The Roadside Culture

Every day I buy fresh vegetable by the roadside, while returning home from work. Not just me but every Indian household has at least one person doing this task every day.

But yesterday the roadside was clean and vacant. There was a municipal corporation truck in a corner, loaded with jute bags of tender coriander peeking out. A huddle of corporation authorities and hawkers was busy in a bargain.

This is not just one incidence. It happens nearly every day somewhere around the city. There has been a lot of talk about the unauthorized hawkers in local newspapers. Their issues and their solutions and the discussions over and over… It is still going on.

This roadside market grows right into the vehicular flow, causing traffic jams and fights across the roads…. Written complaints and actions…. Someone suggested a harmless solution, of building small “mandai” markets in every area of the city. Middlemen with strong internal contacts got hold of the shops in new market. A common vegetable vendor remained by the roadside.

Buyers preferred shopping while returning home from work, right by the road….fresh vegetable was sold away quickly, and why would the hawkers leave their road side?!

Who is at fault? The hawkers or the buyers… No?  Then is it the municipal officer who can whisk away the hawkers but cannot take any action on the rich furniture shop that spreads its sofas right on the road side?

Isn’t our system at fault? We think and behave with our oriental hearts and adopt our governing systems from the westerns! And while sorting the mess created in this contradiction, we fall even deeper into the problems.

Many Non-Indian Residents (Those who live in India but are ashamed of it) say, “Oh the roads are so clean in the US”. And I think of a reply, “These are my roads. If you do not like them, kindly leave this country and settle in the US, (if they’ll accept you!) You wouldn’t get a crispy, dirty paani-puri by their roadside. And I never underestimate the Americans for not knowing paani-puri! Then why those American standards should be applicable here?!”

Shopping in a designated area called a “mall” is a western concept, since most of their diet does not include so much farm-fresh raw food. Everything is processed and packed away into plastic wrappings. In a country where every household buys their fresh stock of vegetable daily, this system of shopping in a mall cannot suffice! Today there are more malls in Pune than I can count, but has the roadside market receded by an inch? It hasn’t! We still need those hawkers!

The hawkers and their high pitch calls, bargains and incalculably confusing discounts! “Didi, coriander will be seven rupees just for you, otherwise it costs nine!” and that stray cow hiding behind one big size aunty, nicking and guzzling away a lump of cabbage. The hawker would whisk away the cattle as it is business time but, later at night, when the roads are quiet, he would feed a wilted lettuce to the meek animal with his own hands.

How could all that be unauthorized?

All this chaos and the life that germinates through this mayhem….does it have no cultural value? At all?

Yes, our roads are dirty and we do not have eight-lanes of glossy, fast moving super ways. But our roads have a culture and a distinctly different personality that cannot be worth a zero!

Sinhagad Road apprears to me like a homely lady surrounded by domestic shops and grocery stores….like a good cook, good mother who has children to feed.

Lakshmi Road always comes with her gold jewelry glinting over an expensive traditional “nauwari” sare, like an elite lady from the royal days.

Fergusson Road can be easily seen as a flirty college girl, dressed in tiny shorts, nibbling away pani-puris and expensive coffees, giggling over latest FB update on her high-tech phone!

A society creates and enhances its character by the roadsides…. And then it becomes a civilization! Who cares whether they authorize it or not?!

Do we have to wipe away our multi-colored culture to bring discipline and cleanliness? so artificially planted will it even survive?

Or could we dream of colorful, lively and cultural roads that are cleaned by the nature of itself…. And maybe we could dream of a country that matches with its roads?!

2 thoughts on “The Roadside Culture

  1. nice one worthy to read ..what made india ,unique is its culturre and people .articles makes to think on road side hawker.its duty of city planner’s to include them in integrated part of city !

    Road For all /room for all /breathing for all!…
    lets which fresh creative subject gets place in next blog post from blog writer

    • Worthy to read?!
      okay…thanks…I guess!
      Though I never meant “Road For all /room for all /breathing for all”
      That’d be very dangerous in a long run.
      Nonetheless, I get your point…

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