Mission Delhi – Joginder, Barakhamba
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It is Sunday. There is no traffic, the road lined with high-rises is empty. Its gaping emptiness augments the awe of the megapolis.
Amid such a brobdingnagian panorama, Joginder is barely perceptible; his lone, lean figure seems detached from the grandeur of the place. Appearances can be deceptive however. Joginder’s roots are as firmly entrenched into Barakhamba’s metaphoric soil as the Statesman Tower that towers behind him. A pavement hawker of boiled spicy chana, he has been on this spot for 20 years. “But my asli home is in Ghazipur… it is very far from Dilli, it is in UP, beyond Benares.”
Joginder lives in a “jhuggi” in nearby Minto Road, which he shares with a few other men. He hauls his cart into the central Delhi office district everyday around four in the evening, strategically close to the hour when the commuters start to trickle out of their office. He sets up the stall at the turning to Connaught Lane, beside the underground metro station.
During the course of a casual conversation, Joginder confesses that “I feel alone for being so far from my family.” His wife and son live in the village, where he owns “ek beegha zameen.” The inherited land’s seasonal agricultural yield tends to be hardly of much worth, he says, pointing it as the principal factor forcing him to migrate all those years ago. “When a gareeb aadmi is obliged to leave his home to earn for his beewi-bachhe, he cannot take risks, so he heads to a city where he already has contacts… may be he has relatives there, may be acquaintances from the same district.”
In Joginder’s case, his sister’s husband was manning a channa stall in Barakhamba. “My jeeja moved to Dubai for better opportunities, and I took over his reri.”
Any possibility one day Joginder too might leave this place for better opportunities. The man closes his eyes and theatrically runs his hand over his grey stubble. “It is too late. Main huan budhai, mera na hua Dubai (I’m old, no Dubai for me).”
By now, it is six. Joginder will wind down his stall four hours later, as he always does. He will then drag the cart to Minto Road. On reaching the “jhuggi,” he will cook his dinner.
[This is the 562nd portrait of Mission Delhi project]