Mission Delhi – Sooraj Pal, South Delhi
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
No crowd on the street. No hope of getting a customer. Golgappa vendor Sooraj Pal’s face is hidden behind a blue mask.
“I will wait,” he says.
This evening, he was walking by a south Delhi lane when he decided to stop by this spot. Mr Pal’s street stall moves with him—it consists of a tripod stand called tirona (it is sold in Old Delhi’s Khari Baoli for 150 rupees), a large glass-shielded basket at the top of the tirona filled with golgappas and papris, a brass platter to support the large basket, a small plastic basket tucked at the bottom of the tirona for customers to dispose off their used bowls, and vessels containing tamarind water and spiced chickpeas.
Gazing upon the crispy shells, Mr Pal hopes “more people will start coming to my stall, like in the old days.” He means the pre-corona era.
Unlike many of the fellow vendors he knew, Mr Pal stayed in the city instead of returning to his family in Badayun, UP. “There was nothing to do in the village.”
He resumed work following the challenging months of the lockdown “but the earnings are barely enough for my daily survival.” Absolutely no possibility to send savings to home, he notes matter-of-factly.
Mr Pal leaves his rented room in Kotla village at ten in the morning and returns twelve hours later. “So often I stay idle with nobody approaching me for golgappas.”
Showing his clipped finger nails, he says that “I wash my pants and shirt everyday, so that people have confidence in the cleanliness of my food.”
Now a man approaches the stall. He is an auto driver wearing a colourful mask. The driver stares at the golgappas, stays motionless for a few moments, and turns back, retracing the route to his auto.
Mr Pal blankly watches the speeding cars on the road. After some time he lifts the golgappa basket and keeps it on his head. He places the tirona under his arm and walks away.
Some minutes later, some turnings away, he is spotted sitting on a pavement, his masked face hidden behind his stall.
[This is the 369th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
No time for golgappa