Mission Delhi – Rajesh, Lal Kuan
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
His black leather jacket is tattered. A stylist might call that a distressed look. Whatever, it must be very old.
“Nahin, I got it two months ago,” says daily-wage labourer Rajesh, 32. He struggles to roll up his jacket’s tight sleeves to show his own name tattooed on his right arm. It is a cold morning. His head is wrapped in an elaborately tied gamcha.
The jacket indeed turns out to be much older. Rajesh received it from a man who was about to throw it away into a garbage bin, here in central Delhi’s Lal Kuan neighbourhood. “Just then he spotted me and asked if I would like to have it.” That was fine with Rajesh for “I would never think of spending money on a jacket.” The most important reason being that “winters last for such a short time that there is no point in wasting your money in buying warm clothes… and see the season is already ending!”
Rajesh confesses he never buys clothes. He either gets hand-me-downs from friends and strangers, or picks up discarded clothes from the pavements, he says. “I sleep on the footpath, I don’t have any bag or suitcase, so all that I have is on my body right now, and that include all my clothes.”
Rajesh arrived from Bihar 15 years ago and never went back to meet his folks. “I did not marry and I don’t know what has become of my parents,” he says. Posing for a portrait by standing inside an artistic niche scooped into the wall of a now-derelict mansion, he mutters, “The thandi (cold season) will end in another week and I’ll throw away the jacket.”
[This is the 281st portrait of Mission Delhi project]
Rajesh’s secondhand jacket