I see a black dusty blanket, full of holes, placed in one of the recesses of the monument, as I cross the Khooni Darwaza one morning. The Khooni Darwaza or Bloody Doorway is a huge gateway which has some gory stories surrounding its history. I will write about this structure some other time. But as of now, the gate stands right in the middle of Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, and I have to cross it through a little opening in the fence around it, in order to reach the hospital. Since this 1857 archway lies right in the middle of the main street, they have created a sort of garden island around it and this green area tapers off into two dividers on either side.
The next day, I find that the blanket with holes has been moved across to some mehendi hedges on the other end of the garden. On the low ledge, are two figures, one is lying on the other’s lap. These two people seem to be tramps. Dirtily dressed in shabby clothes, unwashed with muddy hair which curls around their faces. The first time I saw them, I couldn’t make out their genders. The sitting figure was searching through the other’s scalp, presumably looking for lice infestation.
Another morning and I see them seated together. It is a man and a woman. They must be in their early twenties. The man has his arm around his lady. Then he turns around with a chalk in his hand, and begins to write on the red electric box. SUNITA. He writes in large, neat, bold letters in English. I cannot stand and stare to find out what he writes next. But on my way back home that afternoon, I find the words written on that box: SUNITA and BIRAJ. There is a huge heart drawn under the words with an arrow piercing the heart. I now know their names. But I am still wondering what drove such a young couple to homelessness.
It rained heavily the next night. It is drizzling that morning and there is huge waterlogging on the roads. I have no option but to wade through the low lying patches near the gate, soaking my shoes entirely. In one of the recesses of the monument, I see a group of men playing cards and having a smoke. Sunita and Biraj are not at their usual spot in the garden that morning, and I wonder where they spent the night in such inclement weather.
That afternoon, as I cross the garden, I see tattered cards flying on the ground. The ace of diamonds, the five of spades, the seven of clubs, the queen of hearts. Some scattered on the wet mud, others floating in the remaining puddles of water. The sun has come out. And then I glimpse the damp black blanket placed out to dry on the fence. They are fine, I know.
I now see them every morning. Some days Biraj is seen serenading his love with some syrupy lyrics of a Hindi film song, a gamcha tied like a bandana on his head. On other days I see Sunita clean his hair of lice. But on most days, I find them drawing graffiti on the red box, proclaiming their love for each other. Sometimes he draws a trident, at others a damru, at others a house, but always with their names underneath. As if they want to tell the world that they belong to each other.
Who knows where they came from. Who knows where they will go. But when everything seems locked down, their love for each other continues unleashed.