Delhiwale: The cream roll flâneur
- A street hawker, Muhammed Nadeem, travels to most parts of Delhi-NCR.
MaThey were made in Ghaziabad, in UP, and are being eaten in Gurugram, Haryana—the two cities separated by the gigantic megacity of Delhi.
This is Muhammed Nadeem’s daily life. He’s a street hawker of cream rolls. “I live in Ghaziabad, pick up the fresh rolls in the morning from a factory (he means a bakery) and then... today I boarded the Metro to Gurgawa,” he says, referring to the so-called Millennium City by its more colloquial name, that dates from long before the millennium began.
The cream roll tastes, well, ok. It’s certainly recommended if you are feeling listless and need an immediate sugar high. But it is this particular hawker who gives the roll its zesty flavour. Mr Nadeem is an exuberant man, his enthusiasm is infectious—he laughs a lot, even behind his black handkerchief-mask, and it’s a stage performance each time he serves up a cream roll. The gentleman moves around with a glass case stacked with the rolls. This afternoon he has kept the case on a boundary wall by the roadside while waiting for customers. A man arrives, greedily looks at the rolls and places an order ( ₹10). As if on cue, Mr Nadeem tilts up his head like a nawab posing for a formal portrait. He takes out a roll with great delicacy, without upsetting the airtight arrangement. He holds it in his right hand, while the other opens a paper bag filled with cherries that he sprinkles on top of the cream. Now he serves up the roll straight to the customer’s face, like a father feeding a softy to his little child.
“The whole NCR is my duniya (world),” he says, roaring with laughter—amused by the assumption that his work is confined within Gurugram. “One day I go around in Ghaziabad, another day in any place of Delhi or Faridabad, or maybe Jhajjar... wherever my kadam (feet) take me to.” Though he never goes to towns too far from Delhi.
In some sense, Mr Nadeem is a flâneur. On understanding the meaning of the term, he thoughtfully nods his head.
Suddenly a beggar in crutches appears. Mr Nadeem serves him a cream roll with his usual theatre act—for free. Next moment another beggar appears but he tells him most amiably, “Arre bhai, he really needed my roll. You have all your limbs, go and work!”
Mr Nadeem is 27. He must have some dream. Rolling his eyes, he says, “This is my dream.” He explains he is very happy with his work. “Yesterday I was in Faridabad. Tomorrow I will go to Bahadurgarh.”
Now a few more customers arrive and Mr Nadeem again begins his performance.