Mission Delhi – Anil Kumar, Central Delhi Roadside
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It’s a secret. Nobody in the village knows that he is selling balloons in the big city. “My family believes I’m here as a house carpenter,” says Anil Kumar, sitting by a central Delhi roadside. This afternoon he is holding a huge yellow balloon in one hand, while the other hand is busy with a wad of unblown balloons.
In his mid-30s, Mr Kumar arrived in the city a week ago from Katni in Madhya Pradesh, but couldn’t find any carpentry work. “The other evening I was sitting idle in a chai stall in Sadar Bazar when a man suggested I should sell balloons until I find suitable work” He promptly acquired a stack of balloons from a market trader and hit the streets.
It’s painful to be alone in an unfamiliar place, especially when you are unable to get a job you desire, Mr Kumar observes. It becomes worse because “you cannot share your disappointments with your family.” He feels that his folks at home would be distressed to know of his distress, “which wouldn’t help the situation.” Not that there are many people left in his family Ito worry for him. His wife died during the childbirth last year, and he’s left only with his baby daughter and his mother. Mr Kumar has worked off-and-on in the city in the past and didn’t find it tough to get assignments, he says, “but it’s my first trip during the corona kaal (era) and I think jobs are fewer because of the times.” He does own agricultural land in the village in which he recently planted the rice crop. “But how much can a mere 1.5 acres yield.” The land is so small he says, that his elderly mother easily substitutes him as a farmer in his absence.
Mr Kumar hopes to find the work he prefers sooner or later. Meanwhile, he sleeps in a ren basera for the homeless in Sadar Bazar, and dines in an eatery “where you get a complete meal for 20 rupees.” The balloons help him earn 300 rupees daily. Despite the current hard luck, he is trying to remain optimistic. “Setbacks happen in everyone’s life.” He now poses for a photograph but “please no face, I don’t want my gharwale (family) to know of my present condition.”
[This is the 433rd portrait of Mission Delhi project]