Mission Delhi – Rameshwar Thakur, Near Ramlila Maidan
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
If there’s one thing this footpath barber truly prizes, it’s his torn umbrella. On this drizzly summer day, it’s keeping Rameshwar Thakur relatively dry while waiting for a customer or two over here on the pavement near Ramlila Maidan in Central Delhi.
But, but. Why is that umbrella strung so high on a bamboo pole—which itself is perched on a pair of bulky bricks.
Mr Thakur smiles: “Oh, that way, both me and my customer are sheltered.”
A native of Bihar, he’s been running his stall for more than 30 years—catering “mainly to poor people like rickshaw pullers and labourers… Why would big people come to my stall when I don’t even have a chair?” Mr Thakur lives alone in Delhi, while his family remains in their Bihar village which was flooded a few days ago. Their house was spared.
The only reminder of the village in his stall happens to be the umbrella itself, which he purchased to attend a family wedding. “It’s proved to be the most durable part of my stall. Because, I have to change the ustra (razor) and shaving brush regularly.” Suddenly, breaking into a sarcastic smile, Mr Thakur reflects that “people in my village would laugh at me holding on to this ramshackle umbrella, but it serves the purpose.”
He plans to get the torn parts sewed up by a cobbler.
Meanwhile, the drizzle is steadily transforming into a heavy downpour and the umbrella is proving to be ineffective. Soon, however, the rain slows, the clouds scatter and the sun strikes down with all its might. The umbrella fails to give an effective shade.
The barber shrugs. Looking slightly dissatisfied, he waits for customers.
[This is the 233rd portrait of Mission Delhi project]
A barber’s all-weather friend