Mission Delhi – Kewal Singh, Paharganj
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
His is an old and very, very rare specialty.
Kewal Singh is now applying some final touches on a palki—a kind of covered palanquin for housing the holy book of Guru Granth Sahib in Sikh temples.
“It’s such an honour to be able to make them,” says Mr Singh, himself a Sikh, who’s been at it for more than two decades.
Working in a Paharganj shop that specializes in palkis, they repair the old ones as well as making them brand-new—these small domes consisting of brass with an overlay of gold.
“Since this work is related to a holy aspect, one must do it with dedication,” says Mr Singh. Palkis that are housed in some of Delhi’s most historic gurudwaras, such as Bangla Sahib, have passed through his capable hands, he says.
“It’s a privilege, this calling, but of course I was just doing minor welding when I started all those years ago.”
Mr Singh’s white kurta pajamas are splattered with colours and paint as he delicately dips his brush into a small can of gold polish. “But later today I’ll change into my regular clothing, and you won’t recognize me then, I promise you.”
Gazing reverently at the new palki, he reckons it will be ready in about a week for its home in an Indira Park gurudwara. “But, who knows when it’ll be my turn to head for the final destination?”
Mr Singh waxes wistful. “I don’t know when my breath will leave me. But until then I’ll just go on working in the services of our sacred gurus.”
[This is the 204th portrait of Mission Delhi project]