City's watchmen and their winter tales

City's watchmen and their winter tales

Eyes and Ears

While the dipping mercury forces people to take refugee under the warmth of blankets in the comfort of their homes, bonfires serve as life-saviours for hundreds who are obliged to spend the harsh winter nights on the streets of Delhi.

Bonfires might be the source of heat and warmth, but more than that, the burning of flammable material also serves as a platform for platonic conversations for those huddled around it.

Take for instance the posh colonies of South Delhi where bungalows and flats are guarded by a swarm of night watchmen. These watchmen are often joined by rickshaw pullers and other passersby who bring their respective commute to a halt to warm their weary limbs.

Vishvesh Kumar, who originally hails from Begusarai district of Bihar, has been employed at a small furniture factory in Saket. His duty starts at 9 pm in the night and only ends when the next watchman starts his shift at six in the morning.

“I came to Delhi four years ago and have mostly done night duties at the different jobs I took during the period. Night duties can get very dull and boring with very few people around with whom you can interact. Winters are worse, because the cold makes it unpleasant. These bonfires serve as relief packages,” Kumar told Metrolife.

He said that fellow watchmen, come together, sit around the fire and often delve into their past. “We share stories from our homes. We talk about our families, our fields, the markets back home. Basically, everything under the sky,” Kumar added.

While for Kumar, the bonfire serves as an opportunity to reminisce about his home, there are still those who take the moment to vent out their frustrations. “Our employers are privileged.
Some try their best to make us comfortable for the night but there are always those who don’t care,” Kumar’s friend said. “So we complain to each other about our bosses,” he said while sharing a laugh with Kumar.

When we talk about events, a simple ‘bonfire conversation’ can also be classified into one. And an event inherently has a planner. Ramesh Singh, who stands guard outside a jewellery showroom, takes pride in his ‘sophisticated art of fire making’.
 
“I belong to Madhya Pradesh and back home we used to make bonfires all the time. I know which wood will last longer. But here in Delhi, I just gather whatever I find. Plastics are a strict no-no because they are unhealthy,” Singh said. He added that he also pleads with his other comrades to bring tea and snacks for the night. “They don’t get anything. It’s expensive so we end up having tea only,” he added.

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