New Delhi: Kanshi Ram Sharma lost the roof over his head during an anti-encroachment drive eight years ago. He now lives in a temple near Khan Market here and earns his living by selling handkerchiefs and cotton towels.
A pamphlet tied to his waist reads: "I am Kanshi Ram Sharma, a senior citizen. At this time, I am in a pathetic condition as I do not have any work. Please buy some of the handkerchiefs, kitchen cloth and cotton towels I have."
"If you purchase the goods, I will be able to keep myself alive," it says.
The 79-year-old can be seen ambling in the car parking of the upscale market, carrying a bundle of kitchen cloth and towels in his hands.
Sharma cannot enter the market. The reason, he says, is the shopkeepers feel vendors like him may spread the novel coronavirus.
The homeless, elderly man lived in a slum in Bharti Nagar near Dayal Singh College in southeast Delhi, until it was "demolished during an anti-encroachment drive".
"I was in my village in Hamirpur, Himachal Pradesh, when it happened," he says.
Sharma's wife died a year and a half after their marriage. He has three daughters, all have been married off. Alone, the elderly man started sleeping in a temple near Khan Market, which is his home for eight years.
"I was a mechanic once. I use to earn enough and could marry off my three daughters," he says.
Sharma could not earn anything during the lockdown and used whatever savings he had to have two meals a day. When the authorities allowed reopening of markets in Delhi, the shopkeepers in Khan Market told him to stay away.
"These are very tough times, especially for people like us. Where do we go? What do we do?" he asks. "If the shopkeepers allow me, I will be able to earn a few bucks extra. There are a lot of customers there."
Around 10 families lost their hutments during the 2012 anti-encroachment drive. Barring Sharma, all of them have been rehabilitated in Bawana.
"They were able to furnish their ration card when officials came to rehabilitate them. I didnt' have one," he says.
Officials have told him that he would soon get the possession letter for a two-room house among flats constructed for senior citizens in Bawana, according to Sharma.
"I have been saving some money for this purpose. If I get the house, I will be able to lead a dignified life," Sharma says.
"But considering the situation, it seems like a distant dream."