A series of failed business ventures set off a downward spiral for Mangal Singh, the father of three sisters who died of starvation in east Delhi’s Mandawali Tuesday morning, area residents told The Indian Express. Those who knew the family said the children had a difficult upbringing, with both parents struggling to look after them as the mother was mentally unstable and the father, missing since the morning of the incident, reportedly an alcoholic who was rarely ever at home.
Mansi (8) and her sisters, Shikha (4) and Paro (2), were found dead on Tuesday at a house they had temporarily moved into three days ago. According to the post-mortem, the three died of malnutrition/starvation and its complications. A second post-mortem report has confirmed death due to starvation and that there was no trace of fat on their bodies.
Hari Chand Gola, who runs a photo studio in Mandawali’s Saket block, in the same lane as the room the family was occupying till recently, said, “You must have seen the smiling photos of the family in newspapers. I had taken those in my studio. Mangal was doing well till four years ago. He had a parantha and chai shop in this lane and the family lived in a room behind it. His wife never spoke to anyone, but she would sometimes come and buy jhaal moori from a shop near my studio. Things started going downhill around three years ago,” he said.
According to Gola, the family had been living in various rented rooms in the lane for over 10 years, shifting every time the rent would go up, or their earnings down — much like most of Mandawali’s migrant population.
Mohammad Khurshid, who knew Mangal for around 15 years, said they used to work together at a catering service in Anand Vihar. “He was known as the best worker in the kitchen. Then he was roped in by another migrant from West Bengal to start their own eatery in this lane. Things were going well, but his partner abandoned him and ran off with a lot of money,” he claimed.
According to local residents, after that venture failed, Mangal started his own eatery in the lane, but it lasted barely a year. “He then tried to open an eatery in Shakarpur, but that too failed in about two weeks,” Gola said.
It was after these series of setbacks that he shifted to his current work of rickshaw-pulling, locals said. “He started unravelling in the last two-and-a-half years. He started drinking heavily, and all of us stopped seeing him around that time. He used to be a hefty man but I saw him a couple of weeks ago and almost didn’t recognise him because his face was so sunken in,” said Khurshid.
“It’s hard to imagine how times can change; I remember him as someone who worked really hard to look after his children,” said Gola