The Everyday Life of Homeless Mothers on City Streets
Everything was fine until one day when some valuables went missing. All hell broke loose and Nandy was on the street.
My children are learning to fight their own battle. When they grow up, they will be able to face the world, said Kusuma Nandy. (Photo: Network18)
New Delhi: It is Mother’s day. Many of us are planning big surprises and gifts for our mothers. It is a great day to celebrate our dear moms. But there are many mothers who are sacrificing a lot more to raise their children on the streets of Delhi, often without shelter, sometimes even without food.
News18's correspondent wanders around the streets of Delhi to find the most heartbreaking tales of motherhood and survival.
Kusuma Nandy – Hope amid despair
As soon as you alight from the Metro train at Kashmere Gate, a narrow lane leads you to the famous Ritz theatre. Right opposite the old theatre, a middle-aged woman begs with her children. She looks feeble and helpless, but her story is full of grit and courage.
A native of Midnapore in West Bengal, Nandy came to Delhi to work as a maid for a rich family in South Delhi. “With my children, I used to stay in a small room near the garage. It was better than being a widow in rural Bengal. At least I could work here,” said Nandy.
Everything was fine until one day when some valuables went missing. All hell broke loose and Nandy was on the streets.
After living on the streets for a year, Nandy is undeterred. She wants to educate her children and live a good life. “I earn around Rs 200 per day. I spend Rs 100 on food and save the rest... a woman teaches poor kids on the weekends nearby, where both my children study.”
“My children are learning to fight their own battle. When they grow up, they will be able to face the world,” said Nandy.
Saraswati Kumar – Abandoned and homeless
At first glance, she looks like just another beggar to you. But as you inch closer to her life, there is a sad story behind her worn out bag, her torn clothes and her homeless children.
In the winter of 2013, Saraswati and her husband along with their six-month-old twins, moved from Muzzafarnagar to Delhi. “It was our first trip outside home so I dressed up and we reached the station to board a train to Agra.” Saraswati, along with her twins, stood near a drinking water stand, while her husband went to buy the tickets. “...but he never returned,” she said.
She waited for days hoping for him to return. After wandering around the station looking for food, she somehow returned home to find that her husband had married someone else. “I was humiliated and kicked out of the house,” she said.
“Whenever I think of that day, a chill runs down my spine,” said Saraswati as tears rolled down her cheeks.
“I had married him against my family’s wishes. And after that incident, even my family didn’t want me back,” she said.
“I accepted it as fate and tried to move on. I looked for a job everywhere, but it was a futile attempt. I had no other option but to sleep with drunken auto-rickshaw drivers for money. I used to hide my kids under a bush,” said Saraswati, gasping for air.
When she got to know about the night shelters around Paharganj and old Delhi, she reached there seeking shelter. But things turned out to be worse than the railway platform. “In those congested shelters, not only me, my daughter was at threat too,” said Saraswati.
For a while, she worked as a sweeper, but was thrown out. Left with no other option, now she begs on the streets. Sometimes her children accompany her too. “I don’t know how long this will go on for. I wish to be around my children till they grow up enough to be able to feed themselves.”
Bisma Shaikh – Waiting for abducted daughter
Bisma was married to a key-maker from Jasola in 1998. It was a happy marriage for two years, and then Bisma got pregnant and delivered a girl. “My in-laws first taunted and then tortured me. I was kept hungry for days. Soon, my daughter and I were thrown out,” said Bisma, who comes from Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh. “My parents were so poor that they couldn’t bear our burden. I have been living near the old Delhi railway station for more than 15 years.”
Bisma didn’t want to beg, so she started selling stickers and flowers at traffic signals close to the station. “I used to carry my daughter in a sling and worked the whole day.” When her daughter began to walk, she started helping her mother.
The mother-daughter duo set up a tent as shelter near the parking area of the station. But her life came to a standstill when last year in December, her daughter was abducted. “We were sleeping near Daryaganj that day. It was around 2am, and I woke up to the shrieking sound of my daughter. A man in his 50s pushed her inside a big car and sped off,” said Bisma, wiping her tears.
Bisma thinks her biggest mistake in life was to not have a photograph clicked with her daughter.
Bisma lodged a police complaint, but neither did she have an identity proof to take the complaint forward, nor did she hear anything from the officers.
“I go to the same spot often. Sometimes I pretend to sleep and wait for the same man to return. I hope he would drop her off at the same place one day,” said the mother.
Bisma thinks her biggest mistake in life was to not have a photograph clicked with her daughter. “If I had a photo, may be police would be able to trace her,” she said.
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