CITYSCAPE: A look at the ingenious, if uncomfortable, ways in which the homeless make Delhi their home.

None of the approximately 1.5 lakh homeless people are likely to remember Hedy West’s song “Five hundred miles away from home” but the truth could not be closer. Delhi’s population of the homeless has burgeoned manifold as thousands land up in the Capital in search of livelihood. Most sleep in the open, in the parks, markets, under flyovers.

Some though are more enterprising than others; they make ingenious, even if not entirely comfortable dwellings. Makeshift in nature, they often last many a season. For proof one just has to go under the good old Defence Colony flyover, or any of the more recent ones, and find people sprawled on a jute cot, a warm quilt and maybe, in some cases, sitting around a little fire or atop busy bus stands or on the roof of Mother Dairy outlets. Cast your gaze wider and you find the homeless finding a shelter in disused cinema halls in Subzi Mandi, on little slabs outside age-old shops in Chandni Chowk’s kuchas and katras. Or just go across to Kasturba Gandhi Marg in the heart of the city. There, at the intersection of K.G. Marg-Tolstoy Marg, a couple has made the hollow of a decades-old tree a little home to call theirs. Of course, there are those who turn the water pipes into temporary homes, just about managing to roll themselves into the pipes during day-time but managing a place to hide from heat or cold at night. Then near Zakir Nagar in South Delhi, two enterprising middle aged men use the wall of a private residence as also the one of a police picket for support on two sides. On the third side are the extra cement bags the cops otherwise use for shield in case of any untoward incident. The three sides help raise a tin sheet, proving a home to the men a hundred miles removed from their actual ones in Uttar Pradesh.

Yes, these men and women may not have a shirt on their back with not a penny to their name but they have something giving the impression of a home. That in the city of over a lakh homeless is a no mean achievement.

TEXT: ZIYA US SALAM

PHOTOS: MONICA TIWARI, MEETA AHLAWAT, S. SUBRAMANIUM