Mission Delhi – Sunny Kumar, South Delhi
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
A great many of our fellow citizens, who came to this city years ago to make a living, are now rushing back to their impoverished villages, often through desperate means. This reverse migration was triggered by the sudden closure of all work (and hence employment) inherent to the prolonged lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
But this young man with a stylish haircut is a fresh arrival from his village to our city.
“I came to Delhi a few months ago…. just before the lockdown began,” says Sunny Kumar. A security guard, he is manning the gates of a south Delhi neighbourhood. At 18, this is Mr Kumar’s first ever job in life. On this uncomfortably hot afternoon, he’s standing out quite starkly from a couple of other guards on duty with him. There’s something about his brooding demeanor—a kind of magnetic stage presence hard to miss. And then there’s the matter of his haircut, so attention-grabbing. Running his fingers through his hair as if suddenly conscious of them, Mr Kumar blushes, confessing that “It’s a new style… I got it after arriving in Delhi.”
The young man, who finished school last year, reveals he never aspired to become a guard. “I left my village (in Nalanda, Bihar) for a job, any job, due to the conditions at home”—he uses the Hindi word ‘paristhiti’. His father is paralytic, he says matter-of-factly. The eldest among four siblings, “I felt it was my responsibility to look after the family and to lessen the burden my mother was experiencing in running the household.”
He knew quite a few people of his village working in Delhi, and so he easily landed up with the current job through this precious network of acquaintances. “I decided to start this life in Delhi after giving it a lot of thought,” he mutters.
Mr Kumari is now sufficiently established to be able to send money frequently to home. He lives in Tughlakabad and is full of plans for his future.
“After some months I will try to enroll in a college for graduation,” he says, as another guard, his colleague in mask, listens to him intently. “Ultimately I want to join the army.”
And now he reveals another dream of his. Raising his eyes towards the interlocutor, he declares a tad hesitantly, “I also intend to get modeling assignments.” Having said this, he looks almost relieved and helps himself to a bottle of water kept inside the guard’s cabin.
[This is the 309th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
New migrant’s dreams