In pics: 40°C sun above head, -78.5°C ice on hand, a man’s race against time | india-news | Hindustan Times
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In pics: 40°C sun above head, -78.5°C ice on hand, a man’s race against time

As the temperature heads towards 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in New Delhi, Ram Babu sets off on his bicycle in an unlikely race against time to deliver ice before it melts.

india Updated: Sep 09, 2016 13:01 IST
AFP
52-year-old Ram Babu chops an ice block into cubes as he sells it in the old quarters of New Delhi.
52-year-old Ram Babu chops an ice block into cubes as he sells it in the old quarters of New Delhi. (AFP)

As the temperature heads towards 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in New Delhi, Ram Babu sets off on his bicycle in an unlikely race against time to deliver ice before it melts.

The 52-year-old is one of scores of ice vendors battling traffic, potholes and hordes of people in the capital to supply small shops, in a tradition spanning generations.

Babu has been buying the thick blocks from a wholesaler almost every morning for 30 years, wrapping them in brown sacks to keep them cool and then strapping them to the back of his bike.

Here is how his day starts

Ram Babu (front) receives a delivery of ice blocks at his makeshift ice shop in the old quarters of New Delhi. (AFP)
He lights a lamp as he prays at his makeshift ice shop. (AFP)
Babu looks at his phone as he prepares the account of his ice delivery near his makeshift ice shop. (AFP)

Ram Babu takes out his delivery bicycle from a neighbour's garage. (AFP)
Ram Babu pushes his bicycle as his trousers get wet from a melting ice block. (AFP)
Ram Babu pushes his bicycle laden with blocks of ice. (AFP)

Dry Ice is useful for freezing, and keeping things frozen because of its very cold temperature: -109.3°F or -78.5°C

He rides an estimated 15 to 20 kilometres (nine to 12 miles) a day, delivering mainly to the scores of roadside eateries lacking refrigeration that are crammed into the city.

“It’s a daily struggle. But this is something that I have been doing nonstop. Be it Sundays or holidays I have never taken a break,” said Babu, as he carefully unloads the blocks onto a bustling side street.

His work hours

52-year-old Ram Babu chops an ice block into cubes as he sells it in the old quarters of New Delhi. (AFP)
He sells ice to roadside vendors. (AFP)
Babu chops an ice block into cubes at a roadside food vendor. (AFP)

The father of five earns about 15,000 rupees ($223) a month from selling the ice, but says income has been falling steadily as more businesses buy their own fridges.

“Now obviously most households have fridges and the offices have big water coolers. It is tough to sustain profits.”

Leisure time

Ram Babu (L) drinks refreshments as he takes some time off from work. (AFP)
Ram Babu (C) gets his beard shaved as he finishes his day from selling ice. (AFP)


Affectionately dubbed the “ice man” by friends and neighbours, Babu takes pride in the tough, traditional job also done by his father and grandfather.

But he said his children are more interested in finding jobs in offices and factories, and are unlikely to take over when he eventually retires.

“Look, I am already 52. I will carry on working for a few more years.

“But my sons are not into this. For them it is a menial job. I don’t blame them and I will never force them to do it,” he said.

Back home

Ram Babu arranges his money and receipts as he finishes his delivery. (AFP)
Ram Babu parks his delivery trolley near his makeshift ice shop as he finishes his day of selling ice. (AFP)
He enters his house after finishing his day of selling ice. (AFP)