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In bustling Mumbai, these people are cherishing their sweetest bonds

Do you have a favourite delivery boy, dabbawala, vegetable vendor? Here are tales of unlikely friendships from across the city

mumbai Updated: Feb 23, 2018 16:25 IST
Jayati Bhola
Jayati Bhola
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Friendship,Mumbai city
(Illustrations: Shrikant Patkar)

Anyone who’s lived in Mumbai will tell you that this is a city of business. We get to the point quickly. We realise that time is money. We value efficiency. We know what we want and we want it now.

But within the hive of cut-and-dry transactions, hope flowers, relationships thrive. Waiters become friends, delivery boys get invited into homes, and the familiar face behind the counter becomes an essential part of our worlds. Take a look at city folk and the bonds they’ve forged with an otherwise invisible army of service staff.

The key to friendship

TV executive Dolly Singh, 35, has lived in Chuim village, Bandra, for six years. It’s where she made an unlikely friend, Santosh Kumar, a local vegetable seller.

“He sets shop in front of my house and is my go-to guy for vegetables,” says Singh. Over the years, they’ve gone past the civil niceties of grocer-and-patron. “I’d just started doing food pop-ups and I ended up buying a lot of veggies from him,” Singh says. “I’d call him on odd hours and request him to arrange jackfruit or something I needed, and he always got it for me.”

Kumar has proven to be so dependable, Singh trusts him with her house keys. He’s also the mediator between Singh and her house help.

For Singh, Kumar is a familiar face and a comforting friend on days she’s stressed out. “Even if he charges me more than others, I don’t mind.” Living all by yourself, such a support system helps, she says. “He’s peeled shell peas for me, bought groceries for me, and has helped me out with my domestic issues.”

A friend on the road

An unlikely bond forged on the roads on Mumbai between Siddhaarth Alambayan and a sing daana seller continues to grow stronger, even today.

Mumbai monsoons can be tough. The roads get flooded and the traffic refuses to clear up for hours. In one jam, Siddhaarth Alambayan found an ally on the Western Express Highway.

The 25 year-old head of branded content at a media house was stuck for close to two hours on the highway, with no food last year. And that’s when ‘baba’ who sells roasted peanuts struck up an unlikely friendship. “His stock was over but he got us chips and other things to help us out, and walked almost a kilometer to reach our car since the traffic had moved,” Alambayan says.

Since then, they greet each other every day. They still don’t know each other’s name but call each other baba.

“He is always giving me and my friends free peanuts. We often chat about our day too,” Alambayan adds. Once, baba needed help getting his younger brother a job in the city. Alambayan helped him get connected to various productions houses. “We have a sweet bond; he is a part of my day. If I don’t see him, I get worried and vice versa.”

The family dabbawala

Tukaram Shivekar, a dabbawala, has been a part of Priyanka Aggarwal’s family since the past 15 years.

Tukaram Shivekar, 48, has been delivering Priyanka Aggarwal her lunch dabba since she was 9.

The 24 year-old brand consultant from Versova says she and her mother met Shivekar when he used to sell garlands in the area. In one of those interactions, he told them about his new tiffin service, and that was the beginning of their 15-year long connection.

“He would bring my dabba on his cycle with 50 other heavy ones. But he’d always wait for me to come out before he continued with other deliveries,” Aggarwal says. Sometimes, he’d take the tiffin back or even bring her textbooks.

“I once had a bad day at school and was crying when he came with the dabba. Since he knows food makes me happy, he gave me Rs 10 to go buy an ice-cream,” Aggarwal says.

Over the years Shivekar’s business has grown. He now has delivery men doing the rounds but still delivers Aggarwal’s dabba to her workplace in Santacruz, whenever he can. He is now almost like a family member; he visits them every Diwali.

Part and parcel of life

Forming bonds with people you meet in your every day life, Anusha Iyer and Sindhu Wadekar, a postwoman, have had a warm relationship for over eight years now.

Anusha Iyer, 47, a media strategist has been living in Andheri’s Four Bungalows for eight years. She fondly refers to the area’s postwoman, 60-year-old Sindhu Wadekar, as Sindhu Tai or Sindhu Maushi.

Wadekar drops by around 3.30pm to deliver parcels and over the years, her smile has broken the ice between her and Iyer. “My house number is 35/35, and my neighbour’s is 35. Our parcels always get mixed up but never with Maushi. She ensures every piece of mail is delivered,” Iyer says.

Wadekar is now familiar enough with the family to scold Iyer’s son Vendant, when too many retail packages arrive bearing his name. “In reality I’m the one doing the ordering,” Iyer confesses with a laugh.

Maushi loves singing old songs. “I look forward to her coming over so we can have chai, ask her how she’s doing,” Iyer says. “But we try not to overstep our boundaries with tips. Last Diwali, the only reason she accepted a sari from us was because my son gave it to her.” Iyer and family are now planning on surprising Wadekar by recording a song with her. “Anything for that cute smile.”

First Published: Feb 17, 2018 15:33 IST