While talking to him, I realised how perplexed he felt with my camera pointed towards him. It made him conscious. However, when I started clicking, he was more than happy to be clicked. “Yeh haath mein kaala kaala kya hai?” (What is this black coloured thing in your hand?) said a 40-year-old Hari Gopal, pointing towards my camera. To my surprise, he started telling me that he got his first photo clicked when he applied for a ration card and the Sharma photo studio in Sultanpur charged him ₹50 for it. Hari’s family lives in his native village of Bingi, near the district Sultanpur. “My wife usually stays unwell, and my children are taken care of by my mother. I work here in the city as a daily wage labourer but by the end of the month, I am not really able to save much for my family.”
Presently, he has been hired for ten days to clean the garden and the front portion of Chattar Manzil. His working hours are from 9 am to 5 pm. When asked where he stays, with a smile, he said, “we are labourers. We sleep where we get a place without trouble. Once my family visited me here, but I felt really bad. Why? “Because I had no place to provide them shelter.”
In the village, my mother and children work at bade babu’s field. My daughter is growing up and I will marry her off to someone who earns monthly, not daily. Recently, a family came to see my daughter for marriage and asked for dowry. Tell me from where a poor man like me will get dowry. They wanted a motorbike and I don’t even have three sets of clothes to wear. When I got married to my wife, her father gave us utensils and clothes. I now realise it must have been a burden on him; he was a Bilaspuri mazdoor. When my wife was not sick, we would make more money. She has tuberculosis now.
In every 15 days, I go to my village and spend two days with my family. I have been thinking of bringing my family here but then it’s not easy. I came to Lucknow only two years back. Before that, I had worked in Faizabad, Gorakhpur, Rudauli, Jaunpur and many other places. My youngest daughter is five years old and I love her very much. When I am home she brings me tea, water or whatsoever I need. Last time when I went home, my son Sundar also wanted to come along to the city, but I told him to stay in the village and look after the family. It is very difficult to get work here. It’s a battle at times. There are weeks and months when you don’t get any work. It becomes difficult then. However, sometimes you get work every day.