Mission Delhi – Kanhaiya, Shanti Niketan
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
He is from Bhagwan Ram’s birthplace, but is named after Bhagwan Krishna.
Kanhaiya shrugs. “My name was given to me by my mata-pita.” An Ayodhya native, the middle-aged gent is sitting by a shaded roadside in south Delhi’s posh Anand Niketan, a few steps away from the embassy of a much-in-news country. He is perched on a gas pipeline marker. Afternoon sunshine is piercing through the tree leaves and falling directly on the road. A labourer-cum-plumber, Kanhaiya finished an assignment—a water pipe was leaking—and now “I’m resting for a while.” After some minutes, he plans to head to another assignment some miles further south in Vasant Vihar. He will cover the distance on foot. He always walks. “I will not spend my money on buying a bicycle.” Sure, he could use public buses or the Metro, but “if I get used to bus rides, half of my earnings would be wasted in getting the tickets.” Best is to walk, it saves money, he feels. After all, “some days I earn as much as 500 rupees, and some days nothing at all.”
Bending down his head, Kanhaiya confesses of feeling the absence of his parents. “I was completely alone after they were gone, especially on realising that I single-handedly would have to look after my wife and four children, without the support and blessings of my mata-pita.” That stress took its toll, he implies. “I became too old too soon.” His body has become frailer during the past years. He lifts his arms. “My limbs start to pain easily, my body no longer have its earlier strength.” He clasps his palms.
Although he has been in Delhi for thirty years, Kanhaiya’s family has never been to the city. “They have not seen my room in the pahari (sic)…. they don’t need to, no need to spend money in travelling to Dilli.” Being a freelancer, he visits them “whenever I want to,” which tends to be once in two months.
Kanhaiya’s dream, when he arrived in Delhi about 18-20 years ago, was “to work in a company and get a salary every month.” He never experienced that “sukh,” he says.
He continues sitting, watching the cars go by.
[This is the 533rd portrait of Mission Delhi project]