Mission Delhi – Durga Prasad, Dwarka
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The saddest thing to be seen on city walls are posters of the disappeared, calling for help to bring them home.
Such notices have a standard format. Obviously, it gives the name of the missing person, with necessary details on where he or she was seen last, wearing what dress and which colours. The name and age are usually given in bold. And then there is a photograph of the disappeared person—most of the time it is grainy, and perhaps because of the print quality the face looks devoid of particulars, vague, as if it could be of anyone walking down the street. A phone number is given, if by any chance you spotted the disappeared person. Sometimes there are assurances of a “suitable cash reward.”
It’s highly unlikely that passersby, busy with their own daily anxieties, ever examine such posters in detail. But sometimes, one wonders about the missing person and think of the trauma the worried family must be going through.
One such black and white poster was spotted last year in a city railway station, where you see scores of such posters like exhibits in an art gallery:
“Name: Durga Prasad. Age, 50 years. Working as a plumber. Wearing red jacket and blue shirt. Missing from 13 March 2019, at 9 am.”
It has now been more than a year. So much has changed in the world. Is Durga Prasad still missing?
On calling one of the two mobile phone numbers given on the poster, a woman’s voice answers.
“Yes, we found Papa.”
Anju Kumari says her father disappeared around Holi last year, and “we got him back home around Diwali.” She explains that her father, “who often forgets things”, somehow found his way into an ashram somewhere in Gurgaon where the sadhus luckily looked after him. “And one day Papa suddenly realized that he had a family, and he informed the people in the ashram who eventually got in touch with us.”
Ms Kumari, who lives in Delhi’s Dwarka that lies close to Gurgaon border, says that “now our Papa is safe and healthy, and we don’t let him go out.”
In the age of pandemic, he is much safer at home anyway, she observes. She confesses that the coronavirus has severally affected the family’s situation. Her mother and brother, both of whom used to be the family’s breadwinners, are out of jobs. “Mummy normally works as an ayah in a school, and my brother works as a school driver… but schools have been closed since the lockdown.” As for herself, the woman (she didn’t disclose her age) keeps taking care of the household, as she did before.
“We spent about 1.5 lakh rupees in finding Papa,” she adds.
Those expenses included the distribution of the Missing Person poster. “It was like a bad dream. We had no idea where our Papa was, if he was ok, if somebody was feeding him well… that period made us realize how precious he is to us.”
Meanwhile, one wonders if the aforementioned poster is still visible on the station’s wall, or if it has been covered by posters of some other person gone missing.
[This is the 362nd portrait of Mission Delhi project]