Mission Delhi – Rajinder, Gurgaon
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
He has moved up in life. So Rajinder feels about himself. With the help of a generous bank loan, he recently bought a gleaming new auto rickshaw costing 3 lakh rupees. Earlier, he was a beldar, a labourer.
“I used to be covered in dust, but now I stay cleaner,” he says. In his mid-20s, Rajinder is waiting for business. It’s a cold foggy afternoon and the auto is parked on an empty Sector 15 roadside in Gurgaon in teh Greater Delhi Region. The man is killing time by listening to a radio “crime naatak (drama)” on his mobile.
Rajinder’s ambition now is to graduate to a cab. “That will take about two years.” He will first, of course, have to pay back the bank loan in monthly instalments. Since he earns about the same amount of money each month that he used to make as a labourer—about 12,000 rupees—his wife and he have been obliged to make further cuts to their household budget. “We have now stopped eating outside. We no longer buy that many clothes and toys for our two kids.” They also moved from their rented room in Raj Nagar (monthly rent, 4,000 rupees) to a smaller one in Gandhi Nagar (2,600 rupees).
Suddenly, Rajinder gets a call on his mobile. It lasts for half a minute. Rajinder shakes his head in amazement while describing the brief chat. “It was from a bank. She enquired if I wanted a loan, asking me if I have a job… and when I said I was an auto driver, she immediately banged down the phone.”
Smiling fatalistically, he mutters that “there is no izzat (respect) for a driver”.
Nevertheless, the former ”beldar” clarifies he has no regrets. “I think my wife is pleased with my change of career,” he says, turning his attention back to the radio play.
[This is the 267th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
A man’s progress