I organise wrestling, body building tournaments and school annual days so it is not always about being immersed in files," added Khurram, as he vanished in Jama Masjid's Phalwali Gali, where another evening of meeting people and asking for votes awaits him.