Mr Lal last saw his family during the Dussehra. His wife and children have never visited him in Delhi.
Mr Lal last saw his family during the Dussehra. His wife and children have never visited him in Delhi.

Delhiwale: An evening in Babu Lal’s village

Babu shares his impressions about what his family must be doing back home
By Mayank Austen Soofi, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 20, 2021 03:33 AM IST

It’s freezing at the moment, around 8.30pm. “You should see the roads at midnight, when it’s totally foggy,” mutters auto rickshaw driver Babu Lal, on his way to drop a passenger in Connaught Place. He says he will stay on the road for a few more hours before going back to his rented quarter in Mahipalpur.

Responding to a request, Mr Lal, who is in his 40s, agrees to share his impressions about what his family must be doing back home, in his village in Bihar.

“Shrimati Sheetal Devi must be having her dinner. She is my wife. In the village, the day ends earlier than in the city—and the night comes earlier too. She starts cooking the meal by 6, with the help of Babita, her younger sister. Babita’s husband passed away two months after her wedding so my wife called her to our home. This way she gets to be with her sister, and Babita also finds a distraction from her loss. About an hour later, at 7pm, both sisters serve food to Amma, my mother. These days it’s very cold and she stays in her room—we have two rooms, our house is of bricks. After Amma is finished with her dinner, Shrimati Sheetal Devi serves food to Siddhartha and Gautam, my two sons. Siddhartha is 14 and Gautam is 10. The kids eat in the other room, where there is TV. And only then do Shrimati Sheetal Devi and Babita sit down in the kitchen for dinner. Earlier we had no kitchen in our home. The food was cooked outside, in a yard. My father was a farmer. I made a good decision to come to Delhi some 20 years ago. I earned enough to convert our kutcha house into a pucca makaan, and later we also built the kitchen. Some years ago, during my annual trip home, I bought a washing machine and now Shrimati Sheetal Devi doesn’t have to wash clothes by hands. Our whole family is asleep by 10pm. If you happened to be in my village right now, you would feel the darkness and silence so complete that you can never experience the same in Delhi.”

Mr Lal last saw his family during the Dussehra. His wife and children have never visited him in Delhi. “The travel would be too expensive. Besides, I share my room with another driver,” he says, as the auto nears its destination.

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