KOCHI: Fifty-four-year-old Ajayan and his significant other, 42-year-old Rosy, lack a formal address. In a country where millions live on streets, the story of this couple is bound to be unremarkable, but their life offers a fragment of the experience of homelessness in Kochi.
For the last four years, Ajayan and Rosy have been living in an abandoned workshop at an unused government land at Gandhi Nagar in Kadavanthra. Nothing on the land belongs to them, except for a few pair of clothes, some cardboards and a few dogs they rear.
They pick rags for a living and earn from nothing to Rs 200 a day. There is no bathroom or toilet in their rudimentary shelter, but a few kilometres away, there are railway tracks.
While Rosy was born in the street, Ajayan has a large family back in his native place, Pandalam. “I was a driver. Once I got drunk and rammed the lorry I drove into a Commissioner’s car and they stripped me off my driving licence,” says Ajayan, who turned into a rag-picker after he lost his job as a driver.
While he still had the driving job, he was married to a woman for a decade and had four children. “My wife chose to stay away from me. My children are now at an orphanage in Aluva,” he says.
Ajayan met Rosy while picking rags near Ernakulam South Junction. She was born, according to Ajayan, to a policeman in Neyyattinkara.
“I was also married once. My husband died in an accident a few years ago and has been with Ajayan since then,” Rosy says.
They found the workshop one day while picking rags and made it home as it provided them the warmth and protection the streets near Ernakulam South Junction could not offer.
The land in which the workshop stands is surrounded by residential buildings and offices. Their encroachment naturally should have been treated as an eyesore. But the residents were happy to have the couple live in the workshop, because it was, till their occupation, home to drunkards and drug-users.
As a help towards the hapless couple, and to end the activities of the miscreants, the residents’ association obtained permission from the District Collector to start plantain farming in the land.
“As the couple live there, they have been tasked with taking care of the plantains. In return, the residents give them rice and other stationery every week,” says T S Madhavan, a social workers and apex council member of the Ernakulam District Residents’ Association.
The plantains will be bunched soon. Ajayan is expecting the Collector to inaugurate the harvest. “This was a busy mess of overgrowth when we moved into the workshop. I made it into its present state. Madhavan sir has promised me to bring the Collector to inaugurate the harvest,” says a hopeful Ajayan.