Inside the walls.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
His house feels like a hotel room that has just been cleaned by the housekeeping for the next guest. Not a single element is out of place. The laptop is on the writing table, the pillow on the bed and the towel on the hook.
The Delhi Walla is at the home of Anuj Panwar in South Delhi’s Chirag Dilli. In his 20s, Mr Panwar is an IT professional. He works for one of India’s biggest shopping websites and is simultaneously enrolled in an MBA course through a distance learning programme. His parents live in a village in western Uttar Pradesh; his father is a farmer. An only child, Mr Panwar stays alone in Delhi. He believes that most people, especially young men of his age, are disrespectful towards the basic codes of neatness. If he shares his living space with a friend, he fears, it would become too disorderly for him to feel comfortable.
Mr Panwar’s rented apartment consists of a single room. It is large enough to have a bed, a writing table, a steel almirah and a refrigerator. A kitchen slab runs across one side of the room. There are Kellogg packets atop the fridge, along with a half-empty bottle of Dabur Amla Hair Oil. Mr Panwar uses a small mirror fixed on the wall to comb his hair every morning before leaving for the office. He commutes on the Metro train but is saving money to buy a Bullet bike.
Mr Panwar’s passion for tidiness extends to his steel almirah. Every piece of clothing is ironed and hangs neatly from its respective hanger. Even the baseball cap has its appointed place here. The almirah has a precious wooden box. Mr Panwar opens the lid. The box is filled with drawings made by Mr Panwar when he was a child. His family discouraged him from pursuing this passion. They feared he would end up as a artist. They also discouraged him from pursuing his dream of becoming a professional cricketer. “So, you are the next Sachin Tendulkar” – he remembers his uncle saying this in a mocking tone.
Mr Panwar spent his school years in Delhi. He lived at a relative’s house in the city. During vacations, he would visit his parents in the village where his father would take him to till the fields. His family would not have objected if he had become a farmer. But Mr Panwar never liked the idea.
Mr Panwar delicately lifts one of his sketches. It shows a figure–half-Hanuman, half-Shiva. “I feel very close to Hanuman-ji,” he says.
Mr Panwar’s immediate neighbors are a few students of the nearby Shaheed Bhagat Singh College, Delhi University. He has no interaction with them apart from sharing the same toilet. Once, during the summer months, he did tell them not to hesitate to ask him for chilled water from his fridge.
Mr Panwar’s room has no window.
A room of his own