Mission Delhi – Sant Ram, Jangpura
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Seasons dominate his life. This is in the nature of his occupation, which depends on the month of the year.
It’s early June and hawker Sant Ram is carrying purple jamuns on a straw basket perched upon his head. Many avenues of New Delhi are lined with jamun trees, and jamuns have already started falling on the ground with their distinctive thud, making the earth purple, and slippery for pedestrians. But Mr Ram’s jamuns aren’t from Delhi, he says categorically, here in central Delhi’s Jangpura.
“Yes, jamuns have started growing but it’s still early in the season, and the ones you see in Delhi trees are very sour.” Mr Ram gets his jamuns from the wholesale market in Azadpur. “These ones have come from Gujarat, and they are sweeter.”
But jamuns are a part of Mr Ram’s life only for a few months. He stations himself in a corner of the street, and with the basket still on his head he unfolds the typical proceedings of his year.
“In March and April I sell phalse. Later on I sell kakri for 15 days. Then I sell jamun from May to September. And from October to March, I sell shakarkandi.” In between, Mr Ram also visits his village in Badayun, UP, and works on his family-owned farm for a few months.
In his early 30s, he describes his life as a river passing through different ghats (banks) “but rather than meeting the saagar (sea), it goes back to its starting point and starts the same journey again.” Mr Ram has been living this life since 2014, when he first arrived in Delhi. Earlier, he would be a farmer in his village.
A few hours after this encounter, when it has become dark, Mr Ram is sighted again in a nearby neighbourhood. The basket on his head is now empty. All the jamuns are sold. “I’m going back to my room in Sarai Kale Khan.” He walks away, and fades into a blur.
Next morning he’ll wake up at 4 again, and board an auto rickshaw with four other colleagues. They’ll head to Azadpur, where he’ll buy a fresh stock of jamuns after having a breakfast of chai and biscuits.
[This is the 408th portrait of Mission Delhi project]