New Delhi, Jul 28 : The village of Yaikongpao, in Senapati district, Manipur, has acquired 100 square yards at Burari. When the village chief manages to raise enough funds, a hostel-cum-guesthouse will be constructed for students and families coming to Delhi from the state.
Dzukou House too was built this way—villagers on the Manipur-Nagaland border clubbed together to invest in infrastructure here. Villages, communities and groups from the northeast are pooling resources to set up cheap accommodations for students and families coming to the city. Though an unlikely choice, this north Delhi area is perhaps the only one where they can have landlords from their region.
Rocky Angumei, a youth pastor from Yaikongpao, says, "When I learnt about this place in 2007, I convinced the villagers to invest here. The village used its own development funds. The elders are here but they've entrusted me with the project." That land was bought, he says, in 2008-09.
"All educated young people are leaving Manipur and going to other states, mainly Delhi," says Angumei. "They work wherever they can—at beauty parlours or call centres—and pay exorbitant rents. The elders create a sense of security."
A single lane with about a dozen houses owned by people from the northeast offers the comfort of familiarity. Peichun Kadimna's family—her father's a pastor too—was the first to put down roots in 2010. "We were the only ones from the northeast here then," says the Miranda House student. Around that time, Ramo Chothe, a physics teacher at SGTB Khalsa College, was building his home. Chothe is now constructing more floors. "I can accommodate 10-15 students. Two will share a room, there'll be a common room with a television, and I'll serve meals. It'll be like home," he says.
The Kadimnas are ready to open their hostel—for 15—in August. "We're asking our friends to also chip in and set up hostels or guesthouses. Four to five families can together buy a 100 square-yard plot and build on it," says Chothe.
The interiors of Burari hardly inspire the confidence Chothe shows—there are virtually no roads leading to their lane, lanes aren't paved properly, streetlights come on well after it's dark and venturing out of the colony can invite racist comments. When Chothe moved in, "it was like a jungle". But this little throng is trying to make Burari home with a few light touches.
Last year, they had a badminton tournament in an empty parking lot. Angumei started the Church of Hope and is now working on "a barbecue culture". "The dream is there'll be a properly colony here with shopping complex, gymnasium and open area," explains Chothe. He convinced homeowners on his row to contribute "one foot from their plots for a few shops". These are yet to come up.
The community has the option of staying in Dhaka village or Gandhi Vihar in accommodations sublet to them. But, despite the inconvenient location, all the rooms available in Burari are taken. "Students started coming about two years ago," says Chothe, "About 15 came last year. Another 15 joined this time." It takes Kadamlung Gonmei two hours to get from Burari to Dyal Singh College on Lodhi Road but he decided to shift.
"Local landlords charged us more and we'd never get our security deposits back," says DU graduate Joseph Phaomei, who's preparing for competitive exams.
They can eat fermented fish in peace, there's no curfew and the elders to manage the kids. Having other migrant families as immediate neighbours also helps. "It's a mixed group here," says Angumei, "There are several families from Uttarakhand. They are simple. Like us."