Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mission Delhi – Ram Swaroop Sharma, India Gate Maidan

The Delhi walla's pretension in writing makes me want to lodge a bullet in his balls - Blogger Nimpipi, the woodchuck chucks
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Mission Delhi – Ram Swaroop Sharma, India Gate Maidan

One of the one per cent in 13 million.

[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

The roti seems to be a few days old. Packed in a mud-stained handkerchief, it is broken into small pieces. With no sabzi or even a smidgen of pickle to go with it, these dry and crumbly remains of the staple Indian bread are the entire breakfast for Ram Swaroop Sharma. The Delhi Walla found him one summer morning lounging on the grassy grounds adjacent to Rajpath, the broad avenue that connects Rashtrapati Bhawan to India Gate. The area is popularly known as India Gate maidan.

Surrounded by leafy trees, damp grass and untrimmed hedges, Mr Sharma, 45, looks like an Indian avatar of Henry David Thoreau, the American naturalist who celebrated a life devoid of materialism. “I’m living here for eight years,” he says in a low voice.

Mr Sharma is not a natural talker. His words are few and far between, punctuated with long pauses. He often raises his head and moves his lips as if about to speak… but the words don’t come. The eyes, however, say much more than his speech, animated by some seemingly chaotic feelings. When I ask how he makes a living, Mr Sharma struggles to reply. Minutes pass, but no answer comes.

I persist.

“It’s so hot. How can you wear a jacket?”

No answer.

“What will you have for lunch?”

No answer.

“Do you sleep in the maidan every night?”

A nod.

Encouraged, I continue.

“You are not scared of the insects and snakes here?”

A shake of the head.

“Well, where are you from?”

“Rajasthan,” he finally speaks.

I make a note of everything Mr Sharma says in the next few minutes to my queries:

“I was born in Kerala, Trichur.”

“Last night I had a roti with green chillies.”

“I did diploma in mechanics from Madhya Pradesh.”

“I have two brothers.”

What brought him to Delhi? Why must he live under the open sky? Where does he get his rotis from? Why can’t he return to his family in Rajasthan? How does he make a living?

Mr Sharma, it seems, tries to address all these queries but his mouth does not open despite his best effort.

Since he will not talk, it is difficult to gauge if this is a life of choice or of compulsion. But at this moment, Mr Sharma owns all the essentials of life. His roti is in the handkerchief. His plastic water bottles are full. His clothes are stuffed in a bag. For reading, he has the old opinion pages of The Times of India.

Not far from where Mr Sharma is sitting is the office of the Prime Minister of India. Behind him is the building of Udyog Bhawan, which houses the ministry of commerce and industry. Also visible is the palatial residence of the President. These establishments exist to improve the lives of millions of Indians like Mr Sharma. However, Mr Sharma himself appears to have transcended the boundary within which anybody has the power to affect his life.

If terrorists attack the Delhi Metro, if the price of arhar daal skyrockets further, if the government falls, or if India becomes the world's richest superpower, Mr Sharma will probably still be sitting here, unmoved and carefree. He is no longer connected to this world or so it seems.

[This is the 19th portrait of the Mission Delhi project]

Mr Sharma's address

Mission Delhi – Ram Swaroop Sharma, India Gate Maidan

Lost in thoughts

Mission Delhi – Ram Swaroop Sharma, India Gate Maidan

Roti crumbs for breakfast

Mission Delhi – Ram Swaroop Sharma, India Gate Maidan

Other lives go on

Mission Delhi – Ram Swaroop Sharma, India Gate Maidan

That's Rashtrapati Bhawan

Mission Delhi – Ram Swaroop Sharma, India Gate Maidan

One man Vs Udyog Bhawan

Mission Delhi – Ram Swaroop Sharma, India Gate Maidan

Mr Sharma's backyard for eight years

Mission Delhi – Ram Swaroop Sharma, India Gate Maidan

See you, Mr Sharma

Mission Delhi – Ram Swaroop Sharma, India Gate Maidan

12 comments:

stirrupking said...

Sometimes it is the habit that becomes the routine and routine that becomes the sole reason for the existence of someone on this planet. mr. Sharma seems to be following his habit as his routine.

Saifullah Badar said...

speechless...

Vimesh said...

" Mr Sharma himself appears to have transcended the boundary within which anybody has the power to affect his life."

May be had some shock, or something else.... but its bit sad and an irony ,i guess,aint no expert in English to describe his thought,but mayank hazoor ,this article of yours is too heart touching and brings ones ego to the ground...


Salaams
vimeesh

harrington said...

hmm..wow. I've always wanted to go up and talk to random strangers I'm interested in. But I desist. Kudos to you man. It takes a lot of getting over yourself to accomplish these journalistic feats.

heena said...

thanks mayank :)

Vishal said...

Thanks to MAS for bringing this to fore.

'Stirrupking' thanks for sharing your wise observation.

Heart touching .......... so much need for counsellors, mental health professionals, etc.... made us ponder about the mental plight and anguish of a person who has endured and internalised this for 8 years ....... yet human spirit is so resilient :)

Raluca Sidon said...

For two years I lived in France and every day I passed by a man living like Mr. Sharma, at the end of our street, on a lawn next to a bridge over Marne. He was better off though, as people brought him a tent and a duvet, plus he was searching in the waste of Paris markets, which make sometimes for a good meal. But the attitude was the same, and I felt he was not moving, like he found the centre of the universe. As our neighbours rushed to their jobs in their cars, he sat on the lawn and watched the river, or washed his poor clothes. He never talked. I think Mr. Sharma is his avatar, or the other way round.

Arvind Tomar said...

Nobody knows what in the past had happened to this man..... He does not speak to anyone because he knows well no one can do anything except sympathy... Whom has given responsibility (The udhyog bhavan and rashtrapati bhawan), they did nothing what other can do? Speechless...

Arvind Tomar said...

Nobody knows what in the past had happened to this man..... He does not speak to anyone because he knows well no one can do anything except sympathy... Whom has given responsibility (The udhyog bhavan and rashtrapati bhawan), they did nothing what other can do?

locutus83 said...

It's just another day for you and me in Paradise..
except that Mr. Sharma does not call out to the man on the street.

Anonymous said...

I also went to India Gate recently, and was shocked to see human excreta alongside the manmade ponds.

deekshita said...

Food for thought!