As he, Ram Dayal, swims through a pool of thoughts when we meet him, his experience speaks through his pale skin and drooping eyes. Telling the story of their nomadic adventures, he tells us how his community of the Gaduliya Lohars has witnessed Delhi’s progression into a modernised world-city.
They are ­nomadic blacksmiths who originated from the Chittorgarh district in Rajasthan and belong to the Rajput clan which ­concocted iron armaments and ammunition for Maharana Pratap’s army. After the defeat of their emperor, they decamped the fort and migrated towards the cities for better food and shelter. Ever since, their generations have produced household articles and utensils, and sadly, they have been relegated to a life on the pavements.
Today, there are more than 4,500 Lohar families across the city, and most of them reside near ­construction sites and industrial areas, some of them being Seemapuri, Majnu ka Tila, Shahdara, Sahibabad, Azadpur ­terminal, Maya Enclave and Kingsway camp.
Dharam, one of the ­community leaders, says, “Duniya aage badh gayi hai aur hum abhi bhi sadak kinare padein hain, na sar par chhat hai na hee khaane ko roti, bas ummeed hai.” Although the ­community now sends its children to school, they wish for more ­consideration from the new ­government.
“Ab sarkar se chahte hain ki wo kam se kam humme chhat de,” says thirty-something Sham, who resides near Majnu ka Tila. His wife hopes that their ­displaced identity will finally find more welcoming acceptance in the city that buys their iron tools to carry out day-to-day activities such as cooking, ­gardening and repairing. “Jo humare sath hua, humare bachchon ke saath na ho ... unhe apni pehchaan mile,” she says.
Gaduliya Lohars - are wandering blacksmiths who once made weapons for Rajput princes. When Akbar defeated the emperor of Chittorgarh, they took it as the defeat of their arms and left Chittor. Ever since, they have been manufacturing domestic utensils and agricultural implements.