Mission Delhi – Mritunjay Kumar Tiwari, Near Moolchand Flyover
One of the one per cent in 13 million.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The buses, cars and autos (auto rickshaws) are whizzing by but he is deep into Osama bin Laden. “This is America’s cunning,” says Mritunjay Kumar Tiwari, 34, an auto driver with brown eyes, bushy eyebrows and black moustache. “(US President Barack) Obama wants to pull back his troops from Afghanistan, hoping that Taliban and Pakistan will fight each other to their mutual destruction.”
The Delhi Walla is listening to Mr Tiwari in Ring Road, near Moolchnad flyover. He had parked his auto on the pavement and was reading Navbharat Times, a Hindi daily. “I’m actually a Nai Duniya reader, which is priced at Rs 3. The other dailies cost 50 paisa more,” he says. “Today I couldn’t find Nai Duniya.” Mr Tiwari, a resident of Mehrauli, south Delhi, is on the road from 7 am to 5 pm every day. He gets the newspaper from random hawkers, depending on where he is driving in the morning.
Returning to the rapidly evolving news – Mr bin Laden was killed only two days before by Americans in Pakistan – Mr Tiwari predicts, “Obama will be re-elected as the US President.” The auto driver explains his point in a series of I-never-thought-that-way arguments that builds up a conclusion difficult to dispute. Listening to his impromptu political analysis is like reading Thomas Friedman’s column in The New York Times. “Pakistan says it wasn’t aware of Osama living so close to their military academy and America says that it did not tell Pakistan about its plans of killing Osama. But (Pak army chief General Gen Ashfaq Parvez) Kayani had recently returned from Washington and he must have been informed by the Americans.”
Mr Tiwari has no illusions about the dead Al Qaeda leader. “Osama hated the US, and also our India.”
Apart from Delhi and his home province Bihar, Mr Tiwari hasn’t seen the world, except in the newspapers. “Whenever I get time during the day, I stop my auto and read the newspaper.” His simple theory of why India is going to dogs could be the influence of Nai Duniya edits. “The biggest criminals are our corrupt politicians,” he says. Occasionally his insights into the state of the world gets more complicated, an accomplishment that could not be credited to the shallow dailies of our times. “Terrorism is a big problem but the greater crisis is the level of dishonesty among us and the extent of hatred we have for each other.”
Pointing to the vermillion mark on his forehead, Mr Tiwari says, “I’m a Brahmin who is honestly earning rotis for his wife and three children.” The newspaper falls on the auto’s handlebar. Pointing to the stickers of Hindu gods pasted on his auto, he says, “I pray every morning but I have many Muslim friends.”
At this point a sari-clad commuter approaches Mr Tiwari, asking him to take her to Connaught Place. The driver rolls up his newspaper, tucks it behind the rearview mirror and starts his auto. While leaving, he raises his voice to drown out the engine’s noise, and says, “Our toleration is running low and that’s our big crisis, bigger than Bin Laden, bigger than the corruption.”
[This is the 41st portrait of Mission Delhi project]
Mritunjay Kumar Tiwari, up to date with the world
Are newspapers dead?
Our own Thomas Friedman
The state of the world