Mission Delhi – Shankar Kumar Shah, Mehrauli Road
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It’s late morning and he is quietly arranging his cart, here on Gurgaon’s Mehrauli Road in the Greater Delhi Region. He is picking up each orange, one by one, from inside a carton, and stacking it upon a decoratively arranged layer of those same oranges in a manner as concentratively as one building a house of cards.
Shankar Kumar Shah, 19, is a fruit seller. He is also a graduate student. “I’m in first year BA in Political Science.”
Mr Shah is a new arrival to the so-called Millennium City. He left his village in Supaul, Bihar, six months ago. Ideally, he should have stayed back to pursue his studies in the college where he is enrolled as a student. “But there were dikkat (problem) at home,” he murmurs, pinching his lips, suggesting some deep regret gnawing him on the inside. Mr Shah’s father is a farmer and it’s difficult to manage on his earnings alone, he says, especially now that his three siblings have grown up—he is the eldest.
Sharing a dwelling with another person in Patel Nagar, Mr Shah confides that he is striving hard not to drift away from his studies, as can be the case with someone in his situation, “when one has also to work to make a living.” On reaching home in the evening, he is obliged to help the roomie with cooking the dinner. “By 9pm, I sit down with my course books”—though it’s difficult to stay awake for more than an hour, he notes, “since the day is so demanding, and I get exhausted.”
Mr Shah’s immediate goal is to finish his graduation, and ultimately “I want to have my own business.” He is hopeful for his prospects, he says, adding that he will return to the village in May, in time to give his final exams for the first year. “I’ll come back after the exams… my earnings help my family.”
Mr Shah foresees being a fruit seller for at least a few years, “but if I don’t lose my focus my future can be better.” He says it in a low cautious voice, as if his sentence was a piece of fine China that had to be passed around with great delicacy. By now, the young man’s cart is stacked up with almost all the oranges. He will soon be ready for the day’s first transaction.
[This is the 391st portrait of Mission Delhi project]
The portrait of a college student