Mission Delhi – Ramesh Kumar, KG Marg
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Guru Ravidas’s portrait on the pavement wall is decked with two yellow plastic flowers. Ramesh Kumar, a 51-year-old cobbler, had purchased the poster from Daryaganj. He mutters, “Guru-ji is my saint.”
The soft-spoken gentleman lives in Seelampur, north Delhi, and commutes to his pavement stall on KG Marg in the Metro. “I charge 10 rupees for shining shoes. Sometimes, good people give me double that amount,” he says.
There’s a lull in the stall, and Mr Kumar takes advantage of the moment by sharing a story about Guru Ravidas: “One day, hundreds of years ago, a pandit-ji passed by Guru-ji’s hut on his way towards Ganga-ji. Guru-ji was working on a shoe. He gave a coin to pandit-ji and asked him to offer it to the river. Pandit-ji did just that and he was surprised to receive a gold kangan (bangle) from the river. It was encrusted with gems. Pandit-ji’s kangan eventually passed on to the royal family. When the queen desired a matching bangle, the king personally went to Guru-ji to make the special request. Guru-ji closed his eyes, meditated for some time and Ganga-ji herself appeared. She produced another kangan and presented it to Guru-ji, who gave it to the king.”
The remarkable thing about the story, Mr Kumar says, smiling, is that both “pandit-ji” and the “raja” were obliged to a person mending a shoe.
Mr Kumar hails from a village in the Khandwa district of Madhya Pradesh. His family has been in the leather footwear trade for generations. His father was the first member to leave for a city. He, however, desires a different future for his five children. “I want them to study and get regular jobs. They must have it better than me.”
[This is the 182nd portrait of Mission Delhi project]
The devotee’s story