City Faith – Rickshaw Puller’s Ram Temple, East Delhi
His private shrine.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Rickshaw puller Sooraj lives alone in this city of millions but doesn’t feel lonely. Not at all. “I have Ramji with me,” he says haltingly this late evening in east Delhi. Waiting for customers on a busy roadside, the gentleman is standing beside his rickshaw. “It’s my home, I sleep in it.”
It’s also his mandir, he adds.
Indeed, young Sooraj’s rickshaw has the traits of a temple. The front handle bars are decked with plastic flowers under which is fixed a large frame of Lord Ram with his consort, Sita, his brother Lakshman, and his devotee Hanuman.
“My family lives far away in Jharkhand,” says the puller, “it is not possible to talk them daily on mobile… but I’m always talking to Ramji.”
The rickshaw puller shies from sharing his occasional problems with his family back home “which would make them worry” so he tells the Lord about all the problems he face. “That solves the matter,” he says candidly. Sooraj’s rickshaw has heart big enough to accommodate other gods, too. The idols of Shiv, Parvati and Ganesh are arranged on the other side of the handle bar.
Posters of Vishnu and Krishna are clamped on the back support of the passenger seat. “I’m always looking for opportunities to decorate my rickshaw with gods. This rickshaw is my house. It is filled up with devi-devtas (gods and goddesses) and their presence keeps me happy.”
Now, a woman and child settle into the rickshaw and Sooraj pedals his temple towards a Metro station.