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Mission Delhi – Kanhaiya, Turkman Gate

One of the one percent in 13 million.

[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]

His arms are covered with tattoos. The right hand look like a mathematician’s notepad scrawled with incomprehensible codes, equations and theories. One tattoo — DL67 — could be a car registration number.

The Delhi Walla meets this man one morning while walking outside the Turkman Gate monument, an entry point to the Walled City. Lying beside the gateway’s fenced boundary, the man is probably in his thirties. A waste picker, his name is Kanhaiya and he collects empty bottles.

Mr Kanhaiya looks like one of the many homeless people of Delhi. His finger nails are dark green. His lined shirt is blackened with dust. His trousers are torn at many places. His white canvass shoes lean towards a muddy-brown shade. His head is resting on a half-filled plastic sack.

“My woman doesn’t like my hands,” says Mr Kanhaiya. “My children are scared of me. They don’t understand me. I feel frustrated. So I usually stay away from them.”

Dreamily rolling up his shirt’s sleeves, he says, “I will buy new clothes next year… My woman works in a kothi (bungalow) and she was willing to buy me shirtpant (sic) but I told her not to. We don’t have much money, and my brothers often help me to run the house. I myself make about 2,000 rupees monthly. A shopkeeper behind the Delite Cinema daily buys all my bottles… We live in Saket. It has been over a week since I was home.”

A dog appears from beside a lane and starts to bark at Mr Kanhaiya. He shifts his gaze towards the sky and continues to stare upwards. The dog leaves after a few minutes.

Mr Kanhaiya then starts to count something on his fingers. He seems puzzled. Soon afterwards, folding an arm under his head, he turns to me, saying, “Today I will look for bottles outside the Red Fort. But my shoulders are hurting. I think I will rest for a while.”

[This is the 92nd portrait of Mission Delhi project]

At home with tattoos







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