Mission Delhi – Rakesh, Matia Mahal Bazar
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Tomorrow is Dussehra. The day after he will leave our city, and will return a year later, for the next Dussehra.
But this moment as you observe Rakesh as he walks down the bazar hawking his many toys, he seems so rooted to the city street, so connected to the evening shoppers milling around him. So completely integrated to the texture of the place. It is impossible to imagine him to be a “pardesi,” a man not of this city, but of a town a few hours train trip away.
“I come from Aligarh every year around Dussehra for 10-15 days… toy sales go up like a rocket at this time in Dilli,” says Rakesh. He is working through the packed Main Street of Matia Mahal Bazar in Old Delhi. The “khilone” he is hawking are instant eye-catchers: inflated Air India plane, inflated puppy, inflated Spiderman, inflated Russian-style matushka doll, inflated Hanuman ji ki gada… there is even a tiny swimming pool. These colourful things are strung along the entire length of a long wooden rod, so long that it is almost touching the overhanging power cables. Indeed, the rod is going up so high in the air that the merchandise is visible from afar, as if Rakesh were carrying a mini minar.
“I sell the same things in Aligarh…but the Dussehra earnings in Dilli are equivalent to many months of earnings in Aligarh.” Rakesh exercises a standard discipline in Delhi: all day long and deep into the night, he walks about many markets around the Dusshera fair grounds. Now, he suddenly pauses, on being accosted by a potential customer. The hurry-hurry shoppers inadvertently pushes at him from all directions. The high-attitude stall trembles.
In another lifetime, Rakesh was a Delhi wala. “I grew up in a jhuggi near the Lal Qila,” he reveals. “My parents later moved to a jhuggi near the Gurgaon railway station.” Eventually the family returned to their home district in Aligarh.
Rakesh wades further into the bazar. His merchandise continues to hover high above the heads of the shoppers. After a few moments, his figure is lost within the great crowd. But you are able to track Rakesh’s route by concentrating the gaze at his mini minar.
[This is the 561st portrait of Mission Delhi project]