Off the capital’s BRT corridor lined with coveted South Delhi addresses lies not-so-coveted Madangir. Lanes get progressively narrower as they enter deeper into the neighbourhood, until houses look as though they are jammed together in blocks. From one such block comes the newly elected mayor of South Municipal Corporation.
Khushi Ram has lived here for more than 20 years. He lives with his mother, who was until last year a sanitation worker in the corporation he now heads. “Everyone was here the day he got elected. It took a while for it to sink in,” the mayor’s mother Prema said on Wednesday.
In fact, she did not want to believe the news until she saw her son’s picture in the next day’s newspapers. It has been a week, and the papers announcing the appointment still lie on the table in the living room.
The small room — 10 ft by 12 — is crammed with a bed, TV set, sofa, two chairs, an air conditioner and a fridge, apart from the table. Sitting here — part of her 25 sq yard home — Prema spoke of struggle and aspirations.
“I worked as a sanitation worker on the streets of Kalkaji and C R Park. But I made sure that all my children, four sons and a daughter, went to college. I am the only uneducated member of the family,” she laughed. “Khushi Ram was always good in studies, and always humble. He was president of Bhagat Singh College (union) too.”
As an ordinary worker, Prema hardly ever knew the name of the mayor, let alone know him or her, in the 28 years that she spent at the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. In her last year of service, 2012, her son became councillor. Khushi Ram’s father, Ram Nath, was a clerk at the Union Public Service Commission. He passed away six years ago.
Khushi Ram’s wife Teesha spoke of how life had changed since Khushi Ram became mayor. He earlier travelled to office in a Maruti 800 given by her family at their wedding; he now has a government car and driver. “Neighbours have endless requests. Almost all the time, somebody is here,” Teesha said.
After Khushi Ram defeated was elected, the South civic body wrote to the commissioner, asking for government accommodation for the mayor whose home, it said, was too small for all the visitors he would likely get. Khushi Ram said he drew inspiration from the life of his mother. “I have seen her work. I will take care of my employees because without them we cannot achieve anything.”
His wife said, “He has been entrusted with a job, and he wants to give everyone the basic amenities.” Outside his house, neighbours of many years speak of him with happiness and hope. “I have never seen him angry. He always listens to everyone, and his hard work has paid off,” said Seeta, owner of a grocery shop nearby.