Mission Delhi – PM Sahay, Connaught Place
One of the one per cent in 13 million.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Standing against a pillar, his head lowered, he slips the pink duck-faced puppets into his hands and waves weakly. The passers-by don’t notice. The Delhi Walla meets PM Sahay one evening in B Block, Inner Circle, Connaught Place, Delhi’s Colonial-era commercial district. A pavement hawker, he is 74.
“At this age shouldn’t you stay home?” I ask him.
Mr Sahay is a saritorialist’s man. His ironed bluish-white full-sleeved shirt is tucked into his pleated light-brown trouser that has a black leather belt. His brown shoes are polished. With his white hair and brown-rimmed glasses, he looks like a retired bureaucrat.
Mr Sahay walks towards the next block. Taking each step is an effort. “My legs ache,” he says. “The doctor says that tests are needed but that’s expensive.” The Inner Circle corridor is lined with thick round pillars. Mr Sahay draws energy by supporting himself against these columns, as he walks past them one by one.
“I come everyday from Rohtak,” he says in his frail voice, referring to a town 50km from Delhi. “I’ve a wife, a married daughter and her children to support.” Mr Sahay has a rail pass that enables him to commute daily to Delhi for a monthly sum of Rs 160. He leaves home at 2.30 pm and returns by 11 in the night. At (old) Delhi railway station, a wholesale trader gives him 20 pairs of puppets, which he hawks in Connaught Place, where he reaches by the metro. Each pair is priced at Rs 40. “I’ve sold just two and now it’s time to leave.” The puppets are stuffed in an orange cloth bag hanging from his left shoulder.
Mr Sahay’s neighbours in Rohtak are ignorant of his salesmanship. “If they discover that I sell toys in Delhi’s streets, we’ll be disgraced.”
It’s getting dark. The mannequins at a Levi showroom are bathed in orange glow. The corridor’s lamps have been lit. Mr Sahay walks out into the open. He sits down on a stack of manhole covers placed beside a rubbish bin. A man emerges from a jewelry shop and gives him chai without exchanging greetings; it seems a routine service. Mr Sahay takes out a packet of Parle G biscuits from his trouser pocket.
“I retired as a bank manager. We had a son. He had done chartered accountancy. A few years ago I spent all my savings for him to start his office in Delhi. But he moved to Bahrain without informing us. Two years ago, we heard that he had died in an accident. We could not even see his body. Now, there’s nobody to earn so I must work.”
Mr Sahay dips a biscuit into the chai and looks at the shopping crowd. After emptying the plastic glass, he gets up. “My train will leave in another hour. Goodbye.”
[This is the 47th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
The life of a sales man