Delhiwale: His night vigil
- Glimpsing into the work shift of Arvind Kumar — a showroom guard
It’s midnight. This chic south Delhi market is completely quiet—even the barking dogs have gone silent. Arvind Kumar, however, is wide awake. His eyes are cast downwards, towards his shoes, inches away from an electric heater, glowing red. He is sitting on a chair outside the glass door of a boutique. The shop is locked for the night but is dimly lit inside, and one can see the dresses arranged around the mannequins. It is very cold.
Mr Kumar is a security guard. “I have been working in Delhi for 25 years,” he says in an alert voice.
It is assumed that, on looking back at one’s career, a middle-aged person can easily chart the progress attained over time. “But I see no progress... my line is straight,” Mr Kumar says matter-of-factly. He is 58, and his salary and the nature of his work have remained the same, he mutters. “Everything I earned over the years has gone into supporting my family in Gaya (Bihar) and into the weddings of my four daughters. I’m still supporting my parents and my wife, Anita Devi.” His two sons are farmers in the village, he says.
Throwing a glance inside the showroom, Mr Kumar admits that the cost of a single dress is probably more than his entire year’s earnings. “Some people have so much money... what can one do.”
A long pause follows. Suddenly a dog starts barking.
“This is also the time of the night when Mr Kumar starts to feel hungry.” His shift begins at 7 in the evening. He gets here by walking from his single-room dwelling in Munirka, after a meal of dal and roti he cooks for himself.
On finishing his shift in the morning, he walks straight to his room and rustles out a quick breakfast, instead of stopping by a pavement stall for chai and toast “and spend my money unnecessarily.”
Since the nature of his night-long job forces him to stay awake, with no one around for a chat, how does he pass his long empty hours? Mr Kumar shrugs his shoulders, saying, “I think about how my life has passed and how it will pass.”