Gurugramwale: Portrait of a couple
- Marital life through a lunch box
Muhammed Shamshuddin stays forever rescued from wondering what might be in his lunch on any given day. “There’s never any suspense,” he says. It’s always the same dish—geeli aloo subzi with rotis. “My wife makes this every morning… it’s the cheapest thing to make.”
A “reri walla,” Mr Shamsuddin is in his 50s and hauls grocery products on his wooden trolley in a Gurugram bazaar. “Sitara Begum, my gharwali, cooks it early in the morning, and she serves me the same for breakfast, too.”
It is afternoon and the man has taken a break from work. He settles down under a tree, that is already sheltering a few other labourers. Some of them have taken off their shirt due to the heat, and are looking at ease in their vest. Mr Shamsuddin continues the food talk. “My wife used to be a good cook… but now we don’t care how the food tastes. We have grown old and when you will reach my age, you too will no longer worry about things like the flavour of subzi chawal.” The couple lives with their four sons and their families, “but each of us have a separate kitchen.” Despite being warned by a doctor to avoid strenuous labour following a critical surgery, Mr Shamshuddin continues to drag his cart “because I have to feed my gharwali (wife), and I also like to work and stay active.” He quickly rushes to defend his sons from any snap judgements concerning their responsibilities towards him and his wife. They are labourers like him, he explains, and they earn barely enough to support their own wives and kids.
The couple married some 30 years ago in their UP village. “My woman didn’t wed a reri walla (at the time). I had a better job.” He was employed in a plastic factory that shut down later. “Since then I’m doing this work.”
Now he opens his lunch box—aloo subzi and rotis. Mr Shamshuddin checks the time on his mobile, commenting, “She (Sitara Begum) must also be having this same khana.”