Mission Delhi – Bhola, Ashram
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Bhola is walking along a city street, carrying a wooden staff tied with plastic packets of pink and yellow cotton candies. The street is not crowded at all, perhaps because it is morning. The hawker looks utterly alone.
“But I’m not alone,” Bhola contradicts politely. “I am surrounded by the blessings of my parents.” A native of Hathras in UP, Bhola, 31, explains that he never feels lonely because “when I’m away from home, the people at home have me in their mind… I’m never forgotten.”
Sitting on the pavement, Bhola says that each time he misses his loved ones, he silently utters their names. “A man is like a bazar,” he says, explaining that “as each bazar has many shops with names, each man has many loved ones with as many names.” He uses the opportunity to list the names of people that cover him in an invisible “chaadar” (cloak) of “apnapan” (belonging).
Here is the hawker in his own words: “I have five daughters—Sanjana, the eldest is 8, followed by Nandini, Dolly, Ananya and Baby. My only son is named Mayank. I want my children to have a very good education. They should work in offices.” He pauses thoughtfully for some moments before continuing with the other names in his life. “My father is Hardayal Singh. My mummy is Shrimati Munni Devi. I have three sisters—Neetu, Binesh and Satyavati. Satyavati died seven years ago. She had typhoid. My brothers are Devender and Pramod. My chacha (uncles) are Rammi Singh, Som Pal Singh and Balkishen—they too sell cotton candies in Dilli; i live with my three chacha in a single room in Ashram. Every evening at 8, we sit together and make the cotton candies. Next morning, we get out for work at 7.30, and return at 4.”
Bhola falls silent. He confirms that he is done with all the names.
Is he sure?
He lowers his eyes, and mutters in a low embarrassed voice—“I have my gharwali in the village. Her name is Shrimati Bimlesh.”
And now the cotton candy hawker gets up from the pave and resumes his walk. He is no longer looking that alone.
[This is the 475th portrait of Mission Delhi project]