If you turn from the main road into the lane that goes to my home, you will immediately notice the hawkers. They stand on both sides of the lane, selling mainly vegetables. Some sell fruit. Others sell spices. One enterprising youth even sells orange juice, or in mango season- Mango milkshake.
I have always seen the hawkers in our lane, ever since we moved here to the suburbs. They are hardworking men. Two or three persons are usually needed to manage one vegetable cart. One gets up before dawn and goes to the wholesale vegetable market at Dadar to buy the day’s supplies. His fellow hawker arranges the fruit or vegetables left over from the previous day, on the cart. Their work goes on until late at night.
One day as I turned into our lane, I noticed that it was unusually quiet. No hawkers were there at all. I made some enquiries, and found out that they had all been rounded up and taken away. It seemed that it was illegal to set up a cart to sell vegetables on the side of the lane. The Municipal Corporation had confiscated their carts and supplies, and taken them away.
The next day they were back. I asked one of them what had happened. He told me that this happened every couple of months. “But don’t worry, Behenji, we just pay the fine and get everything back.”
I wondered at the resilience of these hawkers. They come from their native villages to make a living in the city. They live on the streets. They work hard to earn some money to send to their families back home.
If they did not sell vegetables here, we would have to go a fair distance to buy any. The authorities could easily convert this area into a hawking zone, and make their activities legal.
But they won’t do that. They prefer to keep them illegal and fine them every few months. The poor vendors have to earmark a tidy amount for this. And also to pay the local Dada under whose ‘protection’ they are staying here.
The hawkers take everything in their stride, though, and are there everyday selling their vegetables- “What will you buy today, Behenji? The lettuce is fresh and the spring onions very crisp. Or maybe spinach- specially brought here from Nashik.”