Mission Delhi – Dinesh Kumar, Style Plaza
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Broken chairs and discarded cardboard cartons litter the floor. The office is in shambles. The only indication that Dinesh Kumar is a travel agent is the small globe next to his laptop.
“It wasn’t always like this,” reveals Mr Kumar.
At 52, the travel agent has been ensconced for years in the basement floor of Gurgaon’s Style Plaza shopping complex in the National Capital Region. There was a time, he recalls, before his business collapsed to its present state, “when I would wear a tie and I had a team of 8-9 people, each assigned to a separate computer”.
The rise of online travel websites “finished my company leaving just me and this little globe”. Along with a few long-time customers who keep him afloat “but even they call me only when they feel they are not getting a good deal online”. Perhaps somebody else in Mr Kumar’s delicate position might have considered shifting to some other business. “But travel is my life!” he exclaims.
After completing a course in “travel and tourism” in Delhi some 30 years ago “when computer had just entered our country and airline and hotel bookings were made on telex”, he made an ambitious trip, journeying in trains from China to West Asia and Europe.
But now. The gentleman slumps back on his chair, closes his eyes and says, “It’s all over.” Soon afterwards he gets a phone call concerning an Auckland-to-Delhi flight booking. He is, however, not hopeful about it, saying, “Sometimes people make inquiries and then book on their own.” Mr Kumar now again closes his eyes, suddenly muttering, “But my spiritual life is first class.”
[This is the 196th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
The remains of a travel agent