Mission Delhi – Ram Bran, Hazrat Nizamuddin West
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It is almost midnight. The neighbourhood groceries have closed for the day. The area’s sole eatery too has downed its shutters. The three attendants at the adjacent gas station are sitting idle. A homeless man is sleeping outside a shuttered tailoring shop, his body covered with a white chaadar. The lane is without life, here in this central Delhi neighbourhood of Hazrat Nizamuddin West.
Moments later, a breach tears through this emptiness. Ice-cream seller Ram Bran is pushing along his ice-cream trolley.
“I’m going home,” he says in a muffled voice. Turning backwards, he gestures with his arm towards a distant turning. “I sit there everyday selling the ice-cream.” The red plastic chair on which he sits, while waiting for customers, is now placed upside down on the top of the trolley.
Despite the late hour, Ram Bran says he hasn’t had his meal yet. “I will eat after reaching home.” His home—a single room on rent—is nearby. No hot meal of dal-chawal awaits him. In his early 60s, Ram Bran stays alone; his family lives in the village in Gaya, Bihar. “I have a son, a bahu, a pota, a poti,” he says in a singsong voice, the way a sleepy grandparent might tell a bedtime story to a child. Ram Bran’s son, too, has a “similar” kind of profession as his, but he works nearer home in Gaya. “And look at me, I went so far from them,” he mutters in an amused tone, shaking his head. Talking of his past, he remarks that for 25 years he has been selling ice-cream on the same spot in Delhi. “I had briefly worked as a chowkidar when new to Dilli.”
On reaching home, Ram Bran will prepare a dinner of “some subzi, some rotiyan.” Every night he cooks from scratch. Dragging his refrigerated trolley, he says he has no fridge at home to keep food, and must thus prepare every meal in real time. But occasionally at work, when he is particularly hungry, he helps himself to an ice-cream. “I like many ice-cream varieties, and sometimes I even have the one that costs 50 rupees.”
Walking ahead, Ram Bran says he will not go to bed before 2 am.
[This is the 486th portrait of Mission Delhi project]