The story of Kapashera
Cities pulsate as energies in their regions, metastasizing forces, power, and social relations in unlikely places in capital’s planetary play. Kapashera, an unlikely consequence of this happenstance, transformed from a centuries old Ahir settlement (hera) of wild cotton (kapas) to an industrial tenement town determined by its namesake kapas’s planetary play.
Processed cotton arrives here from China, to be spun into textile and sewn into garments by migrants arriving from Bihar, only to depart as fast fashion for markets in Western Europe and North America. To allow this flux of capital and cotton unimpeded, the Ahir landowners of Kapashera pull kapas over everyone’s eyes making their khet (farm) into a commodity open for play. The large khet turns into a farmhouse, the small khet into a multi-storey tenement.
Kapashera, a town of 250,000 migrant bodies and 10,000 landowners contained within one square kilometre floats as a speckle in the sea of Delhi’s elite peripheral green. Kapashera’s heavy segregated density, central to its unlikeliness is where paucity, and affluence, openness, and density, agriculture, and industry, the humble Bihari, and the Delhi bourgeoisie, exist side by side, feeding off each other, congruent yet neatly separated by thin walls.
The everyday life of the tenement (kalonie) is fraught with tensity, in the morning, the beds are rolled up, transforming the tiny rooms into living spaces, at dinnertime the pantry next to the window takes over, and at night-time, the beds roll out again. What is earned off the kalonie must be spent on the life in the kalonie, a landowner quips to me, making the migrants captive of Kapashera’s gloomy density.
In between, the migrants work on the factory lines, stitching, measuring, guarding, and sweeping, while the wheels of planetary capitalism turning, and the cycles of fast fashion churning.
Pause, play, and repeat, 12 hours a day, six days a week.