Does any city have a more stratified sleep economy than wintertime Delhi? The filmmaker Shaunak Sen, who spent two years researching the city’s sleep vendors for a documentary, “Cities of Sleep,” discovered a sprawling gray market that has taken shape around the city’s vast unmet need for shelter. In some places, it breeds what he calls a “sleep mafia, who controls who sleeps where, for how long, and what quality of sleep.”
…Like many of this city’s businesses, sleep vendors are both highly organized and officially nonexistent. In Mr. Khan’s neighborhood, four quilt vendors have divided the sidewalks and public spaces into quadrants, and when night falls, their customers arrange themselves into colonies of lumpy forms. Some have returned to the same spot every night for years.
…Mr. Khan, who has been here for eight years, says he extends credit for regular customers to a limit of 100, or occasionally 200, rupees. (Several shivering men, who had spent the night around a smoldering fire nearby, snorted in disbelief upon hearing this.) He considers boundaries between vendors so sacred that he will not step across them. He makes regular payments to the police and street sweepers so they do not disturb his sleepers, and he maintains close relations with the local pickpockets so that he can tell them whom not to rob.
I wish I knew more about the market structure, coercive control, and ease of entry and the like. Nonetheless an interesting story from Ellen Barry at the NYT.