Mangala (45) and her two children usually find their sleeping spots on a footpath close to Hanuman Mandir in Connaught Place. They huddle up as there’s usually little to cover themselves with. Saturday, however, was different, and the excited children tightly held on to the black blankets provided to them as their sleeping spot moved to Central Park’s amphitheatre — just for the night though.
There was some singing and dancing too, and several cups of piping hot tea that did the rounds. On Saturday, the Delhi chapter of a global one-off event called World’s Big Sleep Out (WBSO), was held at CP’s Central Park from 7 pm to Sunday 5 am.
In a bid to increase awareness about homelessness, the “sleep-out” was organised by several civil service organisations supported by North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) and Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB). For the night, Mangala and her two children found company in volunteers and passersby. She said, “We were told by a volunteer about this event and all I can hope for is that someone sees us and reaches out to us.”
The WBSO was simultaneously held across the world in 50 cities including 24 in India itself. “We conceptualised this in April with the intention of increasing awareness about homelessness… there are 200 shelter homes in Delhi, and 20 years ago there were only 10,” said social worker Indu Prakash.
A little after 9 pm, the performances end, and many return to the warmth of their homes. Some like volunteer Mohd. Hamil (26) decide to stick around till early morning. He said, “It’s my first time sleeping out in such a manner. I have brought nothing and will be relying on the blanket. It’s our small effort to show brotherhood with people who have to live in such conditions.”
By 10.30 pm, the Central Park is emptier and volunteers and a few homeless men and women remain, and among them is Babli, who sells toys in CP and stays in a night shelter. She said, “We are not sure what this will lead to but for us, the battle is every night. And every night is a victory,” said Babli, as she carefully rationed dal-roti for her 15 family members.