Mission Delhi – Sudama, Sheetala Colony, Gurgaon
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The first thing you notice about him is his smile. Or at least, it is so when you see him on the mobile phone screen. Tailor Sudama is talking on WhatsApp video— the pictures are taken through the phone screen that connects him to The Delhi Walla.
The gentleman’s real name is Ajit Singh Nivediya, “but everybody calls me Sudama.” In his early 40s, he has a small tailoring establishment in Gurgaon’s Sector 31 in the Greater Delhi Region, to which he bicycles daily from his one-room home in Sheetala Colony.
Of course, these days he is house-bound. The city is under a 21-day-long lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. “So many problems now,” Sudama mutters. “I’m no longer able to earn… And then most food shops are either closed or selling everyday stuff at higher prices than usual…”
He rolls his eyes, and flashes his radiant smile towards the phone screen again.
Sudama previously worked in the “medical field.” He called it a promising career. Life was sailing smoothly for him, his wife Saroj and their three children. But then his one-year-old son, Abhinav, succumbed to “some sort of brain fever.” His wife could not bear the grief and she passed away soon after, which leaves him on his own to take care of their two daughters.
A grieving Sudama was forced to give up his demanding job, opting to take charge of his late father’s tailoring establishment “which gave me time flexibility to raise my daughters.”
And by the looks of it, he’s proving to be a good hands-on dad, as he introduces his kids on phone. The little family has assembled outside the house, “for the net speed is very weak inside.” Both girls look as cheery as their “papa” as they wave their greetings. Harshita, a 9th standard student, aspires to be an engineer. Sonakshi is in seventh and wants to be a doctor. The girls were enrolled in a private school “but due to money problems I had to move them to a sarkari (government) school.”
While Sudama is not always able to help his daughters with studies (“the teachers, however, are very supportive”), he does all the house work “so that they have all the time to study and play.” He also does the entire cooking by himself, not letting the daughters hover near the cooking gas cylinder out of safety reasons. “Last night, I made dal chawal.”
Even so, one can’t help wondering. After facing such tragedies in life, how does Sudama manage to keep such a generous smile?
The tailor pauses for a moment or two to collect his thoughts, and says, “What has happened has happened… I’m happy with what I have, my daughters.”
[This is the 287th portrait of Mission Delhi project]