One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
No birds in the sandy sky. The previous day Delhi recorded the highest temperature for the season. “If it gets very hot, I feel tempted for an orange bar,” he says, “but I need to sell these ice creams, not eat them myself.”
Bimal, 30, is one of the thousands of ice-cream vendors who take over the streets of Delhi in the summer. The Delhi Walla meets him in K.K. Lane, a tree-lined avenue off the Max Mueller Marg. Every morning at eleven Bimal parks his ice cream cart, which he calls ‘reri’, opposite the Alliance Française de Delhi, a French cultural center. At six in the evening, when the office hours end, he pedals the cart to the bus stop on Max Mueller Marg where he stays till eleven in the night.
“My wife Suman lives with my parents in our village in Uttar Pradesh,” he says. “What can we do? I cannot support her in Delhi. She is there. I am here.”
Bimal’s cart is painted yellow. It has posters advertising various ice cream flavours of the Amul dairy company. “The ice creams come from… I am forgetting the name… it is beyond Faridabad,” he says, referring to a town just across the municipal limits of Delhi. “The name is printed on this poster… yes, Gujarat.”
A woman walks towards us and asks Bimal for a chocolate bar.
“I was a construction labourer in Punjab where I daily earned Rs 200. Suman lived with me. About six months ago I left for Delhi. She returned to the village.”
Bimal’s locket bears the image of goddess Durga. A clay idol of Lord Shiv is tied to the cart.
“I am earning less in Delhi.”
Bimal does not own this cart; he rents it from a contractor for free and gets fourteen percent of the sales as his commission.
“I sleep in an ice-cream depot that shelters thirty reri-wallas. It is a mile from here.”
Three girls come out of Alliance Française. Talking loudly in English, they stand under the shade of a tree.
Resting both arms on his cart, Bimal says, “Sometimes I earn so less that I am unable to send money to the village.”
The hot wind blows dust into our eyes.
“My son will soon turn one and I have no money. Nothing is in my control.”
[This is the 58th portrait of Mission Delhi project]