Mission Delhi – Son Pal, Around Town
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
With that glowing white beard and sparkling eyes he could easily be mistaken for some latter-day Tagore or Tolstoy. “You mean I look like a lekhak (writer),” chuckles Son Pal, 70, a rickshaw driver. “I started driving in Delhi more than 40 years ago” after moving from his home village in UP.
This was the Delhi of another era. AIIMS flyover still didn’t exist, Nirula’s restaurants were popular dating destinations, even as Indira Gandhi held forth as prime minister. “And it never occurred to me then, that I’d just go on living and working in Delhi,” recalls Mr Pal.
“And, to think, that my grandchildren would be born in this city.”
But why is this elder gentleman waiting for customers on a sweltering summer afternoon—when he could be home, perhaps watching TV like other pensioners.
“Oh, I get so bored at home,” says Mr Pal. “And I’m afraid that if I don’t move my limbs I’ll end up bedridden.”
Even so. He’s cut back on his working hours, leaving his residence around 10 after a light breakfast. Four hours later he’s back home for lunch with his wife Subhadra: Spending the remainder of the day together, often with grandchildren who live nearby.
Mr Pal reckons he’ll remain energetic “as long as I have this beard. There’s some sort of magic in it that keeps me active.”
[This is the 217th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
Tolstoy, I presume