Mission Delhi – Rajeev Ranjan, Near Gurgaon Railway Station
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
In a metropolis of millions, what is it like to live alone? This question is bluntly put to Rajeev Ranjan who lives all by himself near Gurgaon’s railway station in the Greater Delhi Region.
“It is better than living with people,” he says after a thoughtful pause.
The masked man with a gamcha-scarf on his head is wearing blue denim jeans and a blanket is flung about him like a shawl. This late morning he is walking down the lane to—“time pass, there is no reason for walking.”
But further queries reveal there is a reason. He says he has almost no possessions. At night he sleeps on the footpath. He has no permanent spot, he confesses. “When I open my eyes at dawn, I sit on the footpath for a while until more and more people start walking on the road.”
And then Mr Ranjan “has no choice but to get up” and start walking. Talking of his immediate plan today, he says he will stop at a hotel (he means eatery) “when I feel hungry”.
A labourer, Mr Ranjan works occasionally. He stays silent when asked what stops him from maintaining a more active working life.
He has been in Gurgaon for a decade “and for the first five-six years I lived with a group of labourers in a shared room.” They were all from his district in Bihar, and “sometimes I would laugh with them and sometimes I would quarrel…. but there is always some tension when many people live together.”
Now that he lives alone, “there still are tensions within the mind, and sometimes I fight with people or dogs who are sleeping next to me on the footpath.”
He takes his daily bath in public toilets, he says. “Sometimes I pay 10 rupees to the attendant, sometimes nothing.”
Mr Ranjan hasn’t visited his village in many years. He says,“I’m not married. My parents are dead. My brothers don’t miss me. I also don’t miss them.”
Doesn’t he feel lonely in vulnerable moments, when sick, for instance, or when money is scarce? “When I need cash, I work… I never beg… when I fall ill, I buy golis (pills)… if my head hurts, I massage it.”
He doesn’t require the company of a fellow human, he asserts.
After momentarily stopping to face the phone camera on request, Mr Ranjan walks on.
[This is the 397th portrait of Mission Delhi project]