Selling Mr Khan in Delhi 6
Arif Khan’s thela stocks hundreds of not-so-new Bollywood picture postcards. Sample the bounty: Shah Rukh Khan from his earliest movies, a young Saif Ali Khan in a romantic pose with the ageing Sridevi.entertainment Updated: Jan 12, 2010 20:00 IST
Arif Khan’s thela [sales cart] stands a few steps from Ghalib’s last haveli in Ballimaran, an Old Delhi neighbourhood best known for being the address of...well, Ghalib’s final residence.
Ironically, Khan’s cart stocks no books by the Urdu poet. That doesn’t embarrass him — “I’m illiterate, I can’t read,” he says. Ghalib-lovers might wail and beat their chests but then, how many in this city read his works?
Khan has other knick-knacks that will make you forget one of Delhi’s greatest poet, such as his collection of hundreds of not-so-new Bollywood picture postcards. Sample the bounty: Shah Rukh Khan from his earliest movies, a young Saif Ali Khan in a romantic pose with the ageing Sridevi, and for the naughty, there is Mandakini in the classic waterfall shot from Raj Kapoor’s Ram Teri Ganga Maili.
But 80s’ filmstars are not the only commodity here. Athlete types can buy postcards of tennis player Sania Mirza. There are WWF wrestlers, too — all yours for a rupee each. The same cards which admittedly look tacky here turn arty in Hauz Khas galleries, where they would sell for not less than Rs 50!
From where does Khan get this stuff? “I go to Sadar Bazaar and there it comes from Mumbai,” he says.
Five years ago, Khan was employed in a small Ballimaran firm that made lampshades. Then Chinese goods invaded the bazaar and killed the Indian lamp trade, and Khan literally had to come out on the street, this Ballimaran street — Gali Qasim Jaan.
While nothing sells like Bollywood, Khan’s other ‘blockbusters’ are beedis, earrings, toffees, chips, aamras, gutkas, rubber-bands, combs and so on.
However, despite the ‘houseful’ cart, his heart is rather empty. Khan is in his 40s and still without a partnesr — no wife, no lover. “I stay with my chacha-chachi,” he says. “I didn’t marry because there is no place in our one-room house in Ballimaran.” Doesn’t he feel lonely? “It’s okay.”
With a daily income of Rs 200, lower than the cost of a Khan Market pizza, Khan could have barely supported a family. Life is anyway tough even without it. Khan has a weather-beaten face, greying hair and stooped shoulders. Hard times notwithstanding, Khan has a polite old-world charm around him. Visit for his sake and for Shah Rukh’s.
Where: Galli Qasim Jaan, Ballimaran