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Field Log 25 May 2015

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25 May 2015

Satender Tiwari

The newer part of Khirkee Village behind the wall with Buddha graffiti has multistory buildings and one or two of them are very old and maintained very well. After walking a while along a narrow and uneven path I came to a historical monument barricaded off from the surrounding cluster of multistory buildings. There is a notice board on the barricade at the entry in which Archaeological Survey of India written that “this is a protected monument and has been declared to be of national ancient monument and archaeological site and remains Act, 1958 (24 of 1958).

A large number of families from the Chauhan clan live here and own properties. Shops are clustered at the entrance of the locality but rarely found within the residential lanes. There are no commercial establishments or workshops. Many accommodations here are given on rent to migrants but there was no one visible on the street, perhaps due to the heat. There were no thelawalas (street vendors) either, maybe as it is difficult to navigate the narrow lanes with a loaded cart. The Chauhans are very informed about what is happening in their locality and in general control the neighbourhood according to their own need for safety. It was much easier to walk here as compared to the other part of Khirkee which is densely populated, the roads crowded with people and carts, the market with its many food shops and places to hang out. People from the newer part of Khirkee come here to shop.

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Field Log 25 May 2015

Posted on Updated on

25 May 2015

Arifa Khan

Afghans and Africans are two prominent migrant communities in Khirkee. We heard rumours that the Africans are beginning to leave the area because of intolerance and non-acceptance by the locals. We decided to inquire from this group how they negotiate public spaces in Khirkee and Hauz Rani.

We visited the lane behind the wall painted on with the masked Buddha. We passed a big tree that seemed to have turned into a mandir (temple), with many small idols of deities around it, and flower garlands. The lanes are very narrow and like a chaotic maze, suddenly opening, abruptly disconnecting or dead-ending. We started somewhere and end up anywhere and nowhere. Sometimes it seemed we were entering someone’s house but that too was part of the lane. The upper balconies were touching one another. Most nameplates on the homes read CHAUHAN. No Africans were visible.

After some time we came out of that area and sat for a while on a bench under a tree in the park near a mechanic’s shop. It was mid-afternoon, quiet, and very hot. Very few people were on the road, only those who had good reasons to be outside.

We returned to the lanes and found a saloon run by Africans. We told them about our project and asked about their experience of Khirkee and Hauz Rani. They talked about India in general, not just the locality. Overall, they have had a very bad experience. One man spoke with a lot of anger because his brother had been shot in Jalandhar. Indians discriminate against the Africans continually, not wanting to talk to them, calling them habshi and by other derogatory names. In fact, the Africans in the saloon were quite shocked that we wanted to talk to them. They said to us, you can feel now what we feel all the time, see how people are staring at you because you are talking to us. It was true, people were staring. When I responded that only their community was discriminated against, it was the same for all the migrants here, they commented sarcastically, yeah! India is good! Acchha hai! Though we are all from different countries in Africa, we live here like brothers. But Indians treat badly.

Field Log 21 May 2015

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21 May 2015
Satender Tiwari

On my second day of fieldwork I talked with residents of J-Block. I met with Mr. Lal Chandra Gupta, a senior citizen who owned a dry-cleaning shop. When I explained the Khoj project he welcomed the chance to talk about the problem faced by women in public places in the locality. He said that the corners of every street are always occupied by groups of boys or men, talking and laughing loudly and casually using foul language. This is a major problem in Khirkee Village. I met a woman at her shop in J-Block who said the same thing, adding that very often fights broke out at the street corners. Men and boys would stare at women and girls and harass them in different ways, which the women and girls tried their best to ignore. According to this resident, locals were also disturbed when the Somali migrants came out of their houses at night, shouting to one another and talking loudly.

There are also many small workshops in Khirkee and Hauz Rani and the workers and artisans employed in those also need places to stay. Some live outside, come to work during the day and leave in late evening or night, but others rent locally and some sleep in their workplaces. Earlier in Khirkee there were no multistory buildings, but now these are being built specifically so that the owners can rent them to migrant communities through property dealers and agents. The locality is full of signs for property sales, brokers, rentals of rooms and flats. Migrant presence has led to many dhabas and tea stalls being opened, run by men, for male customers. Long-term residents of Khirkee and Hauz Rani call the migrants ‘outsiders’ who are adding to local sense of insecurity because their numbers are increasing day by day.

Field Log 15 May 2015

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15 May 2015

Arifa Khan

This was our first day of fieldwork observing gender presence within the public spaces of Khirkee and Hauz Rani. Both localities were new to us. We left Khoj at around 12.45 pm and walked towards Hauz Rani. It was Friday and the road was crowded with the male population, including from the large migrant community, gathering for namaz. Most wore white kurta-pajamas and prayer caps. Boys wore coloured kurtas, and we noticed many Afghans in pathani suits, as well as some in T-shirt and jeans. All the nearby roads were blocked and sheets were spread out in parking spaces. There were three policemen present as well as a CCTV camera for security – an unusual sight at namaz.

While walking in the locality prior to namaz time, we got a strong smell of biryani and kabab. The Biryani Lane selling biryani was full of men and it was difficult to cross from one side to the other. It emptied out at the time of namaz, as did the other lanes of the market. No women were visible, as they stay indoors at namaz times. I was the only woman on the road.

We then walked towards Khirkee, thinking we might see more women there since it has a more mixed population. But there too no women were visible on the road. The balconies too were empty and the roads were less crowded with men. We found a park near the mandir (temple) where a group of men was playing cards, others walking around while talking on their cellphones. People, including some women, were mostly using the park as a shortcut through the locality.

We returned to Khoj to wait till namaz ended, since the dominance of public space by men at prayer time didn’t give a true picture of gender presence. At 3 pm we walked further out, to Khirkee Extension. A cool breeze was blowing. Still, no women were on the road nor did we see any women on the balconies. We walked past fruit carts, stores, parks, boutiques, medical stores, presswalas, restaurants, small empty plots, hair salons, momo stalls, a soda shop, schools, mobile repairing shops, etc. The soda shop was run by a local woman. We stopped to buy something to drink. A group of Afghan teenage boys, perhaps 16-18 years old, were standing there. Another Afghan boy came up to them, whispered something to them and then hugged them one by one. Other groups of local youngsters were playing on the road. There was no girl in these groups, nor any separate group of girls. Not a single girl was outside playing. We saw many beauty parlours in Khirkee but did not observe any women going in and out. On the other hand, the African parlour was full of African customers.

From Khirkee we walked through the J-Block connecting lane into Hauz Rani. By this time it was evening and the roads were quite full. Women were coming out of their houses and buying things in the market, but there were still many more men to be seen than women. The lanes are densely populated, uneven, ascending and descending, and in some parts so narrow and dark that lights have to be kept on in the daytime. Some lanes seemed to be ending but would suddenly link up with the main road. Men were hanging out in groups on the street corners, where they get together after namaz to socialize. There were very few beauty parlours as compared to Khirkee, but just as many medical stores, grocery shops and food stalls selling kabab, biryani, lassi, paratha, fruit. There are many workshops of different kinds in the basements of the buildings. The only woman to be seen working on the road was a presswali.

We were hungry by then and wanted to eat, but it was difficult to find a place suitable for a woman. The local restaurants, small and cheap, seemed to serve only labourers, all men; there was no seating arrangement for families. As we walked towards outer Hauz Rani we got a strong smell of rose petals. We stopped at a small Afghan shop selling biryani, cigarettes and cold drinks. We sat down and ordered biryani, and till the food came we talked to the shop owner. He was from Kabul and had come to Delhi. Initially he was working as an electrician to make ends meet. He is sending his children to school, and his wife is not well, so he has started this biryani shop. While eating we also talked to an Afghan suffering from paralysis, who has come to Delhi to get his treatment in Rockland Hospital.

Hauz Rani has more parks as compared to Khirkee. The Haji Park was neglected but the Bhagat Singh Park was fully maintained. On our return walk from Hauz Rani to Khoj I saw a girl, about seven years old, standing on the road near the gate of her house. Suddenly a boy of about fourteen came up and scolded her, ordering her to go inside. She obeyed.