Mission Delhi – Nathu Ram, Main Bus Stand, Gurgaon
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Nathu Ram is a man of few possessions, which he always carries with him no matter where he goes—a Sai Baba prayer booklet, laminated Aadhaar ID card, a walking stick, pair of slippers, food bowls and a metal tumbler to accept bhiksha, or donations.
Then there are accessories that add poetry to his day-to-day existence, such as the flowers tucked into his cap and kurta. Somebody might as well think of Mr Ram, 65, as an ascetic.
Sitting under a tree in Gurgaon’s main bus stand, he tenderly protests to such a depiction. “I’m a man of the world with a wife, children and grandchildren… they are at my village in Ajmer (Rajasthan).”
His long white beard neatly knotted with a rubber band, the gentleman explains he has been living in a city jhuggi for the last few years. “I’m building a small mandir in my village. It’s half-done but the money is over.” So he moved to Gurgaon and roams here daily with the agenda of seeking monetary aid “from the public” to complete the temple’s construction. He even has a printed receipt book to acknowledge the offerings. “People are kind and they respectfully give me money for the temple but I need more.”
He manages to collect about 5,000 rupees each month that he carefully keeps at a trustworthy neighbour’s home in the slum.
When will he return to his village?
Mr Ram looks up, and stares straight ahead as if watching some imagined scene. “I will go back after I have collected enough money for the temple. To see it whole is the hope.”
[This is the 218th portrait of Mission Delhi project]