Coronavirus lockdown | When a public toilet in Delhi serves as ‘home’

Lockdown forces 30-year-old worker from Bihar to dig in, slum it out

Updated - May 02, 2020 08:10 am IST

Published - May 02, 2020 01:08 am IST - NEW DELHI

Gautam Kumar said he is waiting for the lockdown to end so that he can go home.

Gautam Kumar said he is waiting for the lockdown to end so that he can go home.

Gautam Kumar is sitting on a plastic chair outside a cubicle that has the word ‘store’ written on it. Inside it, there is a stove and bedsheet. Some of his belongings are scattered around. What separates this setup from common scenarios of most migrant workers in the city, is that this is a public toilet.

For Gautam, this toilet — next to Hazrat Nizamuddin police station and barely a few metres from the centre where members of the Tablighi Jamaat were evacuated — has been his ‘home’ since the first day of the lockdown.

Gautam, who is from Bihar’s Jehanabad, had come to Delhi on March 20, leaving his wife and two minor sons back home, to work as a caretaker of the public convenience where he is staying now. However, for him, things changed when the lockdown was announced.

‘They closed the toilet’

“I was here when they took everyone from inside the [Nizamuddin] centre in a queue. I watched everything. They had closed the toilet that day. I stayed inside the toilet the whole day and have been stuck here since then,” he said.

He added that the toilet is not open to the public but only to security personnel deployed here. A municipal corporation worker comes in the morning to clean. “No one else is allowed inside,” he said. The 30-year-old said his afternoon meal is managed with the help of CRPF officials, who share their lunch with him. For dinner, Gautam mostly cooks rice and pulses in the same space where officials relieve themselves.

“Cooking here doesn’t feel right but what option do I have?” said Gautam. His contractor provides him ration.

Inside the toilet, the ceiling fan has not been functional ever since Gautam came, he said. “There is electricity but the fan isn’t working. I never asked anyone to fix it, as I know no one will do,” he said.

He said the reason he is staying inside the toilet is because he doesn’t have his immediate family here and doesn’t wish to visit his cousin in Nehru Place due to pandemic fear.

“There is nothing better than staying alone, more so because I have been in Nizamuddin. Once I thought I will go but then I couldn’t have walked all the way,” he said. Gautam is now waiting for the lockdown to end so that he can go home.

“If the toilet opens for the public, I will stay. Otherwise, I will just board a bus to Bihar,” he said.

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