The street hawkers of Delhi and Calcutta, the former and current capital of India, await national holidays in the hope of associating with the nation’s legacy and pride through tiny artefacts.
Two cities, Delhi and Kolkata, the current and a former capital of India, have perhaps witnessed the independence struggle more closely than other Indian cities. The narrow alleys and wrinkled faces one encounters in these places carry the tales and emotions of both pre and post British Raj. While the slogan of ‘Inqalaab Zindabad’ roared on these streets once, today the calls of ‘aazadi’ and ‘dus ka ek’, are drowned in a sea of honking cars.
We earn a maximum profit of Rs 200 per day. Be it pens, flags, or tricolour-coated toys, all these items mean the same — a way to earn a living. And the nationalism sentiment is on a high now — after all, we are celebrating our aazadi (freedom), says 62-year-old Ramlal as he strolls through Delhi’s scorching streets.
As we say hello to the fourth and fifth generation of post-Independence India, the clarion call for the celebration of nationhood, August 15 and January 26, spreads cheer primarily among the small street hawkers and vendors.
In the present capital, every red signal is painted with saffron, white, and green with a hint of blue. Delhi abounds with new-age tricolour artefacts, but the tiranga flag continues to be the main attraction for buyers.
The flag is a symbol of the nation and patriotism. The tiranga fills me with pride and my customers want to celebrate August 15 by buying the flags. They don’t even bargain beyond Rs 10; after all, it does not look good, says 30-year-old Radhya.
He started engaging in this trade of selling symbols of the freedom struggle and representations of “patriotism and bhaichara” (brotherhood) in the form of tiny tricolour trinkets, car accessories, plastic flags, and stickers from August 11. The flags come in two sizes. The big cloth tricolour is sold forRs75at auto junctions, later sitting proudly on top of the vehicles, waving to the citizens as the motor zooms — sorry, crawls — through the city traffic.
Strolling towards East Delhi, outside the metro station, 35-year-old Vishnu Uday Kumar from Bihar has devised a new way to attract customers — he is selling tricolour caps for school children.
Independence Day is the flavour of the season now. We live in Hindustan and these items highlight our nationhood. Tricolour caps are a hit; they even save children from the Delhi heat, he quips.
The veteran, who has been in this business since the age of 17, says that the business is slow and he hasn’t been able to earn more than Rs 250 in the past two days, but he assures me that it will pick up in the next two days. Other days, these hawkers engage themselves in the sale of flowers, car accessories, phone chargers, and magazines.