Sridevi is a gardener at the Lodi Gardens, formerly Lady Willingdon Gardens, where she has tenured employment at Rs 1,400 a month
She is a widow and comes from the Mali caste. She has two children and lives in Badarpur, a suburb of Delhi.
I complimented her on her beauty and she was very pleased.
Indra is from U.P. and also lives in Badarpur, many miles away.
I praised the colourful extravagance of the flower beds- the pansies, stocks and dahlias. “They were better last year. This year we were very tied up with preparations for the Rani of Japan’s visit (Empress Michiko).” The first landscaping of the gardens after Independence was done by a team of Japanese gardeners. “Go and visit all the miniature trees we planted. We love working in Lodi Gardens- it’s better than being cooped up indoors.”
Phoolchand is from Rajasthan, a small village on the Jaipur road. He is from the Dhobi (washerman) caste and so is his wife, Bhagwati.
“There’s been a falling off in trade. Most people have their clothes ironed at home.” He expertly creases a man’s striped shirt and presses his iron on it. “But you can’t get a finish like this. I make Rs 100-120 a day, that’s all.”He is a merry man, with a simple happy outlook. He and Bhagwati go home once a year at Dussehra to pay homage to the local goddess, “our Mata”. Everyone in the neighbourhood likes and trusts him.