One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The rickshaw stops besides the pavement stand of a golgappa vendor. The passenger, a frail elderly woman in a crumpled night gown, remains seated. The snack man quietly fills up his golgappa with the tangy tamarind flavoured water and hands it over to the rickshaw puller, who passes it to the woman. She pops it into her mouth with her trembling hands and patiently waits for the next golgappa. This goes on for some time. No words are exchanged.
The Delhi Walla is watching this scene one rainy evening outside Humayun’s Tomb. The woman looks tired. Her gown has purple flowers. Suddenly she spots me watching her. She smiles, or so it seems, and then she opens her mouth. Perhaps she is talking to me but her voice is drowned out by the noise of the speeding traffic. I come closer. Speaking in English, she says, “I live in Nizamuddin East.”
That’s a posh neighborhood down this road.
The woman smiles again, and says, “My name is Amar Jyoti…” She grows somber. ” I used to be a copy writer. I wrote many famous ads… “I love you Rasna”… “Taste mein best Everest”….”
Was this woman behind that famous Rasna soft drink jingle?
The woman’s voice fades off. Speaking up again after a brief pause, she says, “Once I was also the creative director for Amul butter hoardings… I moved to Nizamuddin East four months ago…”
The rickshaw puller butts in, saying in a whisper, “She has been living there for years.”
The woman ignores the interruption. “I have to… do you know anybody who can offer me the job of a copy writer?”
She now falls silent.
The vendor asks the rickshaw puller to make the payment. The rickshaw puller turns to the woman and asks her for money. By this time she is completely absorbed in watching the moving cars. The vendor shrugs his shoulders. I walk away, going down a pedestrian subway, and emerging on the other side of the road. I crane my neck and look back. The rickshaw is still there. The woman is still watching the cars.
[This is the 116th portrait of Mission Delhi project]