Mission Delhi – Rashmi Gautam, South Delhi
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
She approaches the passerby with cool composed confidence. He looks hassled. Her face all smiles, she shows him a pamphlet-like thing she is holding in her hands, and makes her arguments. Her arms moves in concurrence with the flow of her sentences.
Rashmi Gautam persuades distracted shoppers to make online donations to an UN organisation’s child health projects. It’s late afternoon, and she has been in this south Delhi shopping plaza since morning. “My work is to talk to people,” she says cheerily. In her early 20s, Rashmi left her Bihar town Begusarai three years ago to realise her “dream” of becoming a business woman. “This year I completed my graduation in commerce; now doing this job to earn some capital.” She taps her fingers on the pamphlet.
Rashmi could have pursued her ambition in her hometown, too. “But in big cities, you meet people from many other cities, with many kinds of mentalities… I have learned so much more here despite the pandemic.”
Standing beside a bunch of sidewalk diners, Rashmi agrees that it takes guts to approach people so randomly. “I have slowly-slowly learned how to make effective conversations with strangers.” No doubt her language skills come handy. “I grew up speaking Maithili at home, but I went to a English medium school, and my Hindi is good.” Although she occasionally encounters hostile responses such as “Don’t talk to me,” or “Go away,” she dismisses the rudeness. Flicking her arm in the air, she explains that “some people at a particular moment might happen to be sad or frustrated, which they process by being not good with me. I don’t blame them.”
Sharing her Lakshmi Nagar pad with two girls, Rashmi declares Delhi has changed her profoundly. “I miss the fact my parents are far from me, but I have learned to deal singlehandedly with all kinds of circumstances.”
She now looks up at the unusually blue sky, and instinctively clicks a photo from her mobile.
[This is the 510th portrait of Mission Delhi project]