Mission Delhi – Pratikansh, Paharganj and Surroundings
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The black sky’s hazy moon is easily visible through the cold smoggy air. Perhaps because of the absence of street lighting. A few folks are passing along the lane.
But now Pratikansh enters this central Delhi street: it’s around 8 pm and he is on a bicycle. A huge bag is hanging from his back. He applies the breaks, gets off the seat and looks around, as if searching for an address. A carrier for a food delivery application, he has to hand over “South Indian thali” to a subscriber in the vicinity. He chats on the mobile and waits on the spot for the person to appear. Meanwhile, he has a spare moment to confirm that indeed, he is as young as he looks — even in his masked appearance.
At this stage of life, many people are busy applying for colleges and thinking of a career, but Pratikansh has “problems at home.” Even so, he has enrolled himself in a “BA programming” course, while working on the side.
And this is already the second half of his working day. Pratikansh works as a delivery man daily from 2 pm to 10 pm, and spends the day’s earlier part helping his mother with her “chhota mota (smalltime)” job. “Papa is a plumber.” The family lives in Paharganj and “my earnings help everyone survive the month,” he states in a feeling-less tone.
The young man often gets anxious about catching the coronavirus infection, since the nature of his job entails interactions with dozens of unknown people every day, “but I’m very careful, and then whatever is to happen will happen.”
Asked about dreams in life, he shrugs dismissively. But then he reconsiders his thoughts and says uncertainly, “May be a representative in pharmacy…. that job can change my life.”
Pratikansh has other restaurant pickups and deliveries to manage before going back home. He pedals about 40 kilometers daily, he says. He starts his shift with lunch at home. “Today mummy had made aloo paratha… tonight she’s making shaljam chukander ki subzi.”
And now the customer appears to claim her meal. Pratikansh urges her to give him a good rating. He now gets on his cycle, turns around, and suddenly looks up, exclaiming—“See the moon!”
[This is the 386th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
A boy’s own biking