Moinuddin and Krishna, though as different as chalk and cheese,
have one thing in common. They follow a unique profession that
both chanced upon many years ago - diving into Delhi's Yamuna
river and fishing out coins thrown in by devotees.
At festival time they come out with a prize catch or two - a gold
coin or a gold coated statue - that sees them through for many
months. One of them was lucky enough to find a diamond ring! The
stinking, choked and heavily polluted river provides them their
bread and butter. They eat, sleep and even drink the dirty water
and claim to be disease-free and perfectly healthy.
The 1,376-km long river has been reduced to a drain in Delhi. But,
by their own count, at least 150 men like Moinuddin and Krishna
find sustenance in it as divers.
Sixty-five-year-old Moinuddin, who hails from Lucknow, came to
Delhi at the age of nine and was clueless about what to do for a
living. He was living on the pavement and one fine day, a 'panditji'
or Hindu priest came and gave him a blanket. The pandit also took
him along and taught him carpentry and truck driving which enabled
him to earn a living.
He stayed with the man for nine years but after his death,
Moinuddin left for Lucknow. He got married to a girl of his choice
and had a son. But his world came crashing down when his wife died
just three years into their marriage.
"I was completely heartbroken. I did not marry again. No one can
take the place of my wife in my life. I returned to Delhi and
since then the Yamuna has been my constant companion," Moinuddin
He lives on the banks of the river and cooks his own food and
washes his own clothes. Even at this age, he does not hesitate to
dive into the river "and Yamuna maa (mother) has never
disappointed me", he says.
He gets Rs.50-100 every day. Once he got lucky and found a diamond
ring and an 'asharfi', or gold coin. That enabled him to take rest
from work for a few months.
"It's a bit difficult for me now that I am getting old. When I was
young, I could hold my breath for about 10 minutes inside the
water. Now I can hardly do it for three minutes. But I enjoy the
While many come seeking bliss, others come to end their lives. "I
have saved at least 40 lives by saving them from drowning. I get
Rs.4,000 to Rs.5,000 for saving a life."
Krishna, his 30-year-old companion, was 11 when he came to Delhi
from Kolkata in search of a job. At that time he used to come to
the Yamuna to pick up coconuts, some of which he ate and the rest
He got work but for a few days. Though he is a trained
electrician, he failed to find a permanent job and was frustrated.
Once he saw a few older men coming out of the water with coins in
their mouth. He was curious to know what they did. And since then,
he too has made it his profession to dive into the Yamuna for
coins and other little treasures.
"I get Rs.100-200 every day. Some days I do return empty-handed.
But during festivals, the pickings are usually large. During
Navratras, I make Rs.3,000 a day. However, diving into the river
is not possible during the winters, so in those days I pull a
rickshaw for a living," Krishna told IANS.
But he is looking for an alternate profession. "These days there
is a strong smell of some gas emanating from the river which makes
diving difficult," he says.
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