Mission Delhi – Bhumani, Connaught Place
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Her name is rather unusual. Bhumani.
“I don’t even know its meaning,” she confesses. The fruit seller, 60, has been a familiar face of this Connaught Place pavement in Central Delhi for more than three decades. She lightheartedly credits her parents for the exclusivity of her name. “My father’s no more but my mother still lives in our village in Jhansi (UP)… she is 105!”
The name of Bhumani’s mother is not that common either—Lachiya.
“But my sisters are blessed with more casual names—Kesar and Usha.”
This is also the case of her daughter, Neetu— also the name of a film actor of yesteryears.
Many of Bhumani’s daily customers, working in the area’s office complexes, do not know what she is called. “Some call me ‘seb (apple) wali aunty’, some call me ‘neem ped (tree) wali aunty’ because I sit under the neem tree.”
The lady doesn’t mind the nicknames, one of which has already become history. “There used to be a pyayu (public water filter) beside my stall, so I was also known as ‘pyayu wali aunty.’”
Indeed, the friendly woman is so much a part of the landscape that “I’ve often overheard people asking friends on phone to meet up at the stall of the ‘phal (fruit) wali aunty.”
But there are a few customers, she insists, who call her by her actual name. “They address me as ‘Bhumani aunty.’”
There is one more name that matters. She shows the Hindi tattoo on her right arm—Babulal. “My late husband’,” she informs, explaining, “This is my permanent nishani (identity).”
[This is the 238th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
‘Phal wali aunty’ with a name tattoo