Mission Delhi – Azim Jawed, Matia Mahal
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It’s cold, and he’s away from home. At night he misses his parents.
Azim Jawed is a winter migrant from Kashmir. Like scores of Kashmiri people every year, he undertook the great seasonal migration from the freezing villages and towns of the valley to the regions across Delhi, to escape the harsh winter climates and find work.
Like Mr Jawed, many Kashmiri migrants settle in the Walled City during their winter migration, especially around the Jama Masjid. Right on cue, the tea stalls of the area start to serve Nun chai, the Kashmiri pink tea. This year, however, scores of tea shop owners and guest house managers confirm that the pandemic has restrained people from coming to the Capital in large numbers.
Mr Jawed is one among that slow trickle. Aged 19, he has found a temporary job running a footpath chai stall belonging to an eatery. This morning he is sitting behind the counter, waiting for customers.
“It’s snowing at home,” he says while talking of his village in Budgam. Mr Jawed’s father is a farmer. Like the rest of his family, he could have stayed back in the village—“but I don’t like cold.” At this point, he pretends to shiver and vigorously shakes his head.
Currently alone, the young man has been to Delhi before, and he says he is fond of its great crowds, and its noise. He likes the fact that “it is so different from Kashmir… when you are in Delhi, you cannot think that a place like my village exists… and when you are in my village, it is difficult to believe in a place like Delhi.”
Staring into the empty pan—still no customers—Mr Jawed focuses on what he wants from life. He has no plans of becoming a farmer like his father. No, not even a tea seller. Neither does he intend to live permanently in Delhi. He eventually wants to set up his own business of “tent supply and wedding decoration” in his home district. His logic sounds sensible—“All other trades keep fluctuating, but people will always get married, so wedding decoration business will always guarantee money.”
Looking contented with his argument, Mr Jawed says he will return home in March, and will then “start to set up my business with my father’s help.”
And in case you are wondering, his tea stall serves the usual chai, not the Nun of Kashmir.
[This is the 387th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
A winter migrant