How Rajkumari found a home in a cold city

How Rajkumari found a home in a cold city

Home to many homeless people of Delhi, the ‘rain basera’ or night shelter near Akshardham Temple can accommodate 50 people at a time.

The blue porta cabin structure currently shelters only half of its full capacity. However, with the winter season knocking on Delhi’s doors, the number of homeless staying here is bound to increase in the coming days.

One of the residents of the night shelter, 36-year-old Rajkumari Ekka, also happens to be the caretaker here.

After attending to a sick old woman who was vomiting constantly outside the shelter, Rajkumari agrees to speak to this reporter about what made her come and stay in this place.

“Like many people in Delhi, I didn’t have anyone in the city whom I could call as my own when I arrived here. I was born in Chhattisgarh’s Jashpur district, and came to Delhi following the death of my mother in 2005,” Rajkumari says.

“Belonging to a poor family of farmers, I have a brother and four sisters. However, barring one sister who lives in Bhopal, I am not in touch with any of my siblings or relatives.”

Her father died when she was very young. Her mother raised the family after her father’s death on her own but when she also expired, the entire family disintegrated leaving Rajkumari with no choice but to leave her native place in search of livelihood.

“Following the death of my mother, I asked my brother to look for a groom for me. But he refused and I decided to leave my village, and came here in the search of a new life,” Rajkumari says.

A villager with no education or skills to help her, Rajkumari’s real struggle started when she reached Delhi.

“After arriving in Delhi, I searched a lot for a job. But for an uneducated woman like me, getting a job in the city was very difficult. I gave up and went to my sister’s home in Bhopal and lived with her for one year. After one year, I returned to Delhi as my sister’s family didn’t like the idea of me living with them for so long,” she says.

“Back in Delhi, I had understood properly that this is the only city where I have to live and die. Having resolved to make a beginning, I took up many odd jobs ranging from a security guard to that of a helper in a hospital.”

More than finding a job, finding a place to spend the night was a bigger challenge in a city like Delhi. After a lot of struggle, Rajkumari did get a job. But getting a place to sle

ep was still a distant dream. She had to find some innovative solutions for her problem.
“Those days, sleeping on the gurdwara premises was allowed. So I started working as a sevadar (helper) at Bangla Sahib Gurdwara in the day and slept there in the night,” she says.

After some time, Rajkumari got a job of a security guard at Metropolitan Hotel in Connaught Place.

With Rs 3,000 as her salary, she was still short of money for the room rent. She spoke to some people at Lady Hardinge Hospital. After giving them money, they allowed her to use the hospital as her night shelter.

“Lady Hardinge Hospital became my home for three years. I used to stay there from 10 pm till 11 am. For bathing, however, I used to go to the gurdwara or the hotel,” Rajkumari remembers.

After working in Metropolitan Hotel for three years, Rajkumari had saved enough to afford a room for herself. She started living in a room in central Delhi’s Baljeet Nagar for which she had to give Rs 500 as rent every month. However, for a single woman, even a house is not completely safe.

“I had not opened my bank account then. So I used to stash my savings in a cupboard in my rented room. One day, when I returned home, I saw the lock of my door open. It was apparent that someone had entered there in my absence. When I went inside, I saw my clothes strewn around, and to my horror, the Rs 18,000 which I had saved was missing.”
Rajkumari suspected that it was her landlord’s work as only he knew that she didn’t have bank account and used to save the cash at home.

After the incident, she left the room without paying the rent to her landlord as an act of revenge.

“I then decided not to rent a room anymore. I got a job in an NGO and they sent me here as the caretaker of this rain basera. For the last 20 days, I have been living here. And, I find it better than anywhere else I have lived so far in Delhi,” Rajkumari says.

Rajkumari, who came to Delhi with no relative in the city, now claims to have found a family of 22 people who share their sorrow and happiness with her. Rajkumari is also looking forward to the month-end to get Rs 9,000 which she was promised as her salary by the NGO.

Having found a home and a decent job, Rajkumari, however, is still in search of a life partner.

“I love the children who live in this rain basera, but still feel the void of a life partner and kids in my life. I think life will only be complete with them.”

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