Mission Delhi – Muhammed Rajit, Central Delhi
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[By Mayank Austen Soofi]
He has no companion, he asserts. He then pauses, and after some moments, speaks again – “But I do ask about the haal chaal of the people who sleep next to me on the footpath.”
This morning, Muhammed Rajit is walking along a secluded tree-lined pathway in central Delhi. He calls himself a fakir, an ascetic.
Although the fakir may believe himself to be all alone, he confesses he does have a family – or had one, to be precise. “My mother and father are dead… my wife, too, is dead… but my brother is of this world, so too his wife, and their children.”
Wearing a lungi and a green jacket pulled upon a green kurta, the turbaned Mr Rajit isn’t certain of his age, but believes himself to be in the late 40s or early 50s.
An Odisha native, he grew up in Cuttack, near a Sufi shrine, he recalls. “I was attached to Sufis. I wanted to leave the worldly life, so I became a fakir.” Delhi was a logical destination because “it is the land of Sufis and fakirs”.
How different is a fakir’s daily life from that of other people?
What is the source of livelihood?
What are the anxieties that bother a fakir?
Mr Rajit looks thoughtful. He slows down his walk, moves from a shaded part of the lane to a sunnier spot. Looking directly towards the shining sun streaming unevenly across his face through the foliage of a tree, he stays silent as if framing his thoughts. A mild breeze kisses his brows. He opens his mouth, but appears hesitant and shuts it back. After about a minute’s pause, he says: “I do not know.”
He then directs the attention towards his shoulder bag. “It has a blanket, a sheet, some clothes and a set of spare chappals.”
A man passes by. He seems to be familiar with Mr Rajit. He quietly hands him a hundred rupee note, bows in reverence, and briskly walks away. Gazing down at his feet (he is wearing grey chappals), Mr Rajit says, “I haven’t been to Cuttack since the [first] lockdown began… haven’t met my brother for years.” He never felt the need to connect with his relatives. He has no mobile phone.
Mr Rajit now discloses that “I have a daughter”. He lowers his already low voice. “She lives with her naani.”
Does he miss the child?
“The only person I know is uparwala… my dost.”
He walks on. To where? He mumbles: “ To no place… I’m just walking.”
[This is the 460th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
Fakir on foot