Mission Delhi – Raghav, Connaught Place
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
At first he was—how to say it—a burger. Then, a “joker.” Now he is being himself. All three versions—call them garbs, or roop in Hindi—are a part of his job profile. Raghav’s career in the “sales and marketing line” has matured over the years through a series of Connaught Place (CP) eateries. He hangs around in the colonial-era colonnades, holding a placard or menu, inviting market strollers to his employer’s establishment.
In his last two jobs, Raghav’s uniform was specifically designed to catch the darting eyes of CP’s restless shoppers. While with a burger outlet, Raghav would dress as a burger (see left photo). After switching to a café, he would dress in the multi-coloured costume of a circus “joker,” complete with a pointed cap topped with a tassel (see middle photo). In this new job with a pizzeria, Raghav is finally dressed as Raghav (see right photo). This smoggy post-Diwali evening, clothed in pants and T-shirt, he is flashing the pizzeria’s menu, making eye contact with the passers-by, politely nudging them to check out the pizza place.
The nature of Raghav’s profession demands a blend of boldness, patience and unwavering courtesy. He has to reach out to people, talk to them without awkwardness, and stay polite even when snubbed, often inadvertently. Going by his calm demeanour this evening, all these qualities seem to have seeped into his bones.
Naturally Raghav stood out more as a “joker.” The burger ensemble was even more conspicuous—he would sport a giant styrofoam double bun (with the cutlet in middle) around his torso. Many of us might get painfully conscious in such getups, but Raghav long ago devised a way to deal with it: “As I would stand in the crowd (in the burger dress), I would keep singing songs in my mann (thoughts). That would make me happy. And when I’m happy, I gain confidence, which gives me strength to approach strangers.”
In his late 20s, Raghav feels that a decade from now he might still be in this same old CP doing this same old routine. He analyses his working life in a series of solo sentences separated by thoughtful pauses.
“Jab tak hai, chal raha hain (things will go on as long as they can).”
“Santosh hona chahiye (there must be satisfaction).”
“Har prakar se anand lena chahiye (try finding happiness out of every situation).”
During his burger avatar, Raghav once observed that “desires and dreams only make a person dukhi (sad).”
On being reminded of that idea, he smiles.
Soon the man is back in action, holding the menu, making eye contacts with the passers-by. A young couple stops to glance at the pizza list.
Versions of a salesman