Mission Delhi – Salim Khan, Kasturba Gandhi Marg
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
He picks a slab of butter, takes out a slice of bread, breaks open an egg, chops a tomato, picks another slab of butter. These actions are taking place almost at the same moment. The Delhi Walla meets Salim Khan on a pavement off Kasturba Gandhi Marg. It is evening and Mr Khan, 36, is making omelet-bread for his customers, most of whom work in nearby offices. He is handing a toast to one, accepting payment from another, and listening to instructions of yet another (“more butter and no green chillies”). A few more are patiently trying to catch his attention.
As the evening advances and the crowd thin, Mr Khan finds a spare moment to talk. “The stall belonged to my father Neksha Khan.” Pointing to the adjacent Hindustan Times House building, he says, “He came from Aligrah when this office was under construction.” The elder Mr Khan sold channa. “I took over the business after my father died on December 7, 1995. We buried him at our village.”
Mr Khan is in a blue shirt. Yesterday he was in white. He has a glass cloth placed on his lap. His stall consists of a stove, a few utensils and some containers and spice boxes, including a ketchup bottle. A platter is filled with chopped onions, coriander leaves and green chillies. A plastic mug has packets of Amul butter. A string of green chillies and a lemon is hung to ward off the evil eye. Mr Khan buys eight crates of eggs daily; each crate has 30 eggs — he uses two to make a plate of omelet-bread. A bottle is filled with green chutney. “My missus makes it at home.”
Mr Khan first met his wife Sitara in a Delhi Transport Corporation bus. “Our parents did not object when we decided to marry. We had their blessings.” Now there are three children: Shahrukh, Arman and Arshi.
“What is the meaning of Arshi?” I ask.
Mr Khan thinks for a minute and then shrugs his shoulders. “It is my daughter’s name.”
I ask, “Do you also cook for your family?”
He smiles shyly, saying, “My missus cooks at home.”
He lives in Bhajanpura, across the Yamuna in north-east Delhi, and commutes on his bike.
The summer sky is finally turning black. As I turn to leave, Mr Khan says, “Sometimes, when I’m at home, I make omelet-toast for my missus and children. They…” A customer arrives and Mr Khan shifts his attention back to butter, bread and eggs.
[This is the 74th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
The egg man’s secrets