Mission Delhi – S. Kumar, Near Raj Cinema
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[By Mayank Austen Soofi]
Each person is an anthology of stories. So is S. Kumar. “My life is full of unfortunate incidents,” he says in fluent English, in these very words.
In his early 30s, Mr Kumar, a History (Hons.) graduate, describes himself as a kabadiwalla. In fact, this afternoon he is walking by the Gurgaon roadside in the Greater Delhi Region, carrying a huge white sack on his shoulders filled with empty water bottles, discarded chips packets and other pavement detritus. Stopping by a pile of bricks, Mr Kumar gives a sense of his previous life. These are his own words, with some identifying details omitted at his request—“I was born and brought up in Delhi only. I used to live in —Nagar. I worked as a medical record keeper in — Hospital. Life was satisfying. I also got married. I have a son. We all lived happily with my parents. And then I started to drink. It became a habit. I quit my job. My family had to give up on me. It wasn’t their fault.”
Circumstances propelled him to move to neighbouring Gurgaon where “I found work as a kabadiwalla… this helps me earn some amount of money for basic expenses, and I get to sleep in the warehouse of the recycler, near Atul Kataria Chowk, to whom I give my day’s collection every evening.”
Mr Kumar seems sober as he discusses the hurts he has caused to the people who love him “and probably still care for me.” Can’t he make a new start, and contact them. He smiles sarcastically. “I haven’t taken a shower since a week…”
Mr Kumar resumes walking. “I’ll now leave my bag at some stall and go for the afternoon show at Raj,” he says, referring to a single-screen cinema, nearby.
Few minutes later, after paying 30 rupees for a ticket, he is ensconced inside the theatre, on his favroite seat—he’s a regular. The movie is still to begin. Mr Kumar starts talking loudly, his voice echoing in the empty hall—“I really want someone to write a book on me. Because life is a story for me, and I have so many stories in my life. Not a single story is yet complete. They all are incomplete. So someone must write down those stories.” Next moment the movie begins.
[This is the 458th portrait of Mission Delhi project]