City Life – Two Painters, Kamala Nehru Park
On life and its disappointments.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It is late morning and Manoj and Ravi are sitting in a city garden. The Kamala Nehru Park, tucked next to Gurgaon’s Roshanpura in the Greater Delhi Region, is otherwise largely empty. In their early 20s, both men are quiet. Manoj is drowned in the tree shade but Ravi’s face is speckled with occasional flashes of sunshine. At one point his right eye is immersed in shaded darkness, and the other is soaked in bright daylight, making his face appear like one of those classical paintings of the Renaissance.
Both men are painters. Not the artist kind, but house painters. “We are labourers,” says Manoj. “Today is our off, so we came here to relax and rest.”
They live together in Basai village, and both hail from Etawah in UP.
What were they thinking while being so quiet?
The two men look at each other, their faces spilling out no secret.
“We were thinking nothing,” says Manoj. Ravi picks up a leaf from the ground, and stares hard at it, as if it were to give him clues on some unsolved mystery of life. Following moments of thoughtful silence, he says, “We have no tension, no problem… we have a job and we earn.”
But of course, like all of us, their life is tinged with occasional disappointments. Ravi didn’t really want to be a house painter. His big dream was to be a fauji, an army soldier. “But I wasn’t tall enough… I was rejected.”
Manoj cups his chin under his palm, and looks at Ravi. He opens his mouth to speak but closes it again, perhaps to reformulate his thoughts, finally observing: “Dreams… you keep thinking about them until they disappear.”
Manoj and Ravi both come from families of farmers. Manoj says his father is a farmer, and so was his grandfather, and so was his grandfather’s father. But he has broken the chain “because land is small, family is expanding, and you cannot live solely on what you produce on your land.”
Ravi butts in, saying, “And so when we grew up our (respective) fathers told us to leave the village, go to the city and earn enough to be able to eat ourselves and help the family eat too.”
The two men plan to stay in the park for a few more hours before heading to some eatery for lunch. Tomorrow they shall resume work.
Chatting in the park