Mission Delhi – Unnamed Mule, Gurgaon
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Things are easier for humans. When a mosquito lands on our shoulder or wherever else on our body, we simply slap down our hand on the affected spot to get rid of the nuisance. That’s not possible for this unnamed mule. A couple of common flies are perched on his back and the helpless animal is frustratingly turning his head to one side and then to another. The blistering hot sun isn’t helping matters.
The mule is owned by a Gurgaon construction material trader in the National Capital Region. All day long he is obliged to haul the cart-load of cement sacks or piles of bricks from the shop to the building sites.
This afternoon, the mule has just returned from an assignment. Harnessed to his empty cart, he is standing under a roadside tree. A nearby coconut juice seller remarks that “I’ve been seeing this khachchar for two years and I know when he’s happy and when he isn’t.” Right now, he reveals, the mule is just bored. “He will look totally mara hua (dead) by the day’s end.”
The mule’s owner, the shopkeeper, declines to talk though his assistant points out that the animal is well looked after. Meanwhile, the unceasing traffic is rushing past the mule in complete indifference, even as the pesky flies are forcing him to constantly turn his head in confusion.
The shopkeeper’s assistant reveals that the mule was brought some years ago from Uttarakhand. “Poor boy,” says the man. “He was born in the devbhoomi (holy land) of snow and mountains and now he has to pass his days in this hot dusty city.” Sometime later the mule turns to look at the coconut juice seller with his large eyes. Overwhelmed with affection, the juice vendor starts to pat his back. The flies at once go away. The mule finally seems at peace.
[This is the 200th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
A working mule’s afternoon