Mission Delhi – Mohmu, New Palam Vihar
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The land is sprawled across acres of openness, punctuated with scrubby bushes and stand-alone houses. Far away, the grey multi-storeyed buildings look like scarecrows. On the other side, an expressway is coming up, its elevated concrete unspooling atop an older artery.
Amid these empty expanses of Gurgaon’s New Palam Vihar in the Greater Delhi Region, an elderly man is sitting on a low brick wall that clearly demarcates a privately owned plot of real estate. If this were a painting, the artist could have guiltily rendered this figure by a single dot of the brush.
In his 60s, Mohmu, originally a farmer, looks about the dusty scenery and mutters, “When I’m surrounded by khali zameen (empty land), I don’t know what to feel… I then just don’t think anything.” Looking down towards his legs, he contradicts himself the next instant, muttering, “I was thinking of my legs… It is not easy to walk…my legs give me pain… I suffer from low blood pressure.”
A native of Motihari in Bihar, Mohmu stays at his son’s home nearby. “He works as a…” Mohmu’s accent is difficult to comprehend by this interlocutor, and the word that he utters to describe his son’s profession isn’t clear even though he repeats himself more than once. Finally, he gives up, saying it does not matter, “and many other things too do not matter much against the things I have experienced.”
He explains his reasons. “My life is like a mountain of pain and difficulties. My wife in the village too has low blood pressure. She too can’t walk easily. One of my sons is dead. Another has been ill for a long time — he has maathe ki bimari (illness of the forehead) and lies bedridden in the village, unable to do his share of farming. And the third son, in whose kamra (room) I live here, is recovering from jaundice…he is weak.”
Mohmu then smiles. Responding to a query, he remarks that “there must have been some purpose that Bhagwan sent me to this world, and these hardships too must have some purpose”.
He speaks again after a brief pause. “But all my grandchildren are in good health.”
Distracted by a herd of buffaloes slowly walking along a mud trail, he confides that “whenever my legs get better, I will go back to Motihari, that area has more buildings than Gurugram.” He falls silent. After some minutes, he re-asserts: “I’m thinking of nothing.”
[This is the 477th portrait of Mission Delhi project]