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Mission Delhi – Vikash, Nelson Mandela Marg

One of the one percent in 13 million.

[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]

It is hard to be optimistic about this city. One late afternoon on south Delhi’s Nelson Mandela Marg, The Delhi Walla comes across a street food seller. He is stationed under a peepal tree. He is roasting bhuttas, the ears of corn, on a bed of red-hot coal. And he is a child.

“What’s your age, sir?” I ask.

“Barah (12).”

“Where do you live?”

“Near the traffic light.”

“Where’s your mother?”

“She works in the apartments.”



“Why don’t you go to school?”

“I’m a 5th standard student.”

“What do you want to become in life?”

He doesn’t respond to this query. Instead, he says, “My classes start at 7 am. I return home at 2 pm. I quickly finish my lunch after which I go to Okhla mandi to get our daily supply (of bhuttas). And then I come here.”

“Your hands are black with coal-dust.”

He stretches out his palms and looks surprised.

His left arm is tattooed with the word ‘Om’ — drawn in Hindi.

He lifts his other arm. It is tattooed with the word ‘Vikash’ — in English.

“My name. I had my arms tattooed for 30 rupees.”

“How much have you earned today?”

He hesitates.

He is sitting atop a plastic sack. The money, it seems, is kept inside it. His black sandals are placed beside the sack.

A customer comes and this 5th standard student starts warming a previously roasted bhutta.

Meanwhile traffic is moving unusually smoothly on Nelson Mandela Marg.

[This is the 87th portrait of Mission Delhi project]

The Indian dream