Mission Delhi – Sanjay, Central Delhi
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
From a distance, he looks like a dot in the world. The sprawling ground has only this man. He is sitting quietly on the edge of a pavement.
It’s a cold, smoggy evening. The plaza facing Dilli Gate used to be filled with clusters of pigeons in the pre-Covid times. A handful of bird-food sellers would sit here and there while a continuous stream of customers would stop by to buy grains, which they would throw at the fat birds enjoying the free buffet. But now, there are no sellers and no birds. The head of a dead leader’s statue, standing in the middle, is bare. In better times, there would always be a bird perched on it.
The man has wrapped himself in a shawl. He is unmasked. His solemn face shows great calmness, as if he were free of all worries. Which is surprising, knowing that he recently got his rickshaw stolen.
“It happened a few nights ago,” mutters Sanjay. He explains that he was sleeping, as always, on a pavement near Gandhi Nagar Market while his rickshaw was parked beside him. “When I woke up in the morning, the rickshaw was gone.”
Sanjay didn’t approach the cops. “I’ll have to get a new rickshaw someday soon… I don’t know how, I have no money.” He smiles faintly and turns to look at the evening rush hour traffic moving sluggishly on the road ahead. “This city has many people… I have no friend here.”
And what about his other possessions? He surely has more clothes, for instance, than what he is wearing at the moment?
Sanjay’s face shows no expressions.
“I have my family’s phone number.” He draws out a small paper chit from his pocket. “This is my most keemti (valuable) samaan (possession).”
Sanjoy himself owns no mobile. “Whenever I have to talk to my family, I go to a shopkeeper in Gandhi Nagar Market, who gives me his mobile phone to talk to my wife.”
Sanjay’s folks lives in a village near Kanpur, in UP.
“Someday I will go back home to Kanpur, or I will go back sooner if I don’t find a new rickshaw.”
Responding to a query he confirms he has no cash with him “but I always get lunch and dinner… there are people who distribute food for free to the needy.”
He now falls quiet while a great number of mosquitoes gathered upon his head. From a distance, it appears as if the lonesome man were wearing a hazy crown.
Soon it gets dark, but Sanjay continues sitting on the bird-less plaza.
[This is the 379th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
A lonely man