No-show at DU amid lockdown renders standalone street food vendors jobless
Summing up a DU student’s life without the mention of Tom Uncle ki maggi or Sudama ki chai is almost a sin. But with admissions and exams being postponed, these standalone, hole-in-the-wall establishments have incurred huge losses. Here is what they have to say.Updated: May 23, 2020 14:00 IST
Admission season in Delhi University means brisk business for the many vendors that line up North Campus. These hole-in-the-wall establishments serve tea, coffee, snacks and other knick-knacks at pocket-friendly rates, making them a hit with students. But a no-go for colleges, as well as extended lockdowns have rendered them out of business. The otherwise bustling lanes of the campus lie barren, painting a picture of gloom.
Sudama Prasad of Sudama Tea Stall near Ramjas College had to shift from his accommodation in Kamla Nagar to Sonia Vihar to save rent. He used to employ four boys at his stall, all of whom he sent back with two months’ advance payment. He is sceptical of reopening, lest anyone complains about him. “Daily ₹ 1,500 kamaa lete the. Koi madad nahi mili hai kisi se. Dukaan khol bhi le toh koi baccha complaint bhi kar sakta hai isliye abhi toh soch bhi nahi raha hoon. 28 saal ho gaye yahaan par kabhi aisi majboori nahi dekhi,” he says.
With no money coming in and expenses to take care of, many have been forced to go back to their villages. Sarfuddin, who used to manage Saroj Juice Hut near Arts Faculty, has gone back to his village in Kaiserganj, Uttar Pradesh. The shop owner had called him back, but he feels that it’s a long way before business picks up pace. “Jiska dhanda-paani bandh ho jaaye uska guzaara kaise chalega. Maalik ka phone aaya tha ki vaapis aa jaao, lekin mujhe nahi lagta kaam raftaar pakdega kyuki zyada dikkat toh khaane-peene mein hi aa rahi hai,” he says. The shop would make a sale of around ₹ 5,000 every day and employed four people.
Manchanda Snacks was established in 1997 by Satish Manchanda outside the old Law Faculty building, and now his son, Vinay, manages the shop. He had employed two people to help man the shop, both of whom left for their homes. “We would make ₹ 6,000- ₹ 7,000 per day easily because this used to be peak time for us. Now we are not sure of the future, at least till June,” he says, adding, “The losses are manifold. We would also need to do something about the expired stock at the shop once we reopen, so that’s also a financial loss we will have to incur,” says Vinay.
Some stall owners have found ways to continue business, albeit not without losses. “The shop is closed. We are taking orders at home, and delivering them on our own. There are only a handful of orders which we make in our kitchen. Earlier we would sell 100-150 plates of maggi, making a sale of upto ₹ 10,000 per day. Hopefully, after June 1, we will get some clarity to reopen,” says Sandeep Kataria of Tom Uncle Maggi Point, located near Ramjas College.
Appealing to the government to let the stalls ply during specific hours, Sunil Kashyap, says, “I would request the government to let us reopen our stalls with a time limit. I would make ₹ 15,000-₹. 20,000 a month but it’s all gone now. Ek yehi kaam kiya hai poori zindagi aur yehi kaam aata hai. Naya kaam lagaane ka matlab hai ki jo thodi bahut savings hain, usse bhi risk karna,” says Kashyap who used to sell bread pakoras and aloo tikkis at his stall in Kamla Nagar market.
Nostalgia and memories surround these shops, and the owners each have tales galore of their own to share. An evening of exchanging notes over sweet, milky tea at Sudama bhaiyya, or a birthday treat of noodles and chilled soft drinks at Tom Uncle — these shops have been an intrinsic part of the students’ journeys. With renewed practices and a little push from the authorities, one can only hope to see this sight again.
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