A Real Durwan (Lahiri)

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A Real Durwan
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: An elderly woman, who worked as a sweeper in a building, was thrown out by the residents after a basin was stolen during her absence. She had been narrating tales of her past life and hardships.

Boori Ma, a 64-year-old woman, worked as a sweeper in a stairwell in Calcutta. She was a refugee from the Partition and claimed to have lost her husband, four daughters, and a comfortable life.

Boori Ma — narrator; elderly woman who worked as a sweeper; frail, talkative, and imaginative.

She lived under the letter boxes and slept on quilts, which she believed were infested with mites. The residents of the building were unsure of the truth of her claims, but they appreciated her services and her stories.

Believe me, don't believe me, such comforts you cannot even dream them.

One day, Mr. Dalal, a resident of the building, was promoted at his job and bought two ceramic basins.

Mr. Dalal — resident of the building; worked as a receipt filer; ambitious, proud.

He installed one in his flat and the other in the stairwell for everyone to use. This sparked jealousy among the other residents, who began to make their own renovations. Boori Ma was unable to do her job due to the constant activity in the building and started wandering the streets. During one of her outings, her life savings and skeleton keys were stolen.

While she was out, the basin in the stairwell was stolen. The residents blamed Boori Ma for the theft, accusing her of informing the robbers.

Believe me, believe me. I did not inform the robbers.

Despite her protests, they threw her out of the building along with her belongings. They decided to look for a real durwan (gatekeeper) to secure the building.

What a building like this needs is a real durwan.

Boori Ma left with only her broom, repeating her pleas of innocence as she disappeared.