India Gate is a magnet for tourists from all parts of India and abroad. Among the throng of these gawky-eyed tourists, instant photographers and souvenir sellers, one particular figure stands out. If only, by less than three feet. Monu is 52 years old and a dwarf. 25 years ago, he ran away from his hometown Nagpur, Maharashtra and ever since, he’s called India Gate his home. He sleeps here, eats here, bathes here and earns money here. In the mornings, Monu can be found selling bottled water to weary travellers. But come 4pm, Monu transforms into Charlie Mama — he puts on white paint on his face, dons a pair of black trousers and a black coat and becomes a dwarf version of Charlie Chaplin. He earns Rs 20 for every selfie he clicks with tourists. Sometimes, they don’t honour him with even that. Two years ago, Monu, a Hindu by birth, found a Muslim family — Monir, his mother, his wife Lipy and their five kids. The family took him in as a father figure and he has been living with them in India Gate ever since. A circus even offered to “buy” Monu for a sum of Rs 2.5 lakhs, but Monir’s mother out rightly refused.
Kids around laugh at Monu, calling him “bouna”. But the NDMC leaves his belongings alone. Monu hasn’t traveled much in Delhi in his 25 years here. He considers it a waste of money. India Gate is where he always wants to live and call it home.