Mission Delhi – Sawan, Lodhi Road
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
What do we want in life but to be successful and happy? And what is to be done once that’s achieved but to rest from all work as the Old Testament God did, after creating the heaven and earth.
This evening, it is exactly what Sawan seems to be doing on this Lodhi Road pavement–slumped on a fluffy bed, smoking a beedi, face scanning the overcast sky. The young man is looking utmost carefree as if he has attained all that he dreamed for.
“I always smoke Gopal beedi… need it by my side all the time,” he says.
Soon it becomes clear that the thing that Sawan is flopped upon is actually a huge white sack filled with plastic bottles he collected in the day. “I’m a kabadi walla,” he reveals, explaining that he walks in the southern parts of the city picking up discarded bottles from roads and streets.
It also gradually emerges that the early impression of Sawan as a carefree man was true only up to a point.
“I was thinking… kaise kya karunga (what will I do and how)…” he says, continuing to stare up at the sky. “I was worried about my parents.”
Saawan’s father is a “baba” who travels across temples and Sufi shrines across India and his mother sell clothes on the pavement. “These days papa is in town… he has grown old… I must look after him.”
Then there’s one more person troubling Sawan. “My wife… she went away a few weeks ago… I don’t know where… I was drunk… it was a bad situation… she left the house….”
There seem no solutions for now but Sawan confesses that lying briefly on the day’s collection does make him feel better. “It clears my mind.”
In a few minutes, the truck will arrive to pick up the bottles for a recycling plant in Nangloi. “But tomorrow evening, there will again be a new collection and a new bed,” he says, laughing softly, “and you’ll again see me relaxing like this.”
[This is the 162nd portrait of Mission Delhi project]
The truth behind his carefree posture