Mission Delhi – Manglu, Near Ashram Flyover
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[By Mayank Austen Soofi]
His robe is saffron. His turban is black. His beard is white. His nails are long. But it is his gaze that is the most formidable aspect of his personality. So disconcertingly sharp and penetrating, like a mere touch of a razor which cuts deep into your flesh.
“I’m a sadhu,” he says, the tone of his voice is soft and filled with extreme kindness, and at once shatters the earlier uneasiness caused by the directness of his eyes. Manglu, as he introduces himself, is sitting down on a central Delhi pavement, near the Ashram flyover. He is having chai, given to him (for free) by a tea stall owner, nearby. “I have no money… for a very long time I’ve been living without money,” he says. “I go to a dhaba and they offer me dal-chawal without me asking for it. I go to a chai stall and they offer me chai without me asking for it.”
Manglu is sitting with his back resting on his two bundles, which are, he says, filled with blankets. His face looks calm, his posture has a languidity that comes after one’s body has grown used to its immediate surroundings. Perhaps he has been familiar with this footpath for long. “I’m new to Delhi,” he mutters, informing that he arrived some days back in a train from UP. Manglu agrees to give a sense of his biography, but does that in a handful of brief sentences. “I’m 70. I have lived most of my life inside and outside of temples, and always in the temples of holy towns. I was in Ayodhya for some years. Before Ayodhya, I was in Vrindavan. Before Vrindavan, I was in Kashi Vishwanath (Benares).”
Manglu offers no reason why he has picked Delhi as his new address. After all, he doesn’t have any relative or friend here. “I have no friend or relative anywhere.” He says his parents are dead. “My father was a farmer near Ayodhya.” Manglu never married. He never feels lonely, he says. “I live in the sangat (company) of Gods.”
Where will he live in Delhi? Will he try to find a temple for a long-term stay? Manglu becomes motionless. He directs his sharp gaze towards the cup of chai in his hand, as if lost in meditation, perhaps mulling on the query. In the end, following a long silence, as if slowly emerging from a process of careful deliberation, he speaks up—“I will sit here for some time.”
Meanwhile, across the road—on the road divider actually—a fakir is sitting, quietly watching the traffic go by.
[This is the 450th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
Sadhu with chai