Mission Delhi – Sameer, Connaught Place Subway
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The evening is cold. He is standing idly in a Connaught Place subway. A street hawker, he sells what he calls “dream catchers”. Unlike the dreams, though, these are tangible things and are arranged along a wooden structure that he carries on his shoulders. Each of the “dream catchers” comprises a colourful disc decked with dyed feathers. They look like a crown. Is one supposed to wear it on the head?
Sameer laughs. “No, no, you hang it in your car or in your home.” Vigorously nodding his head, he says “the dream catcher helps you get good dreams at night… all you have to do is to gaze upon it.”
Sameer looks puzzled on being asked about his own dream. “I have never dreamed about dreams.” Set to turn 18 this summer, he says he lives in Paharganj. “I come to CP every evening to sell dream catchers.” His parents, too, sell the same stuff elsewhere in the city. “We get these from Sadar Bazar.” Sameer left his studies long time ago “when I was in fifth class”.
He found it hard to enjoy studies, he recalls nonchalantly. It is good to help the parents with the household earning, he points out causally. “My mummy-papa are from Sholapur, but I was born in Delhi.”
There is no one else in the subway for the moment. Leaning his back against the wall, Sameer now contradicts himself and admits he has a dream, after all. “I want to be a builder.” But next moment, he seems unsure. “The thing is that if you want to progress in life, you have to study.” Indeed, despite being a school drop-out, he has been attending informal classes conducted by an NGO every afternoon in Paharganj. “They also give free lunch to students… in fact, I start for CP only after having my khana there.”
Sameer says his daily sales pick up only after he enters CP’s Inner Circle later in the evening. This subway is under the Outer Circle. “Vendors like me are allowed to walk in the Inner Circle only after 8pm.” The shops are closed by then, but “there are lots of couples and single people at that time… and some do buy dream catchers from me.”
He reaches home late in the night when his mother serves him the day’s first home-made meal.
Sameer now picks up his “dream catchers” and goes up towards N Block, using the escalators.
[This is the 468th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
Seller of dreams