Mission Delhi – Durgesh Kumar Yadav, Central Delhi
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It’s the same blue sky, the same flowers and trees. All these things used to give him joy. But no longer.
Durgesh Kumar Yadav is nursing a disappointed heart.
“My love story has failed,” he says, his face hidden behind his mask.
In his mid-30s, Mr Yadav is a “Bombay bhel puri” vendor in this sprawling public garden, in central Delhi. All day long he walks about the greens, a snack case perched on his head and a tripod-like wooden stand under his right arm. Sometimes he stops in front of a bench or under a tree, and sets up his stand for a few minutes, waiting for customers.
This afternoon he stops by a jogging track and rustles out his establishment within a minute. A native of Badayun, in UP, he says his girlfriend is from “proper Delhi.” But then he suddenly freezes and corrects himself—“Hain nahin, thi (she was, not is, his girlfriend). We had a fight two days ago, here in this park, and we won’t meet again.”
Mr Yadav has been living in the city for a decade. He met his “girlfriend” about four years ago. “She was the first to contact me,” he insists, saying that she had got his mobile number from a group of people who hail from his village and who live in her neighbourhood.
“For the first few weeks we interacted on phone, and finally she came to this park to meet me… she knew that I worked here from late morning to late evening.”
Whenever she would arrive, Mr Yadav would momentarily take a break from work and they would chat about “our families, my bhel puri business and about our future.” They would also listen to film songs on YouTube.
But now it’s all over, he says, and “I’ll never marry… I will only have God as my jeevan-saathi (life companion).”
Even frustrated with the relationship, Mr Yadav has nice things to say about his ex. “She is a good person, her heart is sincere.”
He raises his eyes, absent-mindedly removes his mask, pinches his lips, and ties the mask again.
Taking out the mobile from his shirt pocket, Mr Yadav looks thoughtful. “Things can be different if she comes today and admit that mistakes were made on her side as well.”
He now lifts the snack case, deftly places it on his head, clutches the tripod around his left shoulder and walks away.
[This is the 372nd portrait of Mission Delhi project]
His love story, an episode