Mission Delhi – Manzoor, Abul Khair Street
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
There’s baingan, lauki, aloo, bhindi, turai, tamatar, patta gobhi, neembu, hari mirchi, adrak, kaddu, palak and there is also Manzoor, who is the seller of these subzi-bhaji, here at Old Delhi’s Abul Khair Street.
The man arrived in the megapolis “as a boy many years ago” from his village in Araria zila, Bihar. “Back then, I was akela (single), now I have a family.” His wife, Kauser, and four children live in the village, he says, sitting cross-legged on his pavement stall, behind the weighing scale.
Manzoor’s incredibly expressive eyes appear now to smile, now to frown, as if they were in a synchronised coordination with the tone of his sentences. While talking, he picks up a ginger sprig, and squeezes it within his fist, perhaps unconsciously.
His family has never visited Manzoor in the city, he says, so as to avoid the “kharcha” (expenses) that would be incurred in non-essential travel. In fact, his folks don’t have much visual idea of his living arrangements—he shares a rented room nearby with a few other men, and has his meals in neighbourhood eateries. Tapping a thumb on the chest, he says., “I have two sons, two daughters.” He visits them twice a year—“Seemanchal Express zindabad!” The train ticket isn’t cheap though, he mutters with an exasperated grin, (his eyes shows exasperation only).
Unlike the roommates, Manzoor is unable to chat with his family on WhatsApp video. His phone and the family’s phone are old-fashioned mobiles without the camera. Whatever, aged around 50, he feels a sense of satisfaction with the course of his life because “I managed to marry my two daughters into good families… they are khush (happy) in their homes.” One more mission is to be accomplished, “Our home is kuccha, I have to make it pucca… it should be like that.” His eyes gesture towards a brick building across the street. “And then I will be completely satisfied.”
Just as Manzoor gets ready to pose for a portrait, a customer arrives to get palak. He cheerily asks the person to get out of the way. “If my photo appears in the newspaper, I will send it to the family.”
[This is the 559th portrait of Mission Delhi project]