Mission Delhi – Kalicharan, Central Delhi
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
One of his feet is wrapped in plastic — the kind of bag in which the fruit sellers might keep your apples.
“It has patti inside,” says rickshaw puller Kalicharan. This evening he is sitting on the rickshaw’s passenger seat, his legs stretched out, both his feet resting on the saddle. Motionless for now, he seems ready to jump up as soon as a customer approaches.
Kalicharan explains that he wrapped his bandaged foot in a plastic so that the dressing remains dry, and no street keechar (dirt water) spills over it. He got the feet injured four days ago. “It was about this time in the evening… a customer was lifting his bag when it fell on my foot.”
The foot initially didn’t pain much, Kalicharan recalls, but “it was looking very bad, full of blood.” With his rickshaw, he pedaled to a government hospital where he got the injury looked after by a doctor for free. “Nothing was broken, but the bag squashed the maas (flesh).”
Later Kalicharan returned home, which is on a pavement. He lives alone. He says he has no friend on the “patri” (pavement) and that night, following the injury, no one inquired about his bandage. “Because none of the people who also sleep there noticed it.” In fact, as always, Kalicharan went to the same dhaba for the same dinner (fish and rice) where, despite being a regular, no cook or waiter enquired about the bandaged foot either. He also didn’t inform his family in the village in Jhansi, UP, “because no one is alive.” Kalicharan had a wife who passed away some years ago. He doesn’t know his age, but he says that he has been a rickshaw puller in Delhi since 1984.
“So you have absolutely no one in the world?”—this is the query put to him.
Kalicharan shakes his head in acknowledgement.
“So you have to take care of your injury on your own?”
“Do you ever feel lonely?”
Kalicharan shakes his head. This time, he answers by also responding in words. “What would I do with loneliness?”
He continues to lounge on the passenger’s seat, both his feet still resting, for now.
[This is the 377th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
His bandaged foot