Mission Delhi – Ram Jeevan, Near Red Fort
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Paan vendor Ram Jeevan is sitting on a pavement near the Red Fort patiently waiting for customers while recalling his long years in Delhi. “I arrived here at age 14 to help supplement family income in Benares,” he explains. “My father was a poor farmer and I couldn’t go on studying, so left for the big city with the family’s blessings.”
He boarded the Farakka Express for the Capital, wearing a simple white dhoti and kurta. Nearly every day for 53 years—still dressed in dhoti and kurta—he walks along city lanes, his straw basket filled with paan leaves and the various nuts and pastes.
“That’s my life, and nothing has changed,” he says. “Delhi hasn’t given me very much, so I’ve asked my sons to stay behind in Benaras and continue tilling the family land.” His own wife has never visited the capital.
Now inspecting his hands stained with the red dye of paan, Mr Jeevan explains that the discolouration isn’t as lasting as henna. “Every night I wash my hands with soap, and these stains go away. No problem!”
He continues to sit, waiting for customers.
[This is the 234th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
The Benares walla