Mission Delhi – Ramji Das, North Delhi
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Ramji Das is trying to tie a knot around a metal rod with a raggedy fabric here on this North Delhi pavement. This rod he’ll wield to ward off street dogs. “That’s all I need to deal with them,” he explains in his shrill raspy voice. “I don’t need any person for company.”
All alone in the world, Mr Das speaks in a very literary sort of Hindi you rarely hear outside the Hindi literature lecture halls. But, he says he’s never gone to any college. “I left my parents in UP long, long ago when I was very young.”
He pauses for a second, then says he never married. “So, I’m by myself. Nobody with me. No relatives, no friends.” His principal possession amounts to a cloth bag.
He lives in a “kuti” (hut) in the nearby town of Faridabad, often taking the train into the capital to witness “the sort of sukh (happiness) and dukh (sadness) that keeps the world busy.”
The knot is finally secured to the metal rod that he had chanced upon only minutes ago. “I picked it from the pavement,” he says, explaining, “You get all sorts of useful things on the road if only you have time to look for them.”
He continues his walk down the street, knowing that this new weapon will protect him.
“Now, dogs can’t harm me,” he mutters. “And anyways I have nobody but God. Who will protect me as He has so far.”
[This is the 221st portrait of Mission Delhi project]
A flâneur’s portrait