Purushottam came up to me on street and asked me to take his picture, I was sceptical. He invited me to his house, right by the side of the road we were standing on. His aunt was home, his mother’s older sister.
She is a sweeper, the BBMP pays her Rs. 1000 per month to sweep 2 streets from end to end. To augment her income she is the caretaker of a public bathroom which is the building adjacent to her house.
Their house could at best be described as a makeshift arrangement, haphazardly put together with loose and uneven brick. One strong push and the wall would have collapsed. When we entered the dingy room, she asked Purushottam to ‘get the bulb’ (they own one bulb that they interchange between different parts of their living area as the need arises). Once there was light, she told me a few stories of how she raised her 4 children in this house (more of a room) that was no more than 4 paces x 6. “When it rains, the roof leaks…we go across the street to sleep in the neighbor’s shop” she said.
We stepped outside into their 'backyard’ - a small tract of unoccupied government land, covered with weeds. A couple of his friends came by and saw Purushottam being photographed, he gave them a big grin. He said his favorite subject in school was Kannada and that he would like the opportunity to learn more languages. The whole time he was talking to me, he never stopped playing with his stole.
His Aunt hesitatingly asked Purushottam in Telegu to tell me to take a picture of her, holding a broom. When I asked her why, she said : “This is the source of my livelihood - we get to eat because of the broom, it helped me send my son to college.”
Purushottam asked me if I would like to see the Art School next door. On our way there, he informed me that he sweeps the school twice a day - before and after his own school timings. The art school pays his mother Rs. 3000/- for his work. I asked him what he wanted to be when he grows up - “a police officer, so that I can arrest everyone”, “Everyone ?” I asked him “people who do bad things” he added as an after-thought.