Mission Delhi – Dharmaraj, Kamala Nehru Park, Gurgaon
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Daily wage labourer Dharmaraj is lying flat on the grassy ground of Gurgaon’s Kamala Nehru Park in the Greater Delhi Region, his feet bare, his head resting on his blue chappals.
“I’m not using them as my pillow,” he clarifies, his eyes half-closed. Dharmaraj points out to a handful of men lying, like him, on the ground around him. They too have their heads resting on their sandals. “We do it so that nobody takes them away.”
This afternoon there is no breeze in the humid air. Dharmaraj is trying to catch a brief nap. Not that he is tired “but because these days I’m finding no work in the Labour Chowk.”
The middle-aged gentleman is from Kapilavastu, the historic district in Nepal famous for its connections to Buddha.
Dharmaraj says he is thrifty and buys only two sets of footwear every year.
“Each pair lasts for five to six months… I get a new set only after the old chappals are completely worn out.”
He bought the current slippers from a “reri walla” in Roshanpura for 50 rupees. “I don’t have shoes.”
When he gets work, which is usually about hauling stacks of bricks or cement sacks on the back in construction sites, “I perform the assignments wearing these same chappals.”
Adjusting the slippers under his head, Dharmaraj says, without any hint of complaint or regret in his voice, “I have no home in Gurgaon. I have just the clothes I’m wearing and these chappals.”
He closes his eyes.
[This is the 240th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
When life’s a pillow of chappals