For a large population of our densely populated cities, the strict social distancing norms to be followed during a pandemic are almost laughable. The rules are not written for those who rely on a community toilet and live in tightly packed 10×10 feet rooms. Das by Das ki kholi, or 10×10 room, has been an identity for the working class of Mumbai city since decades. They are also unique to Mumbai, and many of these housing societies or the chawls have been declared national heritage sites. These congested 10×10 feet rooms often accommodate a complete family, the members of which have been struggling to find their space during the lockdown.
Siddhi Kapse, a visual artist, has grown up hearing the words, Das by Das all her life. She often wondered about bigger houses and its inhabitants. To all her questions, her father’s response would be, “Das by Das and we live in it.” “As the years passed by, I was exposed to new learnings, but 10×10 always remained at the back of my mind… These three words had biggest influence on my creative thinking,” she states.
The city has always been grappling with problems of space and housing, but in a lockdown, these issues are not only urgent, they affect the actions and thoughts of the inhabitants of this tiny space. Siddhi is working on a photographic series called Das by Das: Pandemic Edition, that documents the struggles of families living in these quarters. In the midst of the hardships, the families have found ample space for love, hobbies and passions. “They make their own version of the dalgona coffee (maybe without that perfect ‘gramable glass’ but just as delicious). They have even got a jugadu oven that makes both momos and modals and has you craving for more.” she says about the families living in the society.
Here’s a glimpse into a 10×10 house in the lockdown: