Mission Delhi – Ram Kumar, Civil Lines, Gurgaon
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Anyone can be sighted with them. Once even the World Bank chief (Paul Wolfowitz) was sighted with torn socks.
Auto rickshaw driver Ram Kumar is no exception. He too is wearing such socks. Both the socks are partly torn. Both have holes on the heels. “But I cannot get new socks for now,” he confesses, saying, “There isn’t much earning in auto rickshaw.”
It is a hot afternoon and Mr Kumar is lounging on his vehicle’s passenger’s seat. The auto is parked on a roadside, beside a shopping complex in Gurgaon’s Civil Lines in the Greater Delhi Region. Mr Kumar has no intention to shop. “To spend money on unnecessary buying… that too when I have to support my elderly maa-baap (parents), my wife and my three children?” He asks rhetorically, clearly not expecting a response.
In his 40s, Mr Kumar clarifies he is not a miser but chooses to spend money only when it is truly needed. “My children are enrolled in a private school—it is expensive but the school is very good… a government school would have cost me less but I do not want to compromise on the children’s education.”
Unfortunately, “children will be children”, he says, explaining that they are constantly tearing their clothes “and we have to replace their socks and pants immediately with new sets because otherwise the school teachers might ask them, “Go, ask your parents to get clean dress!””
Mr Kumar says he bought these socks a long time ago. “At night I wash them and put to dry, and they are ready to be worn the next day.”
He points to his shoes, saying, “See, they are also totally worn out.” His grey dresss however is new—“got it recently… pant-shirt (sic) manage to last a year and no more.” Amused by the attention to his torn socks, he says, “A pair of socks by itself is not very expensive but one has to cut costs wherever one can.”
He confirms he shall continue wearing the same socks until they are unwearable. “I’m not into fashion, I wear things as long as they serve the purpose.”
[This is the 482nd portrait of Mission Delhi project]
A life carefully deliberated