City Style – The Classy Delhiwalla, New Delhi Railway Station
Searching for the stylish.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The Delhi Walla saw this man in New Delhi railway station. He was wearing a white lungi, white vest, steel-grey blazer and a necklace of white plastic beads. He had light brown shoes and he hadn’t put on socks. His hair was white, his eyes were red, and his skin was dark, leathery and wrinkled. There was no one dressed like him.
The white of the man’s lungi and vest had turned off-white, a shade that harmonized with that of his shoes. A white bag was slung around his shoulder. His right hand had a lathi for support; the other carried a small aluminum pail for begging.
In Delhi, as in all Indian cities, beggars try to get sympathy by stripping themselves off their dignity. The easiest way is to wear torn clothes, or (sometimes) nothing at all. Similarly, the privileged people lose their dignity – unintentionally – by packing themselves in the most expensive brands until they look as cheap as a TV commercial. But this man, despite being reduced to a wretched circumstance, hasn’t lost his humanity.
The lungi might be unwashed, the blazer might be a charity gift and the necklace might have been picked from a rail platform. Yet, the combined effect – along with the clean fingernails – gives the man his style that seems to be saying, “Yes, I am poor and it might or might not be my fault and yes, it is a horrible thing to happen to anybody, but I refuse to be less than a man.”
Although it is immoral to be romantic about poverty, the man gives me hope. Everyone of us could have self-esteem and a sense of beauty no matter how bad the life is.
The quiet elegance
Such is life and yet…