Mission Delhi – Shambhu Yadav, Outside Ashok Hotel
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It’s late October. That explains the nip in the air. But is it so chilly that Shambhu Yadav has to wrap himself in a blanket? The young man is perched on the pavement, outside the five-star Ashok hotel in Delhi’s diplomatic enclave of Chanakyapuri. It is late evening, and already dark. He is sitting behind a kerosene stove. Rice is on the boil.
“I’m making dinner for us all,” he says. Mr Yadav is among a troupe of labourers charged with laying underground cables in the vicinity for a telecom company.
He attributes the blanket to fever: “I’m shivery.” His colleagues have asked him to rest, and to check on the rice rather than exerting himself in strenuous physical activity. They themselves are fiddling around with hefty loops of red and yellow cables, dragging them along the roadside.
“I’ve been having light fever for the past few days,” Mr Yadav says gloomily. Some onions and tomatoes are lying on a tiny chopping board beside him. He is supposed to slice them to garnish the dal that’s already been prepared. But right now he is choosing to stay still. “I feel…,” he doesn’t finish his sentence.
At 20, Mr Yadav is already talking like a man who has been disillusioned by the world. “Mann bhar gaya hain,” he mutters, explaining his disillusionment with the course of his life. “I came to Delhi eight-nine years ago, and have been a labourer since then.” He says that the extreme poverty of his family back home in the village in Gaya, Bihar, prevented him from attending school. “There was no money for my education.”
In the night, it will certainly get cold, but Mr Yadav will not have a restful slumber in a warm cozy bedroom, protected from the elements by tightly locked windows and doors. “I don’t have a kamra (room) in Delhi…. we sleep where we work.” Tonight, he says, he and his team will stay right here on this pavement, across the road from the high-security British embassy. They have a truck into which they might retire to sleep.
“But my fever is light… it will be over soon, and then I’ll feel better,” he remarks, resting his chin on his knees, as the steam from the bubbling rice pot partially hides his face.
[This is the 443rd portrait of Mission Delhi project]
A moment in fever