One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Opening his wallet and resting his finger on a photo, he says, ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs Khushbu Khatoon, my oldest child. She is eight. That‚Äôs Mohammed Raja, my son. He is six. That‚Äôs Rani Khatoon. She is four. And she is Gulesha Khatoon, my wife. My youngest was not born when this photo was taken. Soni Khatoon is two.‚ÄĚ
Mohammed Usman, 32, lives on a pavement adjacent to Netaji Subshash Marg. The Delhi Walla came across him one morning in front of the Mughal-era Red Fort. Wearing a striped blue-green shirt and red track pants, he says, ‚ÄúThey live back home in Bihar. I arrived in Delhi a decade ago.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúYou could have brought along your wife and children,‚ÄĚ I say.
‚ÄúI live like a homeless man in this city. Why should they live like me?‚ÄĚ
Watching the morning traffic of school buses, Mr Usman says, ‚ÄúI‚Äôm a rickshaw puller. But I also work as a construction laborer.‚ÄĚ Taking out a folded sheet, he says, ‚ÄúThis is a government-recognized certificate.‚ÄĚ He delicately unfolds the soft piece of paper. The heading – Training Course Certificate – is printed in bold letters. It reads:
It is to certify that Shri/Smt Md. Usman has Successfully Participated in our Training Course of Earthquake Resistant Building Technologies held from 25-02-06 to 02-03-2006.
The document is signed by ‚ÄėDistrict Magistrate, Supaul‚Äô.
‚ÄúSupaul is my home town. I go there to meet my children once in six months. Purva Express is a fast train. The rail ticket comes for Rs 235. But when you are returning from Supaul, you pay Rs 207.‚ÄĚ
Standing against a tree, Mr Usman says, ‚ÄúMy wife runs our home on the money I transfer to her every month through ATM. Sometimes I‚Äôm able to send a draft of Rs 2,000. Sometimes, Rs 5,000.‚ÄĚ
Mr Usman has his track pants torn down one side.
‚ÄúI spotted actor Salman Khan‚Äôs photo in your wallet,‚ÄĚ I say.
‚ÄúIt came free with it.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúYou sleep on the pavement?”
‚ÄúAnd when it rains in the night?‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúI get up and stand under that bus stop.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúFor how long will you live away from your family?‚ÄĚ
He turns away.
[This is the 61st portrait of Mission Delhi project]