Mission Delhi – Neeraj Kumar, Moti Bagh
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
There’s nothing unusual about chatting with Neeraj Kumar before you notice something amiss.
His flip-flops don’t match. One of them is blue, and the other is red.
As a middle-aged pavement dweller in Central Delhi’s Moti Bagh, Mr Kumar had been reluctant to explain why he’s homeless—who wants to give away his tell-all for no reason or rhyme. But he’s more than ready to discuss the non-matching footwear.
Not long ago he woke up early one morning to set out for a free breakfast at the langar in a nearby gurdwara when he noticed his flip-flops had gone missing. “Somebody had stolen them, or perhaps a street dog carted them away.”
He didn’t much mind, even though the footwear amounted to the only souvenirs from his home in UP which he left for good some years back.
The following week saw Mr Kumar walking barefoot, avoiding pebbles and glass shards as much as possible. Sometimes he’d inevitably step on something sharp and hurt himself. “But then you tolerate (he used the word ‘bardasht’) the pain.”
One afternoon while wandering in Chandhi Chowk he chanced upon a blue flip-flop, flung alongside a garbage heap. “I tried it out on my right foot, and it fit perfectly.”
Three days later he stumbled upon a red-coloured flip-flop, and it also fit beautifully.
“I got lucky,” he says, with blank expressions and an unmoving figure.
[This is the 180th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
The story of flip-flops