'We don't mind the filth, we will continue to live here'
"We don't mind the filth, we will continue to live here", say residents of Kathputli Colony, a slum settlement of puppeteers, folk musicians and entertainers who live in abject squalor and filth.
"I know this place is filthy, but this is where I have grown up and I do not mind staying here," Deepak Bhat, a 22-year-old qawwali singer, who calls the Kathputli Colony in west Delhi his home, told IANS.
Far from the idea of what an artisans colony would look like - all clean and aesthetic - the sight that greets visitors in Kathputli Colony is far from pleasant - of an overflowing garbage dump adjacent to a place of worship and a school, open drains, an overpowering foul smell hanging in the air and many strays loitering around.
Entering the colony, one can see slush-filled serpentine lanes, with small houses on either side, with more people than they can accommodate, and a dirty, open drain flowing in front.
"This place is our home, we have been living here since ages. This is where our ancestors died. How can we not like this place?" a resident, who claimed to be staying in the colony for more than 30 years, asked while speaking to IANS.
Built of mud and bricks, the mostly one-room houses had plastic sheets for roofing. The single rooms also had makeshift kitchens where the women cooked food, while the children relieved themselves outside the houses.
The houses may be small, but the hearts are evidently not, as the tiny rooms were shared by many, with goats tethered at the door, hens clucking around and strays freely walking in and out.
The cramped lanes served not just as a path to walk in, but as a place where men brush their teeth and bathe, while waving to hawkers going about their daily business.
Kathputli Colony is where sagging electricity lines serve as clotheslines.
"Now the officials are even cutting our electricity and not providing adequate water supply. But we will continue living here," said Vicky, a 24-year-old puppeteer.
The residents of the colony claim the settlement came up more than 60 years ago. They are refusing eviction by the government, which wants them to shift to a transit camp in Anand Parbat in order to build multi-storey flats for them and provide better facilities.
(Shweta Sharma and Shradha Chettri can be contacted at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 02-03-2014)