Fashion bible Vogue arrived this week in India amid a blaze of publicity. But its latest recruits in India are not waif-like models or label-hungry shopoholics but the army of teenage hawkers who line New Delhi’s busy intersections.
A child selling Vogue in New Delhi
Standing opposite the 18th century Mughal marble mausoleum beneath a red light, Rakesh Gupta is extolling the virtues of Vogue magazine. You see, he tells me, I am making three times my normal salary with this new magazine.
Rakesh, dressed in what might be described as Dickensian-chic, earns 25 rupees – about thirty pence – for every copy he manages to flog to those caught in the endless traffic jams. His takings on saturday topped 800 rupees (£10).
"This is much more than any other magazine," he says. Illiterate but street-smart the teenager admits he cannot read about why pearls are "off-beat cool" this season or why a British model who draped herself across a grimy river front. "It is mostly pictures for rich madams. I know that," he adds with a grin.
Here beside exhaust fumes at the end of a broad avenue lies an Indian puzzle: the country is economically confident, yet sunk in dreadful poverty. Vogue sells an image of an Indian gilded age: an ancient country luxuriating in unprecedented wealth.
Rakesh came to Delhi with his brother from India’s poorest state Bihar in search of streets paved with gold. What he found was one room and the anonymity of India’s capital. He works by weaving through the traffic, carrying in his hands the stories of a lucky few who are part of the shining new, expensively-dressed Indian future.