Mission Delhi - Shahinder Kumar Sinha, Somewhere in Delhi

Mission Delhi – Shahinder Kumar Sinha, Somewhere in Delhi

Mission Delhi - Shahinder Kumar Sinha, Somewhere in Delhi

One of the one percent in 13 million.

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

The evening was briefly distressing. Shahinder Kumar Sinha, an auto rickshaw driver, notes in his melodious speaking style, escorting a commuter from Connaught Place to Lado Sarai. He recounts how his younger daughter recently had a long fish bone accidentally stuck in her throat during the dinner in their Badarpur home, how he watched her writhe in pain, how a timely “ulti” ejected out the bone.

Later, “I prayed to the gods in gratitude.” And this cold smoggy rush hour evening, it is about the power of faith that Shahinder shares with his customer. A small portrait of Hanuman ji adorns the auto rickshaw’s windshield.

“My heart feels happy when I see a person pray, whether praying to Isa Masih or to Guru Nanak.” He pauses for a second. “You have to admit we all pray to the one who made this sansar.” For the next few minutes Shahinder chats nonstop on the central place of prayer in his life. He speaks slowly and continually, as if reading from a book.

While monologues on peace, love and the essential unity of religions run the risk of sounding simplistic and preachy, Shahinder’s extempore narration is seemingly ingenious, improvising in real time, and occasionally sparkles with vivid language. The descriptions are intensely visual, prompting the listener to traverse through cascading scenarios of varying landscapes in which the vulnerable human finds strength and solace in the divinity.

Now the auto passes by a wayside sufi shrine—it is a grave under a ficus religiosa (peepal tree!), submerged in darkness. Momentarily turning his gaze towards a silhouetted worshipper sitting crosslegged by the shrine, Shainder says: “Being an insan is luckier than being an animal. We like to wear nice dresses, we like to eat nice food… but we will leave our body behind… what then about our soul?”

Shahinder mentions a mandir in Kalkaji he regularly visits, or used to visit–it is not clear for his voice is drowned out by the wail of an ambulance siren. The mandir discipline helped him cope through the everyday life, he seems to suggest.

On reaching the commuter’s destination and after concluding the monetary transaction, he says, “Jaisi drishti, vaisi srishti (the world is how you see it).”

[This is the 569th portrait of Mission Delhi project]