Mission Delhi – Sooraj Mal, IFFCO Chowk
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
His mustache is so large and dense and it twirls so royally like that of a Maharaja that he perfectly fits the stereotype of a hotel doorman.
It turns out he indeed is a hotel doorman. No, actually he was a restaurant doorman until a few months ago.
“I was a doorman in Pind Balluchi,” says Sooraj Mal.
The Delhi Walla meets him in a corridor in IFFCO Chowk, a station on the Delhi Metro’s yellow line.
People are hurriedly going about their businesses; some are rushing towards the platform, others are heading to the exit; a young woman is talking on her mobile phone. Everybody seems to have an agenda for the day. Mr Mal, however, is standing still, watching the busy world around him.
“I had to leave the job in August because I fell ill… so I returned to my village to recover… I came back today and straight went to Sector 29 but saw another doorman…” The man with the mustache felt too shy to enter his former workplace. He simply turned back and took a shared auto-rickshaw back to the metro station.
Mr Mal’s father was a farmer in a village in Kotdwar, a town near the Himalayan foothills. “We had 13 bighas of land but it was divided among us four brothers and my holding was too small to make any significant earning out of it.”
Mr Mal then suddenly, without my prompting, started to talk about his wife who had left him a few years ago after he injured his arm—he was then employed as the security guard of a politician in Kotdwar. “I don’t know what was going in her mind,” he says.
After a minute, Mr Mal takes out his mobile phone and checks the time. “It is still not noon… I’ll go to a few restaurants… somebody might be looking for a doorman, you never know… tonight I might sleep in the bus stand.”
He puts on a khaki shirt over his blue shirt.
Although Mr Mal has declared his intent to go about the city in search of employment, he is not really moving from his spot. The rest of the people are walking with determination, their eyes gleaming with purpose. Finally, I, too, start to walk towards the exit. Just as I’m about to step on the staircase, I turn back to have a last view of the ex-doorman. He is still on the same spot.
[This is the 125th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
To start all over again