Mission Delhi – Suraj Kumar, Sadar Bazar
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
He is the hawker of hawa — the breeze. Well, in a manner of speaking. For he is selling phirki, this light disk composed of pieces of crisp colourful paper that, when pushed by the breeze, wheels round and round. Like some disco ball in an ‘80s disco.
And on this cool sunny afternoon, it is extra breezy. The dozens of multi-coloured phirkiyan attached to the tall wooden stand he is holding are rotating so fast that they don’t look like anything tangible. More like the shimmer of a rainbow on a quick-flowing river.
“I make these myself,” says Suraj Kumar, modestly. The young man is standing on one side of a busy street, here in Gurgaon’s Sadar Bazar. Shoppers and fellow hawkers are pushing all around him, sometimes shoving him to this side and to that side to make their way onward. He looks steely but civilly shifts to one side or the other to make way for the crowd.
While one gets to encounter very many hawkers in the entire Delhi region, selling a wide variety of services, it is rare to come across a phirki seller. Suraj admits the relative rarity. An instant later a sudden blush spreads across his face. Often at night, in the flat that he shares with his elder brother in Sector 47, he sits down to assemble these phirkiyan. “I get the A4 coloured paper from Gurgaon, I get plain wires from Sadar in Delhi and I get the baas (wood) from my village, Raj Mahal in Jharkhand.”
The brother hawks in the same business, but he moves around in Sector 56, near Devi Lal Park. Both siblings have been in this trade for some years. Suraj shifts his gaze downwards, and rubs his forehead from his free right hand. “I’m 19. I could study only till 9th grade… we had problems at home, so we came to Delhi.”
Suraj’s father was a rickshaw puller in Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk, who would visit the village frequently for brief periods. “On one such trip, Papa returned home from Delhi on Farakka Express. Within hours after arriving in the morning, he had a heart attack… he was gone.”
A woman approaches the stall, holding a child on her lap. They both look with unblinking eyes at the rotating phirki. She gets one—for 20 rupees.
“I will not be selling phirkiyan for long,” says Suraj. “I will pick up a better business. I want to succeed.”
[This is the 518th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
When business is a breeze