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Delhiwale: The mystery of their secret nicknames

Meeting up migrants from Bihar with not much possessions except their nicknames.

delhi Updated: Jul 11, 2018 14:10 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi
Mayank Austen Soofi
Hindustan Times
delhiwale,migrants in Delhi,Delhi

These sweating half-a-dozen men are digging the ground to lay cables for a telecom company on this central Delhi pavement. Ironically, they only have a single mobile phone between themselves.

Stripped to the waist, Santosh (in photo) is shovelling the earth. The boyish Ranjan is relaxing with his phone. He is lying on a thick bed of red cables as if it is his goodnight charpoy. The grey-haired Seeta Ram is also enjoying a brief break — he is perched on a coil of purple cables, his feet are encrusted with mud.

All the men are from Bihar. Santosh, who arrived in the city a month ago, finds “life is far better here.” Explaining the situation at home, he says, “No land, no farming and barely any earning.”

He then goes back to digging.

Seeta Ram continues the conversation, remarking that coming to the big city proved to be a boon. “Now not only we earn more money but we are also richer by an additional name,” he says amusedly. Ranjan, the boy lying on the cables, laughs on hearing this. Seeta Ram reveals that each man in the crew has two names. “When we came to Dilli, we just had our ‘asli naam’ (real name) with us... but as we started living together, we gave a second name to each other… it’s called ‘pukaroo naam’,” he says.

Suddenly Santosh’s voice comes out from under the pit. “Don’t give away my pukaroo naam.”

A person’s pukaroo naam, the wise Seeta Ram elucidates, comes out from some embarrassing quirk of his personality but “it remains strictly within us men… not even our wives in the villages get to know of it.”

It’s turning dark. Soon the men will go back to their pavement home where they will cook the dinner. Just then, Seeta Ram loudly calls out to Santosh by his pukaroo naam. The other men start laughing hysterically. Santosh drops the shovel and looks mortified. The others laugh even more at his expense.

Santosh, however, needn’t worry. His pukaroo naam — and quite an expose it is of his personality — shall not be revealed on the pages of this newspaper, at least.

First Published: Jul 11, 2018 14:06 IST