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.
“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 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