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Capital in lockdown: Stories from around Delhi-NCR amid coronavirus pandemic – ht weekend

Mayank Austen Soofi aka Delhiwale picks six tales that seize the essence of what has been misplaced, as life in Delhi endures throughout the pandemic: a pair holds a non secular studying with out neighborhood, for the primary time in a long time; cellphone numbers on partitions inform the story of small companies hit the toughest; a younger poet finds the elegant in the atypical; a fortunately married autorickshaw driver and home assist grapple with the fallout of the lockdown.

Which one touched you most? What’s your story? Mail, tweet or share to tell us.

Yellow Pages on Walls

When the markets shut down, Metro trains stopped operating, and people who had the posh of a home exiled themselves inside it, some left their cellphone numbers behind.

Mobile cellphone numbers etched on boundary partitions or on makeshift boards hanging from tress and lightweight poles stared at masked passersby on visitors-much less streets.

A wall in Green Park was scrawled with the variety of a mat vendor. One a wall close to Nehru Place, the variety of a tailor. The barely perceptible variety of a ‘Bijli Walla’ or electrician scratched on a wall in South Extension, etched in desperation.

TO MEET THE VOICE BEHIND ONE SUCH NUMBER, GO HERE

ALSO SEE | Photos: Stories informed in images from a capital in lockdown

From choir to duet

Every July, Kshetra Pal and his spouse, Pushpa, maintain A Ramayan Paath, a 24-hour studying of the Ramcharitmanas, at their house in Ghaziabad. Every yr, their drawing room could be transformed right into a makeshift mandir. Sofas and low desk cleared, flooring lined in mattresses topped with clear sheets. Hosts and visitors would take turns to learn the verses aloud, ‘with emotion’.

In the pandemic, one possibility would have been to postpone the studying, however “that was out of the question,” Pushpa says. Instead, they each stayed awake for 20 hours straight and completed the studying of the epic themselves, sitting nose to nose.

TO SEE THE PALS AND READ THEIR ACCOUNT OF THIS YEAR, AND YEARS GONE BY, GO HERE

Vowels of the road

Each door on the lengthy winding road of Old Delhi’s Chatta Sheikh Mangloo is marked with an ‘O’ or ‘E’ painted in yellow. “O stands for odd and E stands for even,” a chai stall proprietor explains. “Our market’s pradhan got these signs painted.” So everybody knew after they can open store. That was in May. It is now September and all retailers are free to open each day. The hand-drawn indicators have remained.

Curiously, some are even drawn on doorways of residences. “It’s because the man painting just went along without bothering what kind of door it was,” says an aged man, gazing upon a inexperienced doorway painted with an O.

TO SEE THE DOORS, AND MEET SOME OF THE RESIDENTS, GO HERE

ALSO SEE | Photos: Artist Sudhir’s Patwardhan’s Mumbai

Her elegy to the ordinary

She is in purple palazzos and pink kurti. And a mask, of course. Jonaki Ray has a day job in an IT company, as a technical editor. And a passion for poetry. She wrote a pandemic-era poem for HT, titled The Art of Not Losing Breath (after Elizabeth Bishop)…

At the corner of the market was Maxim’s

with its air blending butter into rising cakes.

Outside, on the crescent-shaped street, cars honking

at walkers evading rickshaws, passengers hopscotching

with potholes, the three brothers’ self-proclaiming

their ‘permanent’ vegetable store—

twenty-five years and counting—

the diners queuing for Belgian chocolate shakes,

while handing leftovers to the waiting children…

TO READ THE FULL POEM, GO HERE

ALSO SEE | Watch: Javed Akhtar recites Hum-safar (Co-travellers)

Housekeeper of Hauz Khas

Her husband makes a very good chicken curry. “But we haven’t had it for a long time,” says Kamni, who goes by only one name. “I no longer earn as much as I used to before the lockdown so we can’t afford maas-machhi.”

For 20 years, Kamni has worked as housekeeper to scores of one-room pads in Hauz Khas Village, rented mostly by singles. Most of Kamni’s employers gave up their accommodation in the lockdown, because of job losses or salary cuts, leaving Kamni with a shrunken income. “I used be responsible for more than a dozen rooms… now just 3 or 4,” she says. She has two

“Every day I pass in front of those empty rooms. These people I have worked for… I hope they are fine wherever they are.”

TO MEET KAMNI AND READ MORE ON HER LOSSES AND LIFE IN LOCKDOWN, GO HERE

Driver’s new auto etiquette

Before each ride, Sunil Kumar steps out of the driver’s seat, politely asks his passengers to stand back, and slips into the backseat to spray it with sanitiser. “I must keep the customers protected… if they are safe from the virus, chances are I will be safe from it too,” he says. He must spend on sanitiser, even after his earnings have plummeted.

He’s in his 40s, with a wife and two children. Despite his smiling demeanour, he confesses that life is “full of tension”.

MEET SUNIL AND READ MORE ABOUT HIS LIFE HERE

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