Mission Delhi – Vinod, Central Delhi
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It is suddenly making an unsuspecting passerby hungry, this delicious smell of spiced veggies shallow-frying in oil. The entire lane is infused with a strong aroma of home-cooked subzi. At this evening hour, every household in the central Delhi neighbourhood must be preparing dinner.
The source of the smell is identified within minutes. It is coming from a truck parked on one side of the lane. All the men in it are chatting in the front cabin. Except for one person, who is preparing the meal for everyone.
“I’m making aloo-gobi,” says Mr Vinod. He, too, is inside the truck, but in another part of it, sitting on a low wooden patri by a small door-like opening on one side of the truck’s long trailer. “We are labourers, we work on the road outside during the day, and sleep inside [the truck] at night.” The men are in the area to lay underground electric cables.
The interior of the truck’s trailer is coal-dark, though one can spot the cooking gas cylinder, and a cloth hanging from what looks like some blackened machine.
Mr Vinod is amused at the assumption that he might have learned cooking at his village in Jharkhand. “Why will I have to cook in my own house? My wife makes food for me when I’m there.” He meets her very rarely though, he says, visiting his village once a year.
“There is no direct train… we board a special bus at Anand Vihar bus adda that leaves at four in the evening.” The bus takes full “chaubis ghante”, or 24 hours, to drop him at his village at four the next evening. “It is a very long journey, and expensive,” he says in a flat tone.
Although he has been working in Delhi for some years, Mr Vinod does not think of himself as a Delhiwale. “This city does not have the atmosphere of home.” Besides, the nature of his profession makes it impossible for him to set up roots anywhere in the city. “We stay in the truck [owned by a contractor], going from one site to another, spending only a few days in each site.”
By now, the subzi in the kadhai is almost done. The cooking is at a delicate stage, and if he is not careful, he fears, the dish might get burnt. It will take another hour for everyone in the truck to be done with the dinner (including washing the dishes). And then, it will be time to sleep, Mr Vinod mutters, stirring the subzi.
[This is the 463rd portrait of Mission Delhi project]
Like a rolling stone