Mission Delhi - Ram Charan, Central Delhi

Mission Delhi – Ram Charan, Central Delhi

Mission Delhi - Ram Charan, Central Delhi

One of the one percent in 13 million.

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

The elderly man is sitting by the crowded market lane, on a brick cushioned with a folded plastic bag; His right arm is raised forward, holding five packs of matchsticks. A few packs are lying in a small black polythene bag, between his feet.

Ram Charan is a hawker of matchboxes. This has been his career for a long time. “Some people arrive in the city and get into the business of selling balloons, some start to sell budiya ke baal, some sell seb-aur-amrood… I started selling maachis when I arrived in Dilli 20 years ago from my village in Budaun,” he says.

The profession has helped him attain life’s primary goals, he notes. The venerable gent ranks his greatest achievement the successful hosting of the wedding of his only child some 15 years ago. “I had made a bank account in Hemlata’s name when she was still a child, and every month I would deposit some of my earnings into it… I ended up saving five lakh rupees in that bank account, some of which was spent in her wedding, the rest of the amount helps her run her household in her sasural.”

Stacking up the matchboxes on the dusty ground into a straight line, Ram Charan says he usually sells three types of matchbox: “the long ones are for 20 rupees, the medium ones are for 10 rupees, the small ones are for five rupees.”

Ram Charan doesn’t have a home in the city, and at night he sleeps outside an acquaintance’s shuttered shop in Chandni Chowk. His house in the village however is huge enough to shelter a handful of cousins and their families. “They help farm my teen beegha zameen.”

His wife Poonam having succumbed to an illness two years ago, Ram Charan talks of his intimates. “My daughter visits me on important festivals like Rakhi and Bhayya Dooj—I then make it a point to be in the village… and whenever I’m at home, my nephews there honour me, feed me, give me fresh buffalo milk… at night when I’m falling asleep, they massage my feet.”

After two or three years, “when I will be too old and my bones will start to hurt, I’ll give up my work.”

He will then quit Delhi, he says, and go back to his village.
[This is the 582nd portrait of Mission Delhi project]