Excerpts from Sreejata Roy’s conversation with Gularun

Transcription: Rakesh Khairala

Translation Hindi to English: Smriti Vohra

The woman sitting between me and Gularun explained my queries to her. Gularun covered her head with her dupatta, smiled and gazed at us while she searched for answers. She knows Hindi, and I spoke very simply but my words somehow acquire layers of meaning for her and she gets confused. She understands me, tries to clo the the word-shadows hovering around her as she distils her experience of life outside and inside the shelter, into a narration through which she might define herself for me.

What can one do? This locality is useless, dominated by men. When the men are addicts, what can women do? One corner does not suffice for us!

One should not look back, the past is long and heavy and urges us to keep returning to it…” Yet she agrees to talk about her earlier life; in the course of telling she forgets her precarious current state and is only able to focus on the dispersed shadows of her past. When she recalls her childhood, spaces she played in, her young days, her face softens and her eyes become alive.

She came to the city with her husband, children and some other people from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh, starting a new phase of her existence in this way like so many other provincial migrants. “I am forty years old,” she says, smiling. “I have been at this shelter for three years. Before that I stumbled from one place to the other without direction. It was very difficult. I worked in different places and at time was homeless, but somehow I survived. I had the illusion that in the city I will be able to find work and enough to eat, I would be able to find a peaceful place to live, the comfort.