Mission Delhi – Arvind, Adhchini
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The houses are withdrawn into shut doors and lidded windows. The lane is utterly silent, here in south Delhi’s Adhchini village. The pathway is empty but for two young men. Both are labourers living in Lado Sarai, and are here for an assignment. Prakash is perched on somebody’s parked bike, sitting as courteously as a shy guest sits on the sofa. Arvind, in distressed denim shorts, is crouched on the muddy ground. Moments ago he scissored out uniform-sized stripes of plastic flap folds from a cement sack.
“I’m making a ber,” he says, referring to an improvised cap often worn by freelance labourers to cushion their head from the heavy load they are obliged to carry. Arvind’s slender muscular arms are expertly manoeuvring their way with the flaps. “We need a new ber after every two months,” mutters Prakash. In his mid-20s, Arvind has made hundreds of such caps. “I have been a labourer in Delhi for 14 years.” After completing his 8th standard at the village school in UP, he discovered that his farmer-father could not afford higher education for his only son. “It was time for me to leave the home and earn.”
Arvind talks of the childhood he had to abandon in the village. “I would often be with friends in the temples, we have many of them in the village… Shiv mandir, Ram mandir, Mata ka mandir, Hanuman mandir…” He shows a tattoo on his right arm. “Dekho, Hanumanji… he keeps me safe.”
Prakash bobs his head.
Arvind confesses that “I don’t feel good in Dilli.”
He again returns to his village. “We have a talab.” He would wash the family’s two buffaloes in the talab water.
The cap is ready. Arvind carefully installs the ber on his head. “One day I will permanently move back to the village… but don’t know when,” he murmurs, slightly raising his head on request, during the photo shoot for a formal portrait.
[This is the 499th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
His self-made cap