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Juicing up Delhi’s summers against all odds for three decades

Personal loss, age or meagre means have failed to tear Omwati away from her juice kiosk for 33 years.

delhi Updated: May 20, 2017 23:23 IST
Shalaka Shivaji Shinde
Omwati, an elderly lady who sells juice at Jantar Mantar,.
Omwati, an elderly lady who sells juice at Jantar Mantar,.(Burhaan Kinu/HT Photo)

Omwati is stationed in one corner of Delhi’s Jantar Mantar at around 9am every morning. The woman, in her seventies, is a juice vendor and is addressed as ‘Amma’ by many who know her.

She is shy and conscious of media shutterbugs. She thinks it will only bring her trouble.

Her grandchild, a boy around 10 years of age, hovers around the kiosk as she sets it up. It takes her about 20 minutes to set up the kiosk after which she settles down in wait of thirsty passersby.

“I have been here since 1983. My husband died in 1992 when my son was 12 years old. I brought him up by myself and now he is gone too,” she says as her grandson hovers around the little kiosk under a tree. She had the natural skill of a woman used to managing multiple things at the same time. Even as she speaks of her loss and days gone by, she keeps an eye out for prospective customers, while also craning her neck to see the child.

She lost her son to tuberculosis last year. He was only 35 years of age. She now manages the household which comprises her daughter-in-law and two grandchildren.

Her eyes turn misty as she reminisces old times but then we spot a person approaching the kiosk. She wipes her eyes quickly, straightens her saree and takes off the mic. “There’s a customer, let me make him some juice. Please take this (mic) off,” she says.

The customer throws a quick glance at her small stock of fruits and places his order. Without ceremony she turns the press, her arms wasted, slender arms betraying no sign of fatigue.

After the customer leaves, she throws a hostile glance at the security personnel standing close by. “I set shop around 9 or 10 am. There’s no work, what’s the use of coming early in the morning? The police surround the place on all four sides,” Amma says. The policewomen sitting outside the gate can hear us.

Jantar Mantar, which has earned a reputation as the Capital protest site, sees heavy security presence throughout the year. Amma says, it hampers business for her here.

This is the time of the year when small vendors like Amma make a killing. But, Amma says it’s not enough. “How will a business which makes Rs 100-200 a day help me raise two grandchildren?” asks Amma, who is happy now that we have gulped down several glasses of sweet lime juice. She travels everyday from Khajuri and, crosses the place near Ram Park Road where, she observes, Delhi police holds recruitment drives.

All Amma wants from the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) to help her build a better place of business.

“Jantar Mantar was very good earlier. Now it has changed. Now there’s nothing here. If I had a pension plan, I could have survived. Now, if I get a better shop, I will be able to take care of the children,” she says.