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The Wallahs Of Delhi – Part II

We discussed a few of the professions that various single entrepreneurs successfully run all over the city sidewalks.

Today we introduce you to a few more such entrepreneurs:

A close shave on a sidewalk: Dadhi-wallah

Choteylal runs a Nai shop (i.e a street barbershop). He is always busy applying shaving creme on his client’s faces and then using a vicious-looking indigenous cut-throat razor made of a long steel blade. He even has a helper with him, who assists him in shaping the customer’s side locks and at times even trims offending nostrils hair.


As you walk along the streets, you will see a haath-gadi-wallah (i.e. a handcart puller) making his way through the quagmire of cars, scooters, cyclists, jay-walkers, and stray cows. He ferries heavy loads and runs on the streets with his clothes wet with sweat.

Office-wallah-babu – Sidewalk office services

You do find literate entrepreneurs indulging in these street jobs too. Just outside the courts, govt. offices, etc. one often comes across the sidewalk lined with kiosks, each having a desk, a chair, a typewriter, and a counter selling legal stamp papers. If you have lived through the era of manual typewriters, the forgotten noise of the aging machines makes you nostalgic.

Tota-wallah-pundit – Parrot astrologer 

And if you are keen on knowing your future, then head for the multi-talented astrologer and palmist with a bunch of cards spread out in front and a parrot in a cage. An elderly man wearing a kurta and dhoti is the tota-wallah-pandit who, for a small charge, will tell you your future. For any question you may have, he will let the parrot come out and pull up a card, which will have the solution to all your grievances.

Bandar (monkey) – wallah 

You will find a bunch of kids watching a street Bandar wallah (monkey wallah) who earns money by making his trained monkey couple do acrobatics. The monkey wallah makes his monkeys perform various acts, earning applause and coins from onlookers.

The wallah treats his monkeys with bananas as he lights a beedi (Indian cigarette) for himself. The monkeys hurriedly eat the bananas as, in a few minutes, they will have to perform again in front of a new crowd for a handful of coins for their caretaker.

Life goes on, and these wallahs of Delhi keep living on the sidewalks day after day. Often chased away from their makeshift shops by police and authorities, it is a balancing act for survival for these wallahs on the sidewalks of a merciless city.


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