Delhiwale: Home is where the bed is

  • Entering into a tea seller’s home across the road from Aurobindo Market
Mukhiya, 33, has been running the stall on this spot, across the road from Aurobindo Market, for 20 years.(Mayank Austen Soofi)
Mukhiya, 33, has been running the stall on this spot, across the road from Aurobindo Market, for 20 years.(Mayank Austen Soofi)
Published on Jun 02, 2021 04:30 AM IST
Copy Link
ByMayank Austen Soofi, New Delhi

Here’s the bed on the pavement, under the neem tree. The bed consists of a board of plywood placed upon a support of bricks. It has a mattress, a bed sheet, a folded chaadar (bedsheet), and a pillow with rose prints on it. A green comb is placed on the pillow. A mosquito net hangs from a bamboo scaffolding above.

“This is my home,” says Jainath Mukhiya.

This is also his chai stall. Mr Mukhiya, 33, has been running the stall on this spot, across the road from Aurobindo Market, for 20 years. Never before had his stall been closed for so long. But never before had the world seen such a pandemic.

“This lockdown,” he sighs, shaking his head. Since it started, his stall—that would turn into a home only at night—is a bedroom 24/7. In the pre-pandemic era, the stall would teem with customers. Mr Mukhiya would dismantle the bed for the day.

A white board on the pavement wall is hand scrawled with the tea stall menu: roti, dal, rice and aloo paratha. For many years, Mr Mukhiya worked as a cook in a household. He seems to be skilled in this art, for this evening he is making himself chicken curry in a pressure cooker. The kitchen is arranged beside the bed—some pans, an earthen surahi, a gas burner.

The rest of the home consists of plants in pots and in plastic bottles, and a phool jhadu. There’s also a vase filled with plastic flowers.

Overall, the scene is looking idyllic, and an unsuspecting passerby might see it as a Thoreau-like retreat, far from the world of relentless consumerism.

“But everybody dreams of a house with roof,” corrects Mr Mukhiya shyly. “I haven’t earned for days... I had to borrow.” He hasn’t been able to send money to his family in Madhubani, Bihar, though his parents and younger brother do manage to earn a bit from the small farm land they own.

Suddenly the pressure cooker gives a whistle. Mr Mukhiya will soon settle down to dine. “Though I go to sleep only by midnight, when traffic noise recedes.” He’ll wake up around 5 in the morning, with the day’s early light spilling into his home.

Mr Mukhiya now lies down on the bed for a portrait. The wall behind the bed is crudely scrawled in Hindi, with a warning familiar to Delhi’s street walls—“Peeing is prohibited here.”

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Topics
Close Story
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Thursday, December 02, 2021