Mission Delhi – Babu Ram, Central Delhi
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Babu Ram has been selling ice cream on Delhi streets since more than 40 years— which give him considerable space for reflection. “I’m trying to measure the value of all these years… I feel I couldn’t really achieve very much,” says the 65-year-old. He would have wanted to do more for his sons who work in Delhi as labourers, and the rest of his family which lives in a UP village. Mr Ram himself lives alone in a slum, returning home only around midnight to cook a meal for himself. “Although last night a friend brought some food for both of us, so I didn’t need to cook. We had anda curry and roti.”
Now two customers materialise, and he sends them off with vanilla and chocolate chip cups. He reflects: “For a man of my age, it’s time to retire and return to the village.” But he wants to get his college-going daughter married, back in the village, “where we’re looking for a suitable lad for her.”
Mr Ram reckons the wedding would cost at least 2 lakh rupees, “and to get that kind of money I’ve got no choice but to work every day,” he says matter-of-factly, then sinks into silence, sitting as motionless as a pharaoh’s statue.
[This is the 185th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
The ice cream man’s retirement plans