Delhiwale: The baingi walla

  • Vijay’s brass bell is heralding his arrival to whoever cares to notice as he makes his way through the bazar. He’s shouldering a heap of sohan papdi.
Watching Vijay walk with his baingi is evocative of a celebrated sequence in Satyajit Ray’s film Pather Panchali in which a similar mithai seller ambles along with his yoked sweets, greedily followed by two children and a dog.
Watching Vijay walk with his baingi is evocative of a celebrated sequence in Satyajit Ray’s film Pather Panchali in which a similar mithai seller ambles along with his yoked sweets, greedily followed by two children and a dog.
Published on Oct 18, 2021 01:06 AM IST
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ByMayank Austen Soofi, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

It’s so quaint, so different from the rest of the street blab. This tinkling of Vijay’s ghanti, his bell. In fact, his entire establishment is sublimely quaint, like an echo emanating belatedly from a vanished sound.

Vijay’s brass bell is heralding his arrival to whoever cares to notice as he makes his way through the bazar. He’s shouldering a heap of sohan papdi. The mithais are gently bobbing on a paraat (platter) that is dangling by a rope tied to a wooden staff perched on Vijay’s shoulder. This is balanced on the other side by a hefty metal box attached to a similar rope. The whole contraption resembles ‘insaaf ka taraju,’ the scale of justice. Vijay says he made it himself. “I don’t know the sheheri (city) name for it but I call this baingi.”

Watching Vijay walk with his baingi is evocative of a celebrated sequence in Satyajit Ray’s film Pather Panchali in which a similar mithai seller ambles along with his yoked sweets, greedily followed by two children and a dog. But that was a black-and-white village in Bengal. This is a 21st century lane in the Milleneum City of Gurugram. Vijay has been selling sohan papdi in the area for more than 15 years. His extremely expressive face is frequently flashing a smile so infectious that each one of the lane’s vegetable sellers is flashing an equally glowing smile back at him.

Vijay’s so-called baingi is more than a decade old but has become so rare these days that it might as well be handed over to the National Museum. The sweet seller laughs, agreeing that “even I don’t see anyone else using it.” A UP native, he recalls his childhood in the village in Aligarh where itinerant hawkers such as snake charmers and honey sellers routinely appeared “carrying this kind of thing.” Explaining that the baingi isn’t cumbersome to manage, Vijay says that he stops whenever he gets tired, and frees himself briefly from its weight. “It was this kind of palki in which Shravan Kumar carried his blind parents for the pilgrimage,” he says, referring to an anecdote in the Ramayan.

The mithai seller continues to walk ahead, ringing his bell. And yes, the sohan papdi is delicious, which is sourced from a mithai shop. You may spot Vijay around the subzi mandi in Sadar Bazar. Sightings of baingi carriers (with slightly varying kinds of self-made baingis) have also been recorded in Old Delhi, such as the market lane that goes past Jama Masjid’ gate no. 2, as well as the alley running behind Jagat Cinema (see photo). Happy hunting.

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Saturday, December 04, 2021