One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Sitting beside a basket filled with lemons, he is twirling up his white mustache. The Delhi Walla meets Ram Dulare, 81, on Parliament Street. He sells lemons on the pavement here. His customers comprise sarkari karamcharis, people employed in the nearby government offices. Mr Dulare’s name means ‘the beloved of Lord Ram’ in Hindi.
It is late afternoon. At this time the traffic primarily consists of auto rickshaws.
Waving his arm towards the basket, Mr Dulare says, “I get about 10 kg lemons every morning from the mandi in Azadpur.” He is referring to a wholesale market in north Delhi where fruit and vegetables arrive daily from different parts of India.
“What do you do with the unsold lemons?”
“I return home only after my basket is empty.”
The lemon seller lives alone in a one-room house in Paharganj, near New Delhi railway station. Wearing a white dhoti and kurta, he is sitting with his back straight. Mr Dulare is slim like an athlete. His eyebrows are bushy. A plastic water bottle is placed beside him. His shoes are crudely sewn; the stitches are coming apart.
Following my gaze, Mr Dulare says, “I bought these shoes half a year ago from Paharganj.”
“Where is your family?”
“In the village. I have… ”
A woman arrives. She is in a saree. Picking a lemon, she asks, “How much?”
Mr Dulare says, “Four for Rs 10.”
Speaking in a strong Bengali accent, the woman says, “You should give me six for Rs 10.”
A compromise is reached.
Stuffing the money into a pouch built in his dhoti, Mr Dulare says, “I have a woman, two sons, one daughter-in-law, two granddaughters and a grandson. One son recently left for Bombay. We still haven’t heard from him… ”
“It must be difficult for you to be far from home,” I say. “Your age… ”
“My elder son says I should return to the village for good, but if I do nothing, I would quickly get old.”
We sit silently for a long time. No customer comes. Looking blank-eyed at the auto-rickshaws on the road, Mr Dulare again starts to twirl up his mustache.
[This is the 66th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
The lemon man