Okhla is a neighbourhood on the banks of the river Yamuna in Delhi. It was once a small village on the south-eastern edge of the city but the city grew to claim it. As the area developed, it began to attract more and more people — often, family members and friends of those already living here. They came from small towns and villages to study, find jobs and make a better life. In the last few decades, even more Muslim families have moved to this area because it is hard for them to find houses in other parts of the city or because of the fear of communal riots. So even though, large parts of Okhla have bad roads, erratic electricity supply and even contaminated water, people throng to this “Muslim area.”
I have been in and out of Okhla since I started studying in Jamia in 1989. My grandparents lived there, and my family and I continue to live there. When the Batla House encounter happened and Okhla took centre-stage on TV channels, I began to think about what was missing from the picture of Okhla that was being created by the news and television, what was missing that could connect Okhla’s story to the story of other neighbourhoods in other cities. The answer I felt was — everyday life.
In My Sweet Home, children shared these stories from their lives with great enthusiasm. They wrote and created art about their homes – terraces, mosques and train tracks that lead to the villages that their families came from. The book invites you to explore this busy, congested area that is teeming with stories that the newspapers and television don’t bother with, stories that belong to Haris and Amna, Tabish and Nooma, Simeen and Shahana and Anam. And all their friends. Come, walk through their streets and share their stories because stories, as I once read in a book, have to be told otherwise they die.
Here’s a short film on the book: