City Style – Pramod Kumar’s Flowery Mask, Roshanpura
The mask sartorialist.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Elegant. That’s the exact word to describe his dressing style. His blue-and-white striped, long-sleeved shirt is going well with his gamchha, which is arrayed in a check pattern of various shades of blue, pink and green. Both ends of the gamchha are falling on either sides of his shoulders, and seem like a set of extra limbs, for decoration.
But the most remarkable thing about rickshaw puller Pramod Kumar’s sartorial style is his pandemic-era mask. Especially when you compare it to the masks of folks going about him this afternoon, here in Gurgaon’s Roshanpura in the Greater Delhi Region—that is, those responsible citizens who are actually wearing the mask. Their face covers are in plain shades, some are branded. But Mr Kumar’s mask is looking like a garden. It has a blue background littered with what seems to be the red petals of semal flowers, which currently happen to be in season. And then there are long pink leaves, or can they be bird feathers?
Mr Kumar shrugs his shoulders. Standing leisurely, with clasped hands casually placed on the rider’s seat, he is waiting for customers.
He got his mask a few days ago from a hawker who stands in adjacent Sadar Bazar, he says, near the Sardar Jalebi. “It was just 20 rupees… anybody can buy it.” Even so, not one person around is seen in a mask half as interesting as this one.
Anyhow, Mr Kumar dismisses the possibility of him having any interest in clothes. He has no care for grooming, he says. “I’m not a hero,” he remarks, with an amused tone, referring to film actors.
Mr Kumar lives around the area, sharing a room with a dozen other rickshaw pullers. All of them are from Madhubani district in Bihar. “I have three sets of clothes… this evening, on returning to the kamra (room), I will wash this pant-shirt I’m wearing, and tomorrow morning I’ll wear the pant-shirt I washed last night. Or the other spare set.”
Mr Kumar rarely buys clothes in Gurugram, preferring to shop for them in his village, which he visits once every three or fourth months. “Sometimes my stay lasts for a month because I help my father and brother with farming… we have a small land.”
On being congratulated for his choice of mask, he expresses happiness but says that “summer is setting in, and the sweating makes it difficult to keep up with the mask.” He has two masks at any given time, he says.
Now looking at the photo for which he just posed on this reporter’s phone, he declares that the pink design on the mask “is a patta (leaf), not pankh (feather).”
Mask in season