Searching for the stylish.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The Delhi Walla saw this boy-child at a back-lane in Greater Kailash-I, an upscale neighbourhood in south Delhi. He was wearing a check turban, a pale blue shirt and a dark blue denim trouser, flamboyantly embroidered on its right leg. His strapped sandals had blue-and-black borders and the buckle of his belt was shaped into a woman’s lips with a heart within. He was carrying a shovel. There was no one dressed like him.
The boy-child should have been in a school uniform. Instead he was dressed like a workman. That misfortune failed to reflect on his in-built smartness. His shirt sleeves were rolled up to his elbows. The shirt was neatly tucked into his jeans. The trouser was folded to his ankle. The turban was actually a wet towel, the purpose of which was to cool down his head in the rising summer temperature. Under a burning noon-day sun, the boy-child was working at a construction site, digging his shovel into a mound of cement, piling it into a straw basket and then carrying that basket to a bungalow-in-progress.
In 2009, the Indian parliament passed the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act. In 2010, the act came into effect. In 2011, I spotted this boy-child employed as a labourer in the upper-crust heart of India’s capital. His toenails were chipped, his sandals were covered with grit, and his skin was sun-roasted to dark brown. He looked like a man-in-waiting but for his fuzzy mustache and brown eyes. Still new to this world, they were demanding not to be stripped off their innocence so soon. The struggle was useless. The boy-child’s tenderness did not stand a chance. His attempts in preserving his boyhood dignity in this unjust world – through his jeans, belt and tucked-in shirt – was moving. The country had failed him, but he was trying.
The cool turban
The designer jeans
The grit and chipped nails
The childhood eyes
His Delhi style