Three packets of biscuits, half a loaf of bread, some dry rice, masoor dal, and a few bananas — these are among Sonu Singh’s collection after going door to door in an upper middle class neighbourhood. He will share these with five other people he is staying with under a flyover.
Singh (30) has never had to beg for food before. He moved to Delhi from his village in UP’s Etah district in 1999, and worked and lived in a jeans manufacturing unit in the garment hub of Gandhi Nagar for the next 20 years. When the lockdown came, he lost his work and the roof over his head.
“I walked all the way to Nizamuddin to take a train back home to my village, but found that no trains were operating. Then I heard a bus would be leaving from Sarai Kale Khan bus stand, but when I reached there, police chased me away. I realised I would not be able to make it home. I tried finding a place in a shelter but all of them were full, even the schools… I and some others who had come with me have been living under the Sarai Kale Khan flyover ever since,” he said.
The long lines at Delhi government’s hunger relief centres means getting a meal can be a hit-and-miss affair. He said: “People start lining up at 10 am. Some days we get food, some days we don’t. Some days some other people come to distribute food and we make do with that. Other days we get nothing at all. Then I go to police and CRPF people and say ‘bhai sahib, hum kya khaaye’, and they take pity and allow me to move around to look for food.”
Two or three times a week, he walks to the well-to-do pockets of Jangpura. With a cloth around his mouth, he rings the bells to various floors of the houses and waits downstairs. If a resident looks out of their balcony, he gestures to his mouth. Those willing to give him food throw it down for him to catch. Some are now acquainted with him. “People in some kothis have told me to come when I’m in need. At a few houses, people have shouted at me. I avoid those,” he said.
While he continues to provide for his group, he is unable to help his wife, who is looking after his daughter, aged one, back in his village.
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