Mission Delhi – Fajru Rahman, Near Kasturba Gandhi Hospital for Women and Children
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
His pants are torn. His shirt is blackened with dirt. He matter-of-factly points out these facts.
Fajru Rahman is sitting on a rickshaw (not his) parked by the roadside, close to Old Delhi’s Kasturba Gandhi Hospital for Women and Children. A moment ago, he says, “I was thinking will I ever get a house… or will I pass my entire life sleeping on the patri (pavement)?”
In his 30s, Fajru Rahman is a recycler. His work lies at the most elemental level of the recycling operations in the megapolis. He walks the streets and alleys of the Walled City, picking up trash and tossing them onto a giant sack that he carries on his back. He lists the things he looks out for: “bottles, panniyan, gatte, chappalein, joote, juice ke dabbe, toffee chocolate ke wrapper, plastic ke dhakkan, mobile phone ke cover, kapre latte…”
The best time for his hunt is deep into the night, “when the only shops open are of the chemists.” The chief sounds he then hear are the aggressive barking of street dogs, and the whirring of air conditioners. His expedition lasts from midnight to 5 in the morning, when he goes to a recycling dealer to give away his collection. After breakfast, just as the sun begins to rise, he settles down to sleep “on the patri near Jama Masjid metro station.” He gets up around noon, and, following the midday meal, again hits the streets that he had walked the night before, now freshly littered.
The part of the day Fajru Rahman most looks forward to, he says, is lunch. “I eat at a sarkari center, where they serve bharpet (filling) dal, chawal, roti and subzi for free.”
Keeping his arms delicately on his knees, he casually mentions his loneliness. “Mother lives with me. She sells cigarettes and tambakoo on the patri to rickshaw pullers and mazdoor log… but I miss a jeevan saathi.” He has no plans of marrying. “I have no roof. How can I destroy a woman’s life?”
As it is very hot, with absolutely no hint of a breeze, he starts to fan his sweating face with his right arm.
[This is the 492nd portrait of Mission Delhi project]
The world of a life