Eyes

November 26, 2007

baba

The stare is unflinching. Piercing through my skull, skewering the brain and hitting a shrill tone at the base of my medulla. I force myself to not look up, the very thing he wants me to do. I understand the eyes, but cannot recognize them, the face, the shrunken hands, the slow unbalanced walk, the man, my father.

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Family

November 15, 2007

family

“My great grandfather Bhagwan Poona came here from a village in Gujarat in 1918. Since then we have been here. This is our fourth generation in Dharavi and we know no other place. But for the past one year or so we are hearing rumours of redevelopment by private developers. Government says it will give us free 225-sq ft flats but do you think potters can work out of such small flats? At present, we live in a 500-sq ft double-storey house in which upper floors are used to dry pots,” says Arvind B Wadel, a potter in Dharavi’s kumbharwada. Pottery is a family business. Wadel’s wife and two daughters help him make pots.
Wadel’s is one of the 2,000 families in Dharavi’s kumbharwadas—and most of them echo his predicament.

some more images here

Happy Childrens Day

November 14, 2007

boy

13 year old Vinu works at the JW Marriott as a swimming pool cleaner.

Girl

November 14, 2007

girl

she stared, didn’t blink. I felt stupid, guilty, standing there camera in hand, capturing their life gradually drown in flood water.

Raja & family

November 14, 2007

diwali

Rajibur, Tabassum and their two sons Arif and Irfan live in a one room tenement above our flat.

Rajibur is a professional housekeeper. He cooks, cleans, does the laundry and takes care of  the home. Working exclusively with embassies, Rajibur has learnt from every assignment and has taken his work to the highest level of efficiency. He has a genuine love for his profession and it shows when he quickly notes down any new recipe he encounters. Over the years, he has mastered many exotic dishes from cuisines of various countries. He is currently employed as housekeeper by the ground floor residents.
Raja, as he is called, also cooks for us. He himself offered his services when we shifted in. Not used to a cook with such a high level of proficiency we were bowled over and quickly became big fans. Noticing the enthusiasm, Raja offered the following terms – 6 days standard fare of vegetable, dal and roti/rice, 7th day special item, any one dish from the long list of recipes in his notebook. We were delighted.

A week later, Raja asked us, his wife Tabassum, if required, could clean and wash for us. But she cant hear nor speak, so will we have a problem? Not at all. By the way she is also trained in parlour work so if ‘didi’ ever wants…

So the next day we met Tabassum, an incredibly sweet young woman, their little son Irfan curled up in her arms and Arif the elder, a young man of four who trotted in with his tricycle. Tabassum like Raja, seems to take a lot of pride in her work. Most times she is irritatingly clean. The ashtrays are too clean to be used, the glass of half finished water I left on the table five minute ago is no longer there, it’s been washed dried and put back on the shelf, so I take another glass and by the time I go get the newspaper, this glass has encountered a similar fate. Tabassum could easily compete with a close friend who suffers from a similar obsessive dust cleaning disorder.

Arif and Irfan don’t like me much. Everytime they spot me they run back five steps turn around and watch me as if I was some strange beast. The thing is they see me in the morning, the tangerine coloured over sized tracks coupled with the frizzy hendrixian hair does give me a somewhat ‘weird’ look. I don’t blame them really.

This D day, the Rahman family joined us in celebration. We burst crackers together, lit lamps and shared sweets.