His name is Bipin Kumar, but he prefers to be called BK. When he was five years old he contracted polio, a disease that attacks the nervous system. As a result, both of BK’s arms and his right leg are paralyzed. Now in his mid-twenties, he spends his days walking around Paharganj, a crowded tourist area in the center of New Delhi, India, where he lives. He begs to earn a living, but rarely talks to people on the street; instead he just smiles, says “namaste” – hello – and waits for people to give him coins or bills.
BK unties his laces before going into the small room where he lives with ten other men.
Once or twice a year, BK goes back to his hometown, Jhauwa Bahiyar, a small village in Bihar, one of the poorest states of India. It’s a 30-hour train ride to reach his family, who depend on the alms BK collects some 700 miles away in New Delhi. On a recent visit to his family, while bathing in a seemingly impossible way (supporting his hand with his foot, which holds the soap to wash his hair), he spoke a sentence that, to me, defines his life, and how he decided to make the best of it: “Yes, I have a problem, but there is no problem with that.”