Mission Delhi – Mukesh Kumar, Near Gurgaon Railway Station
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[By Mayank Austen Soofi]
His left hand has a ring on almost every finger. Some fingers have more than one ring.
“These are for good luck,” says Mukesh Kumar. “And yet I’m alone, I’ve no friend.” A labourer, he is sitting on an abandoned cart, by a dump yard near Gurgaon railway station in the Greater Delhi Region. It is late morning. He has decided not to work until the afternoon “because I’m in tension.” He is yet to have his breakfast.
Mr Kumar is mulling upon his life. “I’m in my 40s. My hair is growing white. I am without a wife. I don’t have friends.” He feels “there might soon come a time when I will no longer be able to work as much as I can now.” This will lead to various complications, he explains. “I will not be able to earn much.” He fears he has no one to fall back upon for support. “I have no friend,” he repeats this fact, speaking each word slowly and firmly, and then repeats it again.
Why not make a friend then.
“I’m unable to… may be because I haven’t stayed in one place for long.” Until some months ago, Mr Kumar was working in a warehouse in Chandni Chowk in Delhi, “loading and unloading the maal.” His decision to shift to Gurugram took place without any careful consideration, he admits. “I left Chandni Chowk after a panga (tiff).” He narrates the entire episode in precise details that are too convoluted to explain in a brief space. He eventually boarded a bus to Gurgaon, which he considers just another part of Delhi, and not as a separate city in a neighbouring state. Every morning he drops by at a so-called Labour Chowk in Sector 6 to get freelance assignments each of which lasts no more than a few hours, or a couple of days at best. He eats his meals from the pavement carts near the station, and sleeps on a footpath near a temple. He, who never used to think of himself as lonely, now feels a sense of loneliness. Perhaps it is amplified by this shift to an unfamiliar place. “I left my village when I was very young. Never again visited my parents.” He worked in a series of places in Kashmir and Punjab before arriving in Delhi four years ago. Remarking on his solitary existence, he says, “If I fall ill, then who will take care of me?”
Moments later, he wonders if he must try to find a wife, a search he has never attempted before. “How do you find a friend,” he asks, while responding to a query. He looks at his finger rings. After some time he decides to get up for an early lunch.
[This is the 449th portrait of Mission Delhi project]