Mission Delhi – Rakesh Kumar Mishra, Connaught Lane
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Sitting on his patch of the pavement, he takes a sip of the chai, and again looks at the blur of people walking in front of him. The Delhi Walla met Rakesh Kumar Mishra, 34, a seller of second-hand magazines, novels, and guidebooks at his stall in Connaught Lane, a pedestrian street in Connaught Place, the colonial-era commercial district.
“These are old magazines so not many people stop here,” says Mr Mishra, pointing to old issues of Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, GQ, Good Home, Harvard Business Review, Better Homes, and The Caravan carefully arranged against a brick wall. Stacks of Time, Newsweek and National Geographic, a couple of Hindi language novels, and a few Lonely Planet guides in French and Swedish are spread out on a blue plastic sheet. Pointing to a last year’s issue of The Economist, Mr Sharma says, “Take it for 15 Rs.” The paper‘s newsstand price is 200 Rs, the same amount that Mr Mishra earns daily.
The magazine seller arrived in Delhi from his village in Bihar in 1996. He started operating the stall a year later. “I could have become a rickshaw puller but a relative who was running this stand decided to leave home for good, and so he sold it to me.”
The stall is not licensed by New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), which means that it is illegal.
“Sometimes I ask myself if I did the right thing by coming to Delhi,” Mr Mishra says. “I don’t think I would have earned less in my village than what I make here.”
Mr Mishra lives in a one-room house in Shahdara, east Delhi, with two factory labourers. The monthly rent is 500 Rs. His wife, Suman, and daughters Khushi and Sadhvi stay in the village. “I often talk to them on my wife’s mobile phone.”
Everyday Mr Mishra wakes up at 7 am, prepares his lunch (rotis and subzi), and reaches the metro station by 9 am. He carries the magazines in his torn plastic bag.
At 10 am, as office-goers are passing through the lane, Mr Mishra is ready with his display of Men’s Health and Vanity Fair. A postcard-sized photo of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, is placed on the ledge of the wall for good luck. A string of green chilies tied to a lemon hangs from a tree vine to ward off the evil eye.
At 2 pm, Mr Mishra has lunch. At 8 pm, he leaves. “After reaching home, I cook, eat and then I sleep.”
On Sunday, Mr Sharma goes to the weekly book bazaar in Daryaganj to hunt for second-hand foreign magazines.
Taking out tobacco from a plastic pouch and rubbing it on his palm, he says, “If I get a license from NDMC, I will open a food stall. It has more money.”
[This is the 54th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
No subscription, no lending
No evil eye please
This too shall pass