Episode 3: a lane.
Bhuntu and Arun undoing the cables.
Patchbay on street outside DADA.
Screen, down a lane.
Tuning Mohan hair saloon's TV.
Chichorapana on sunrise hair saloon's TV.
TV that we rented from Baby back in his shop.
Our TV in Mukhtar Bhai's shop.
Mukhtar, BabyUncle and Ajit and Mohan talking harsh and real.
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Khirkee Extn. has no sense of community, said Hemant, who manages the residencies at khoj. "Its semblance plays itself out in the evenings, when the streets become extended drawing rooms".
Gambhir makes fun of Aashta’s daily indulgence with the pakodas from the seller outside Khoj. “Despite knowing the truth about the pakodas, she eats them…”
The truth according to Gambhir has to do with ‘tel ka tinas’. Empty tins of oil are collected as waste and then hung upside-down to extract the last drop of oil, before the tins are cleaned and recycled. The collected drops of oil, find their way amongst other places to the redi and then into those sinful and delicious assorted pakodas, I ’ve already grown to look forward to with evening coffee. Gambhir, will not eat those pakodas...and the real and obvious reason is one of caste and religion, says Aastha. He’s a Kaushik, a pandit. The owners of the oil and tin recycling enterprise are Jha’s, from Bihar and the pakoda wala is muslim.
Gambhir. He had come to pick me up from the airport, a week ago and was to work with us on this project, ‘about the Khirkee community’. He lived in the lane and is the only local youth who hangs out in the evenings at Khoj and even attends events. His family owns a lot of the land around Khirkee Extn. and even flats in other places in Delhi. I was told that he was a 'techie' and was to intern with me. Our working relationship was cut short very soon, as it appeared that he hated work of any kind, having never done any in his life, as he said he lived off the rent they made. To kill time he’d asked his father to open a little general store for him, but tells us that he soon realized manning a storefront was a lot of work. His shop, now an STD booth, in the Khoj lane, was never open. Moreover, his refusal to come with me on my first walk in Khirkee, (because I was heading right, in the direction of Hauzrani and not left in the direction of Khirkee Village.), revealed too many problems and biases, none of which belonged to the project.
There were obvious and apparent politics in the Khoj lane. Geographically, the lane starts with a Saibaba temple and the school. The first few shops are owned by Kaushiks, uppercaste and landed elite. Then follow the incremental, mushrooming enterprises by the Jha brothers. One came first, bought a shop, then came the other to run a teashop near the store, another a cigarette shop, a dhobi, tel ka tinas, rooms to rent to the labour they contract. The middle of the lane offers small services, tailor, barbershops, Samosas, Pakodas and tea, VCD rentals and TV repair etc. A good number of these shops are on rent from the Kaushiks and their ilk. The end of the lane becomes almost entirely Muslim, and Fareed even pointed out some E-block houses in the S-Block lane…'E is Hauzrani', he said. It was evident that there was little communal mobility between one end of this lane and the other.
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We had left our cables out after the session with the Nepali Women. In the evening we began to re-lay these cables down the Khoj lane. The patch bay had to be located on the street near DADA S-20, chai shop and cables were stretched to a maximum in order to reach the first and last shops in the lane. Thus, we had Mukhtar bhai,propreitor of Mama Genrel Store, and Sunrise Hair Cutting salon from the Right and Mohan Hair Cutting and Kajal Genrel Store, owned by a character I had been hearing much about, RajuBhai aka BabyUncle, to the left. It had taken us a long time to lay the cables, we were just three in the crew and relaying a cable meant you had to drag and move whole lengths of 100 mts, from one end to the other through the sandy lane. (Would have been easier to roll them up and re-lay them.) It was late when we started, way past nine; the lane had watched the set-ups all day with amusement, now most were drunk, happy; and shop owners were doing rapid last hour business.
So 2 general stores, one on either side and 2 hair cutting saloons where most of the menfolk hang out. (There are four 'saloons' in the lane.): The men were wired and for about 15 minutes the exchange was through loud boyish banter, ‘Chichorapana’. Baby uncle would lead by example and crack jokes that were limited to likening the mic and its cord to the male organ, asking everyone who spoke whether they were speaking from ‘up or down’, and other flat boy jokes with innuendos of the ‘lullee’ (dick).
"Mobile" jokes were made, "Hello where are you my friend? Me, I'm in Aligarh. I'm going to give lucknow a 'missed call' and instead go to Bombay."
Patlee kamar thi nal pe khadi thi
A small waist she had,
This was Rakesh, a hairdresser from Sunrise.
Only Mukhtar Bhai was not too amused; he did ad to the foolery by holding and twirling a dead chuchundri (field mouse) in frame, but he seemed keen to talk about other things. The lane, its people; the precarious state of the migrant workforce in this nation capital, the future…
Now and then he managed to assert his view and calm the raucous bunch. A few minutes of talk show posturing and hostile question-answer, ‘big fight’ at Khirkee...would follow and the warring communities (Hindu land owning/ migrant workforce from Bihar, Bengal/Muslim older settlers) would hurl accusations and abuse at each other…this would soon degenerate into profound explorations on what sort of thing a Samosa was….Samosa kya cheez hai?..When this happened yet again, Mukhtar just gave up and turned away…its impossible to talk…
Eager audience had knocked a sack of rice inside Mukhtar’s shop, which had room in it for only 3. The power point in his shop ran his std phone meter as well as the bulb. When a customer came to make a call, he would have to turn the TV off for a few minutes and then on again. This time though, he was irritated, they just don’t want to make sense, do they?
At some point, I too intervened, ‘this device was set up for the lane to communicate, but its evident that each one loves his own voice and doesn’t want to listen to the other…apni avaz pyaari, doosro ki baat khali…while most heard me out silently, a slightly lecherous man who was getting his beard shaved at Sunrise Saloon kept adding a constant sing-song ‘yes….yes….refrain to everything I was saying…I ignored it till I had made my point and after his 10th ‘yes’… I yelled back as rudely and as loudly as the others. ‘Abe shut up, sala!’
This was a slap! Cold water that instantly punctured the wasteful libidinal energy in the air…silence and then some sobriety... …
Mukhtar said, “Look there are some important things we need to talk about. What’s going on in Delhi? What’s to happen to people like us, to the poor… aren’t we all concerned. Don’t we want to talk about this…our livelihoods are being destroyed as we speak…”
That’s nothing new, said Ajith, who works at Mohan’s saloon. Bal Thackeray kicked our asses out of Bombay…we came here…Mazdoor has to find work, hell go wherever he can. When were kicked out of Delhi, well go elsewhere for roz-gaar. (daily work). Well go to Punjab or Haryana or Gujarat…
Mohan said…listen I’d like to know what you’ll think about the Saket malls that are coming up on the road behind…each of the shops there will sell for 80-90 lakhs each…clearly Ham Jaise Log, People Like Us could never own or rent a shop there. We might get jobs building the complexes, but after that there is no place for us…even here now…we soon won’t be able to afford this space or before that well be kicked out. This sealing that the MCD is diligently doing is to make sure that we leave the city of Delhi.
Baby Uncle was restless, as he had nothing to contribute, so he pulled faces and animated his part of the screen with rude mimicry. Then he began to needle again…
BabyUncle, age 23 asks mukhtar bhai how long hes been living in delhi…22 years says Mukhtar. And before that where did you live…West Bengal. Is Bengal part of India?
Mukhtar, turns away but stays silent ignoring this jibe. Dekho… Sunoh tasallee se, Look, listen, I came to Delhi. I liked it here. I worked hard, I built my shop and home. Now this government wishes that we didn’t exist. But we do, so what are we going to do? What are you thinking? Or are we not thinking?
Mohan says, the govt. Gaand pe Laath maar ke was to kick our asses and chase us out of Delhi…
So leave, then, says Baby. Go to gurgaon…they’re building a Delhi there too, aren’t they?
Mukhtar, “Ok fine, say we’ll go to Gurgaon, What about you…where will you go? You’ll have to go too...
BabyUncle, its all finished here, everything has died…
I had called Bombay and told Chirag about the blown pcb. He said it must have been faulty to begin with and offered to courier me a replacement. We had the weekend in between so after we had a break of 4 days, in which we watched the other 2 modules, edited them and made Cd’s to give away.
Gaurav joined us on the morning of the 18th, right before the next episode. This completed our crew. We were a tight crew of 5 now. Asstha, Gaurav, Jameel, Bhuntu and me. Mohamad would join if we needed a hand. Gambhir would show, if the neighborhood was right.
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