Delhiwale: The Khan Market happiness
There is a fleeting hour a work when Shefali, a cleaner at Khan Market, almost finds the happiness that has eluded her all her life.delhi Updated: Dec 15, 2017 13:26 IST
Diplomats and expats. Novelists and notables. At some point you may well rub shoulders with these good people shopping at Khan Market.
And with good reason. The market is like a second home for the well-heeled and fastidious. When you wander around the place on any particular day there’s this sense that nearly every shopper is somehow happy.
We thought that might also be true for Shefali, who can be spotted every day. She’s liable to be wielding a mop or carting away a bucket load of garbage. The market’s young shop assistants call her “Shefali Aunty”.
Always in a sari, a smile usually plays on her lips.
But happy she isn’t.
She confided to us the other evening: “I’ve been unhappy since my childhood. That’s my story.”
We might have caught Shefali at a vulnerable moment. Her husband, she says, died of tuberculosis some months ago while her son has recently recovered from a brain tumour. As the family’s main breadwinner, Shefali tells us she must go on working to keep the household running. In her 50s now, this is what she has been doing for scores of years. She started as a cleaner during her childhood in West Bengal, after her parents passed away.
“My life is all work, work, work,” she says quietly, as though talking to herself.
Shefali does admit to a few consolations. During her afternoon break — she tells us while breaking into an unconscious smile — she has lunch with friends who also work in the area. “Then we talk and talk, and, yes, I feel nice then.”