Mission Delhi - Shiv Nath, Usmanpur

Mission Delhi – Shiv Nath, Usmanpur

Mission Delhi - Shiv Nath, Usmanpur

One of the one percent in 13 million.

[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]

This rickshaw puller regularly clips his fingernails with great care. But the nail on his right index finger is unusually long—and for understandable reason.

“I need the length to remove kano ka mail,” explains Shiv Nath, referring to the grime that collects in his ears.

Deliberately letting the nail grow longer was his own idea. “All day long I’m peddling the rickshaw down roads and lanes, and the dust accumulates in my ears and nose and even my throat.

“Removing the dirt from my ears helps make me feel a bit fresher,” he says.

A fellow rickshaw puller stops by. Fascinated by Mr Nath’s arguments, he silently examines his own nails.

Mr Nath now provides a live demo. He tucks the long nail into an ear lobe and the next moment removes wax.

He’s the only member of his family in North Delhi’s Usmanpur who maintains a long fingernail. “My wife clips her nails every week, because so much of her work is all about her hands. She washes clothes and kneads dough, and a long fingernail might injure her.”

Nor have his two sons let their index fingernails grow long. “Although that would help them in their job. They work in a shirt factory where their job is to remove leftover threads from hundreds of shirts every day.”

He then lights up a beedi, the long nail free from its work routine for now.

[This is the 239th portrait of Mission Delhi project]

The right nail for the job


Mission Delhi - Shiv Nath, Usmanpur


Mission Delhi - Shiv Nath, Usmanpur


Mission Delhi - Shiv Nath, Usmanpur