Mission Delhi – Pavan, Sadar Bazar, Gurgaon
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Each day is like the other, and nothing seems to change. Pavan’s life remains static. He feels contended with the arrangement, he declares. He doesn’t ask for much, he says — just enough work every day so as to never have the luxury of spare moments to feel sad.
In his 30s, the labourer is working this afternoon in Gurugram’s Sadar Bazar, outside a multi-storey pansari (grocer) shop. He is helping unload a cart full of cement sacks, picking up each one with his bare arms and transferring them onto the back of a colleague.
“The main thing is to keep getting work… I’m not scared of mehnat (hard labour).” Pavan has just jumped off the cart for a brief break to catch his breath. So has his colleague.
Pavan’s yellow T-shirt and arms are dusted with cement particles. Spreading out his fingers, he gazes upon them intently for a few moments. “Dirty hands are good… it means I’m full of work.”
Living far from his family, who stays in Bihar, Pavan confesses that he misses his loved ones, “but I never think long… because then I start being dukhi (sad).” The only way to stay away from melancholy and “ghar-ki-yaad” (homesickness) is to immerse in daily work. He doesn’t say this in as many words, but that is the essence of his responses to the queries put out to him. “When you are at work, you have to spend so much energy that you just focus on the borre (sacks) that have to be taken from this place to that place, and you don’t have any time to think of other things.”
And when a day is particularly good — meaning that it has entailed hours of assignments — “I feel so tired in the evening that I don’t even have the taakat (strength) to eat my dinner.”
Triggered by a pointed question about home, Pavan starts talking of his folks, especially of Mamta, his sister, who is half his age but is a mother of two. “I feel frustrated each time I think of her…. I’m so far from her, and can’t meet her as often as I would do if we were in nearby villages.”
But now the colleague is raring to go back to work, and Pavan joins him. Presumably, lifting these hefty sacks shall keep him away from the thoughts that make one sad.
[This is the 379th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
Keeping sadness away