Mission Delhi – Parash Ram, Hazrat Nizamuddin East
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It’s Raksha Bandhan festival and Parash Ram is wondering what if he were in his village in Lalitpur, MP, this day. “My sister, Preeti, would have tied rakhi on my wrist.” After a pause, he says—“I’ve a big family but I’m lonely. They are all in the village.”
This late afternoon Mr Ram is alone in his Delhi home. It is a roadside camp, in posh Hazrat Nizamuddin East lined with gleaming apartment complexes. Mr Ram’s home is transitory, he informs. A labourer, his address keeps shifting, depending on the assignment he gets from his “thekedar,” the contractor. Currently, he is a “water pump operator.” Pointing to a machine parked across the road, he says his “duty” is to start it each time the road gets flooded during the monsoon showers, whether it be midday or midnight. “The machine quickly drains away the rainwater.”
The roof in Mr Ram’s home is very low; it’s impossible to stand up straight. He is sitting crosslegged by the entrance, watching the empty road. His pink chappals are lying beside his bare feet, on the footpath. The white bed-sheet spread across the floor is perfectly ironed. It turns out to be a “tirpal”, a plastic awning.
All homes show at least some trappings of daily living. But this residence is completely empty. Where’s the dinner plate, the towel, the tooth brush? Mr Ram smiles. He says two of his colleagues who work with the same contractor but are busy in other assignments keep all his things with them. They are currently residing under a flyover, nearby, where the water supply and bathroom facility is more easily accessible. Mr Ram walks to these colleagues twice a day for the meals that they quickly cook together. His clothes too are with them.
This afternoon the sky is clear of rain clouds. The road is dry. “My duniya (world) is in my village—my eldest brother Dhani Ram; my younger brother Mohan; my sister Preeti is married with two children; my wife Gayatri with our two daughters—Sanskriti and… the other one has no name, she is four months old.”
He talked to his sister the previous evening on mobile phone. “I’ll visit the family after the rains… I’ll then celebrate Rakhsha Bandhan with Preeti.” While sharing the travel plans, Mr Ram’s face breaks into a smile. He now gets up and stretches out his arms.
[This is the 422nd portrait of Mission Delhi project]
The family man