Mission Delhi – Musaddi Lal Gupta, Deer Park
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It’s a familiar yet a super-rare sight. No, not the centuries old-monument behind him, but the elderly man himself, here in in south Delhi’s Deer Park. He is spinning khadi, the way you might have seen Gandhi do on old photographs. Except that this man’s charkha, or spinning wheel, looks more modern, the wheels fitted inside an elegant coffee-colored wooden box.
“Yes, I spin my own khadi,” says the gentleman, introducing himself as Musaddi Lal Gupta. He says that he lives nearby with children and grandchildren, and comes to the park to “pass my empty time.”
But why, at 71, does he need to make his own fabric? Can’t he buy from shops — or, if he is so much fond of khadi, get it from one of the Khadi Bhandar showrooms?
The gentleman instantly asks back—“Why buy?”
The question remains suspended in the air while he continues his work. Huge pads of cotton wool are piled up by his left side, rolled up together like a hippie’s thick braids. His spinning is gradually converting that pile into a thread he sends to the historic Gram Seva Mandal in Wardha, Maharashtra, where it is transformed into a fabric, which “I sew myself into clothes, after getting them cut by a tailor master.” Indeed, the white kurta and dhoti he is wearing come from what he spun. The fabric of his dress is looking as creamy and cool as an extremely soft slice of coconut. One imagines it to be the most ideal complement to the looming summer. There is a strong temptation to touch his kurta, to feel the fabric between the fingers.
Mr Gupta says he retired some years ago as a senior accounts officer from the CAG department of Madhya Pradesh state, and that for a long time he worked in Gwalior. During his working life too, he chose to wear dhoti and kurta, he says, instead of the more common pants and shirt. Though earlier he was much more involved in growing his own vegetables, he clarifies.
Is he inspired from Gandhi?
The gentleman smiles enigmatically. After a prolonged pause, he responds by saying, “Everyone should do some manual labour.”
By now, a crowd has gathered about the spinning man, some folks are even taking his picture on their mobile phone. But he is totally involved in his spinning, as if nothing else mattered.
[This is the 397th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
His own khadi