Mission Delhi – Harishchandra, Maharaja Ranjeet Singh Marg
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
He is silently gazing at… perhaps the traffic on the road. A tree leaf falls on his shoulder. He continues to be still. Some might say idle. He blames the season. Harishchandra stirs less often during the cold days of Delhi winter.
“Because few people want to get their hazamat in thandi,” he explains. The elderly gent runs a shaving stall on central Delhi’s Maharaja Ranjeet Singh Marg. Unlike most pavement enterprises of such nature, it has no table and no chair. The client sits cross-legged on the ground, the seating indicated by an empty gunny sack spread along the dusty pave. Harishchandra too sits cross-legged, working up the lather on the man’s face.
This late afternoon, all his tools are lying in a single small heap: two combs, one scissor, one razor holder, a shaving brush, and a handheld mirror, currently turned upside down. One half of a discarded blade is lying forlorn beside a water bottle, perhaps it was used to shave the most recent customer. “In the months of December and January, I’m able to earn only 100 rupees everyday.” In summer months, “I earn 150 rupees daily, sometimes even 200 rupees.”
A white horse ambles by the pave, very slowly, pausing here and there to graze on the grass growing in random patches. “It belongs to a tanga walla,” he says. “I know all about this ilaka… I sit here from morning to evening, watching everyone and everything.”
Harishchandra arrived in the city from his native Bulandshahr in UP “so many years ago… perhaps in 1965.” He moved his stall through various locations before settling down at this spot in 2008. “The rickshaw pullers around here are my regulars… a lot of homeless men too come to me whenever they want to smoothen up their cheeks.”
Despite his frail figure, Harishchandra commutes daily on a bus from his home in Maujpur, which he shares with two sons “who have jobs.” His wife, Asha Rani, died of cancer in 2003. True, he can stay at home “now when I’m so old,” but he feels “as long as I’m breathing, I must continue to work.”
For now, he continues to sit motionless, waiting for business.
[This is the 525th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
Harishchandra’s place in the world