Mission Delhi – Anand, Near Gurgaon Bus Stand
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Anand is carrying a huge gunny sack on his back. “It looks heavy but is actually light,” he says. This evening, near Gurgaon’s bus stand in the Greater Delhi Region, Anand is collecting empty mineral water bottles from the pavements and garbage bins. “That’s my daily work.”
Anand is about 8 or 9 years old, he says. He is wearing a blue T-shirt, blue shorts and yellow chappals. His hair is cut short. He is without a mask. His nose is partly dusted with mud. His face has the expressions of an adult man in the midst of an important assignment, with no moment to spare.
Anand lives in a “jhuggi” near the railway station, with his parents and four siblings. He is the youngest. They all collect recyclable material at different but nearby locations in the city. “Papa leaves early in the morning, mummy leaves after some hours, with my brothers.” Anand leaves by early evening. These days, he says, he boards a shared auto towards this part of the town and spends a couple of hours picking bottles from the bins and pavements. “Earlier I was working in subzi mandi near the station.”
Time moves fast at work, he says. “The bottles don’t ever get over. You keep spotting them and picking them up.” Usually his sack, huge as it is, gets quickly filled. “I carry three sacks, and I fill all of them within two hours.” He takes the catch back to home in a rickshaw, and his father sells it to a dealer the next morning. When he feels thirsty while hunting for bottles, stall owners in the vicinity give him cold drinks or mineral water on request, “for free.”
People of Anand’s age attend school. Anand nods. “(A) didi sometimes teaches me in the park,” he says. He remains silent on what subjects are taught to him. “One day I will go to school.”
Anand now walks towards a bin, beside a kiosk stocked with cold drinks. He places the sack he is carrying on the ground and bends down, sorting the discards in the bin with bare hands. Most are empty chip packets and tetra packs of juices. He eventually excavates two or three bottles that he swiftly puts inside the sack. He places the sack back on his shoulder and walks on.
[This is the 420th portrait of Mission Delhi project]