This ongoing series aims to capture the intimacy in our daily lives. Here, I photograph the lovers and their everyday.
Meticulously planned and diabolically organized since a long time this year, the communal violence, killings, destruction and mass displacement in Muzaffarnagar and its neighborhood villages clearly point to a sinister design to electorally polarize UP.
In the shadow of things, I could hear the voice of a young girl. Her voice, quivering in the heat of the day, a kind of crying that takes over your whole body, and it seems she is trying to remember her dream from last night. ‘A serpent, I was scared the whole night. I tried to wake everyone, I also wear this ‘tabeez’. She gasps a sigh of relief before turning to the sound of the trucks carrying fresh garbage for the day.
‘Once they dropped a truck full of white mice, soft and fury with red eyes.
I would let them run all over my body, white mice do not harm you’.
The dogs caught half of them, whereas Anjum and I carried a few in our bags said Sharuna in her gravely voice. She would run out of breath, while speaking.
‘I sold a pair for hundred rupees at the mosque’.
At this point, she offers me her hand to climb up this towering mountain of garbage that sits on the Karnal-Haryana border of New Delhi. The 40- acre landfill site in Bhalswa in North Delhi is one of the largest dumping grounds of the city, workplace for the Khan family that lives in the nearby Kalandar colony, and also an occasional playground for their children. This is the third generation from the family that lives off picking and reselling garbage.
Jasmine’s parents live in Punjab and have been there ever since she lost her older sister to dengue last year. ‘The night before, I dreamt that my sister and I are playing together at home. She has come back and I am celebrating, giving sweets to everyone. I was taking photographs of her, playing. And then suddenly I wake up and broke into tears thinking that, it had been so long since I last saw Asiba in my dream’, remembers Jasmine. As we are hopping over the marshy parts of the landfill, she insists on showing where Asiba lays buried,
‘you can see it from the top’
Barefooted and fearless, they move through this pile of garbage, old and new, like fairies. The youngest one of the lot is always at the end, mostly collecting toys. And as Sharuna explains, ‘she just comes with us to keep her heart’.
Plotting the best way to reach the top of the landfill, we carry on picking glass, broken zippers, plastic, constantly turning to keep an eye on the garbage trucks. ‘Koki died when she came under one of these trucks. Her whole body smashed to the road, I saw it from the top, she had gone down to drink water, now Koki is buried next to Asiba, I would dream of her every night’, says Anjum.
I spot Jasmine standing at the edge, saving her scarf from flying off her head,
‘When people from our side die, they are all buried there, around the Mukarba Chowk. Look how the bus just turned, they have built these new roads, and it keeps going round and round’. She stares into the vastness of longing, the nearness of memory, stood strongly afoot on the burning garbage.
‘Lets go back’, I hear Sharuna shout out to me. I see the steep way downhill and it instantly scared me.
‘I do not fear anything because I keep my heart open’, laughs Sharuna.
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