Mission Delhi – Muhammed Naushad, Near India Gate
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Ordinary road, ordinary traffic light, ordinary auto rickshaws. Suddenly, the ordinary is transformed into the extraordinary, as a truly rare, almost never ever seen sight is spotted.
It is a hawker’s cart fitted with that outdated magic machine that shows you the big wide world through a mere peephole. This bioscope is Muhammed Naushad’s mode of living. He spends the day wheeling it about the grounds of India Gate. “You give me 10 rupees, and I show you Dilli ka Lal Qila, Agre ka Taj Mahal, Jaipur ka Hawa Mahal.”
He pauses, thoughtfully adding, “it also shows Dilli ka Humayun Makbara, Dilli ka India Gate… and also film stars.” The street merchant insists that children who come to India Gate with their guardians — the bulk of his customers — are more excited to see India Gate through his bioscope than the real India Gate in front of them.
This humid afternoon, Naushad is returning home to Sarai Kale Khan early “because I’m feeling tired.” It is an exception, he says, adding that he spends many hours at India Gate daily . “From 6 in the morning to midnight.” He walks, dragging his cart all the way from home to work, and back. It takes him about an hour to cover the distance one way.
Since he spends virtually his entire waking
hours at India Gate, Naushad never gets to eat at home, or at any eatery in his neighbourhood. He has his lunch as well as dinner at Tinku ka khoka at Humayun Road, close to the India Gate. He says that there aren’t many “bioscope wale” in our city, and even at India Gate, “there are only 2-3 more apart from me…. I’ve never talked to them.” Although Naushad has been making this same living in the same place for 15 years.
He bought the bioscope several years ago from his village in Bihar’s Supaul district, where he had purchased it for 22,000 rupees. The village continues to be his primary home. His wife, Jasina Khatoon, and kids— daughters Asmeen Khatoon, Shahina Parveen, son Aashiq—have never visited him in Delhi.
Graciously agreeing to a request despite feeling unwell, Naushad parks his cart by the pavement and turns on the bioscope’s tape recorder. A male voice starts singing: “Dilli dekho, Dilli dehkho, Agre ka Taj Mahal dekho, Dilli ki Qutub Minar dekho…”
[This is the 552nd portrait of Mission Delhi project]