Mission Delhi – Sanjay, Connaught Place
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
He is sitting outside a showroom in Connaught Place (CP). The gunny sack beside him is filled with street discards that he collected in his latest round of ‘shopping’. It is early evening and recycler Mr Sanjay is awarding himself a short break from work. Right now, he is immersed in a particular thought that, which he says, comes to him often — “For how long will I be without a roof?”
He says he has no idea how it is like to live in a place with walls and a ceiling. “I was an orphan… I was raised by a man on the street… he happens to be my only friend.” They sleep on the footpath, side by side, he says.
In his 40s, Mr Sanjay has been making his living by collecting garbage in this central Delhi district since his childhood. He earns his wages by selling the day’s collection to a recycler. “I do not make much money but I’m able to feed myself well.” He has “no wife, no girlfriend…but I do not feel lonely.”
Sharing the routines of his day, he says he wakes up every morning at 4 and walks straight to the nearby Bangla Sahib Gurdwara. There, he queues up to get free chai and paratha. After which, he says, “I spend ₹30 to buy biscuits for the street dogs.”
Soon afterwards, he starts the first of his many rounds in Connaught Place, collecting discarded bottles, chips’ packets, empty pastry boxes, etc., from the market colonnades.
At night, around 9, he walks to an eatery in Panchkuian Road for his regular meal of chicken curry, dal, aloo chokha and rice. “The dinner is priced at ₹60, and is enough for one man.”
Finally, Mr Sanjay walks back to Connaught Place, and settles down on the footpath beside his elderly friend who raised him.
“He is now old, and it is my turn to take care of him.”
As he watches a rush of shoppers pass by, he murmurs, “These days people have so much with them…mobiles, bags, so many things to eat…”
Minutes later, he gets up, and places the sack on his shoulder.
[This is the 474th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
A life in a shopping district