Mission Delhi – Maan Singh, Central Delhi
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Shoulder bags come with zips. But his has hundreds of safety pins, for both the compartments.
“This has my sone ka samaan (sleeping stuff),” says Maan Singh, walking down a central Delhi road, idly. “I have no job.” In his 40s, he was a dish washer in wedding banquets “but I haven’t been getting any work for months.” He sleeps in a ren basera, the night shelter for the homeless.
Mr Singh picked up the bag recently from a roadside. Since its zips were missing (or broken, he doesn’t clearly remember), he got those substituted by the many safety pins he was lucky to get for free from a bazaar tailor. “This way nobody can steal my belongings.” Belongings comprise of a bed sheet and two sets of pants and shirts. There’s also a mask in the water bottle pocket.
The bag shows some stains of yellow curry. “They were already there when I found it. I’ve cleaned the bag many times since then.”
Every evening in the homeless shelter, Mr Singh unhooks the pins on his bag to take out the bed sheet after which he painstakingly hooks them back—takes about half an hour to finish the task one way. Only then he sleeps. “You cannot always trust the people sleeping in the shelter… some of them try to steal things.” If his bag was served by a zip, stealing stuff from it would be far easier, he notes. “A thief cannot have so much time to deal with so many pins without getting noticed.”
Scared to lose his bag, Mr Singh keeps it under his head as pillow at night. He admits that sometimes he pricks his fingers while trying to work his way through these pins.
Though without a home in Delhi, Mr Singh has one in Bundi, Rajasthan, which he left more than a decade ago. “I have my parents, my brothers…” but he doesn’t wish to talk of them. He now walks away, as the only backpacker — and a unique one at that — in this street, at this moment.
[This is the 381st portrait of Mission Delhi project]
Rest in zip