Mission Delhi – Satender Kumar, Around Town
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The young auto rickshaw driver is often homesick, but not intensely. May be because Satender Kumar’s roommates happen to be his close relatives. Some of them are from his village in Bihar, and others are from nearby villages.
“There’s my chacha, there’s my jeeja, my two brothers, my phoofa ka ladka, and also my saadu.” By saadu, he means the brother-in-law of his wife, Pooja Kumari (a photo of hers is his phone screen’s wallpaper).
This evening, Satender has parked his auto beside a bus stop, waiting for the day’s next “sawari.” He is killing the empty minutes by playing a Bhojpuri love song on his mobile; the phone is fixed to the auto’s steering. “This is Avdhesh Premi’s voice… his songs are parivarik, you can play them freely in the presence of your parivar (family).” He pauses, lowers the volume, and speaks again. “Avdhesh Premi’s lyrics are free from vulgarity.”
At night, while lying on the bed, just before falling asleep, Satender ‘s drowsy thoughts tend to drift towards his village in Motihari, and sometimes also to the struggles his mother, Gayatri Devi, undertook to raise her children. “Father died when I was very small, I don’t remember anything of him… mother would alone do all the farming… I actually never wanted to leave the village, but it is very tough to live only out of kheti (farming), and we brothers wanted to help our mother.”
Satender visits his village twice a year. He dreamily talks of the long journey home. “First, I head to the railway station in Anand Vihar, Sampark Kranti (Express) leaves the platform sharp at 2.50pm. The heart dances when the train starts to move. Soon the city is behind me… During the rest of the journey, I sleep, I play songs, I eat subzi poori, I look out of the window… the train drops me next day around noon at Bettiah, from where I board an auto to the village.” Within an hour, he is with his mother and wife.
Aged 23, Satender confesses of being driven by a singular dream. “I will work for a few more years in the city, earn enough money, after which I will go back to my village, where I will start a small business, perhaps a shop.”
Soon, his almost-reverie is broken by the approach of a “sawari.”
[This is the 557th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
A village lad