2014/03/10

Memory files - Of sattuwallahs and rickshaw pullers

At the corner  of Purna Das Road and Lake View Road , a man used to set up camp every morning at around 11 am . He would set down his woven basket , crammed with bell metal thalis and lotas , all highly polished with a sheen that would make my mother sigh , under the tree at the corner , near the tubewell . Next , he set up his dusty  black umbrella mounted on a tall stick ,that served as a sunshade in winter and a cover from the rains during the monsoons . A jar of pickle, salt , a horlicks jar of a powdered masala, chillies , onion  and a stainless steel container of chutney followed . Last he would bring out a  rectangular aluminium tin which contained chhatu or sattu , the mainstay of Bihari bhaiyyas for lunch .

He would pour out the chhatu , mix the salt and masalas and knead it to a fine golden paste which he would cover with a clean rag . Around noon the first csutomers would land up . Parking their hand drawn rickshaws , these rustic men from the interiors of Bihar , raw  boned , muscled and yet scrawny , with unshaven faces and gamchhas wound around their heads , would wash their hands, feet and faces at the tubewell and then with a sigh , settle down on their haunches while the chhatuwalla doled out the food on the pristine thalis - a mound of chhatu , an onion , a couple of green chillies and the chutney which was a peculiar translucent green - possibly made with garlic, chillies and coriander . Each man would get a lota of water .

Oh   the relish with which the rickshawallahs and thelawallahs wolfed down their meal - there was something so soul satisfying and the belch after the water was gulped down summed it all up . There was a peculiar discipline too - people arriving late would squat patiently , nearby , no jostling , pushing , shoving or asking the eaters to hurry up even when they were all so evidently hungry- so symbolic of the great Indian watch and wait for their turn

Mealtime over , the chhatuwallh would then wash up with great care , accept a gob of tobacco or khaini from one of his customers , load up and waddle off .

Now of course , the chhatuwallh at the corner is gone . Instead there is a bhelpuri walla who sells his wares to the schoolchildren down the road , which leaves me wondering where the rickshawallahs go for lunch .

6 comments:

Thinking Cramps said...

Beautiful. Especially the last line. Leaves you thinking about so much.

dipali said...

So beautiful!!! Keep writing, lots please!

Shonali said...

Where DO the rickshawwalas go for lunch??? Love the picture you paint!

Mallika Ganguly said...

There are very few of the hand drawn ricks around Purna Das road - just the stray one

Mallika Ganguly said...

Thanks Ana , Dipali, Shonali - feels good to have writing diarrhoea . I dont know how long it will last , though !

hillgrandmom said...

Yes, Mallika, I remember that so well. There was such a guy on Camac Street and I would see all the rickshawallahs sitting there for lunch. Brings back so many memories!