Mission Delhi – Syed Areeb, Walled City Wall
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[By Mayank Austen Soofi]
The life of an Instagram influencer isn’t easy. “I’ll have to continuously update my personality in what I wear and how I look. I’ll always have to convey happiness to my followers even if my heart is broken.”
These stresses seem sweet and desirable as long as Syed Areeb doesn’t actually become a social media influencer, the singular ambition propelling him onwards. This evening, though, he is overwhelmed by the struggles ahead. Feeling utterly alone like a shipwrecked mariner marooned on an island, he misses the presence of a person who can nudge him to right directions. Sometimes he has an urgent urge to escape from Old Delhi where he has spent all his 26 years. In fact, this evening he is literally standing on the boundary where Old Delhi meets the new city—he is walking about the remnants of the Walled City’s historic walls, near Dilli Gate.
The young man just doesn’t feel any connect with his “congested” neighbourhood. “Many of the boys of my age in Pahari Bhojla have no focus… they pass their time in the streets.” After graduating from Delhi University, Mr Areeb could have taken over his father’s garment shop in Daryaganj. Instead, he earned himself a diploma in “travel tourism and airport handling” from YMCA, and soon afterwards started commuting daily to Delhi airport’s international terminal as a customer service agent—he is among the few young men in the vicinity to have a day job outside the Mughal-era quarter. (It turned out to be lucky for him to skip the family shop, which closed down with the coronavirus-triggered lockdown last year.)
Transcending the workday routine of handing out boarding passes in the departure terminal, Mr Areeb devotes the rest of his waking hours to his ardent dream. “Naturally,” he started with his grooming. Speaking fluent English was never a problem because “mumma papa sent me to an English medium public school in south Delhi” Muscles were honed in strenuous workouts at a Pataudi House gym. In 2018, he co-launched a YouTube channel on “fashion and fitness”. That project fizzled out in eight months. Later, he met a few more disappointments.
Shaking his head, Mr Areeb argues “so far I’ve been successful from the perspective of my mother. She’s happy I have a job. But the things I want remain unrealised.” He picks up a dry dust-covered leaf from the ground, silently wrestles with his thoughts while crushing the leaf with his finger. “But I’m still in my twenties. I’m focused. I’ll continue to work hard… Mumma asks me to keep hope.”
[This is the 453rd portrait of Mission Delhi project]
Dreams of his youth