Delhiwale: The bangle seller’s pandemic
Karva Chauth, a festival during which women traditionally keep a day-long fast for their husband’s well-being, got over some days ago. It used to be the highlight of Mr Khan’s year.Updated: Nov 20, 2020, 04:58 IST
The lady in ghoonghat (headcovering or headscarf) sceptically scans the cart’s content, as if she were certain to find rotten brinjals there, and just wanted to spot one so as to confront the hawker with his dishonesty.
But this isn’t a vegetable cart. Across the road from Gurugram’s Anaj Mandi, it is stacked up with thousands of glass bangles. “Don’t show me any cracked choori (bangle),” she snubs at vendor Aamir Khan who fervently wants the woman to buy the bangles. His business has severally nosedived due to the pandemic. “Last year, in the week around Karva Chauth, I was making ₹20,000 daily, but this Karva Chauth week it came to just ₹4,000 daily.”
Karva Chauth, a festival during which women traditionally keep a day-long fast for their husband’s well-being, got over some days ago. It used to be the highlight of Mr Khan’s year.
All these glass bangles on his cart are from Firozabad, the town in UP famous for manufacturing glass products, especially bangles. It’s also Mr Khan’s home district, where he regularly goes to get fresh batches of bangles. But his work trips have grown less frequent. Indeed, Mr Khan’s decade-old bangle-selling trade has plummeted so low since the coronavirus-triggered lockdown that he has been forced to work as a “palledar” (labourer) every night in the adjacent Anaj Mandi. There, he helps in the unloading of freshly arrived vegetables and fruits. “I make ₹300 a day from bangles, and ₹400 in the (vegetable) mandi.”
By now the woman appears to have chosen half a dozen red bangles. It has exactly the same shade of red as her sari blouse. She tries to check their size by trying to slide one onto her arm. It’s not going. With one hand, Mr Khan gently holds her wrist, and with the other he tries to slide in the bangle, with some effort.
Next moment, the bangle is in.
Now the bargaining starts. Mr Khan explains that he is charging a higher price for the chosen bangles because “I decorated them with sitare and jhilmil at home.”
The lady buys six bangles, three for each arm, and goes away.
Mr Khan now waits for his next customer. He says he shall return to his home in Pataudi Chowk by 8pm, where he lives with his wife and two kids in a one-room dwelling. There won’t be a long restful night for him. He will wake up at 3am to go to the Anaj Mandi for his shift as a labourer and will return home by 8 in the morning. Two hours later he will have to leave home again to set up his bangle cart for the new day.
“If this bad situation continues, I’ll have to forever leave NCR (National Capital Region) and return to my village.”