Mission Delhi – Anand, Sultanpuri & Elsewhere
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Isn’t he a Hemingway lookalike? But he only looks like the great American writer from a distance, perhaps because of his beard, or because of his cap, that greatly resembles the iconic fishing cap that Hemingway would wear.
The man in fact calls himself Fakkar Baba. “I picked this name myself… because I’m a fakkar.” He explains the meaning of this word: “One who has nothing… I have nothing.”
The man is sitting by a shuttered store in a central Delhi locality. He raises his right arm, pulls back his shirt sleeve, and shows a tattoo—AS Rathi. “My real name… A stands for Anand.”
In his late 60s, the man talks of his life’s primary passion. “I love walking. I keep walking from morning to evening… I walk across Delhi, I walk in Gurgaon, in Faridabad… So many things you see on the way as you walk… things that cannot be seen on TV.” His daily outdoors keeps him away from his tanhai, as he terms his loneliness. “The people who used to be closed to me have either drifted away or died.” He says he has siblings scattered across Delhi and Gurugram. “But relations between brothers and sisters do not remain the same after parents are gone.” Rubbing his hands together, he mutters “I’m totally alone.” He says his wife has passed away, and though he has a son with whom he has “nice relations”, he lives “alone in my room in Sultanpuri.”
Pointing to the bag placed beside him, he explains it is fillled with empty bottles. “This is how I earn… I walk and walk and pick up things that people throw away on the road.” He sells these to a recycler. The money he earns helps him pay his bills.
Responding to a query, he confirms he doesn’t have even a single friend. With such an utterly solitary existence, loneliness is inevitable, he concedes. “But I have a solution,” he says, his eyes twinkling. “I love singing old Hindi film songs of Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, Manna Dey and Narendra Chanchal…. Whenever I feel tanha (lonely), I start to sing.”
That’s what he does next. He breaks into Muhammed Rafi song “Hafiz Khuda Tumhara.” The rendition is beautiful, though there is just one person, and a stray dog, for an audience.
[This is the 485th portrait of Mission Delhi project]