By: Parallels & Meridians
A Glimpse on the street jobs of India
Touchdown. India, a land where tradition meets modernity in the most intricate and beautiful way one can imagine. The land where streets are bursting in colors and bustling, crowded with both grumpy and friendly faces. Somewhere down the road you see him, the wallah, and in a sudden gush of observation, you see them, the wallahs, in every corner, everywhere.
Wallahs are literally the ones who take part in some kind of activity. They are an important group of people in the Indian society. They are workers who are seemingly unimportant, but are actually some of the most imperative workers of the society. We are sincerely under the impression that India will not function properly without them. Therefore, today, we will introduce you to ten of the most common wallahs, in our cities!
The chai wallah, they are the one who makes and sells chai, tea. Now, this chai isn’t your average tea, it does not have the slightest similarity to the teas you get from the supermarket or coffee shops. The chai wallahs brew tea with their special recipes which include spices such as, green cardamom, cinnamon sticks, fennel seed, fresh ginger, black peppercorns, whole cloves, coriander seeds, star anise and of course, tea. The result, an aromatic hot tea that will make you keep wanting more. Chai is usually made with milk, but if you’re lactose intolerant like some of us, you can request the chai wallah for black tea.
The rickshaw wallah, these men are the wallahs. They use manual labor and manoeuver through the jam packed streets of India (not the easiest thing to do), with their three wheeled cycle. They are very helpful with distances that are too short for auto-rickshaws, a three- wheeled motorcycle, and yet, too far to go on foot, especially during summer.
The auto wallahs are the men you will interact with almost every day. They are the fearless motorists of the Indian streets who uses auto-rickshaws, the modern version of a rickshaw, as a means of transportation. They are fast, rough and sometimes tough to deal with, however, in my humble opinion, they are the most convenient means of getting around the area.
The taxi wallahs, taxi drivers, are life-savers. To avoid the hassle of, first of all, finding an auto rickshaw, arguing about rates and inhaling all the pollution around you, we call the taxi wallahs. They are normally always available, more expensive than auto rickshaws, but more comfortable and relaxing. The taxi wallahs are perfect for ride to and from late night outs!
The dabba wallahs, lunchbox deliverymen, most commonly found in Mumbai brings hot lunch in tiffin boxes from homes to the work places of individuals. There are also lunch providers, who cook and deliver the food at the same time. This is because most people prefer to eat home cooked meals than the local restaurants.
The istri wallah. The word ‘istri’ means iron. In India we have istri wallahs, people who iron clothes for a living, in almost every street. The istri wallahs set up a small shack in a corner with charcoal irons, they stay there all day ironing clothes for people around the neighborhood with rate that starts with 5 rupees a shirt. They are very helpful for the working people who have no time to do their own ironing.
The sabji wallah, the vegetable wallah, are one of the favorite wallahs around. Unlike market vegetable vendors, they knock door to door every morning with their pull carts filled with fresh greens. They are usually slightly more pricey than market vegetable vendors, but what are a couple of rupees more when you have home service right?
The safai wallah, I knew them as the garbage collectors but just found out that they are the sweepers as well! Now, how in the world can we survive without them! Around 10 am (sharp), every morning, the doorbell rings and the safai wallah yells “Kudha!” he then patiently waits for all the gathered trash and takes it with him. We have the most punctual safai wallah!
The doodh wallah, is the milkman. Milk, is an essential part of an Indian’s everyday life. It starts with the morning chai, dahi or curd usually for lunch, and other dishes like paneer. Typically, an empty pot would be left on the doorstep for the doodh wallah to fill, which he does without fail, every day.
The chaat wallahs, are the last on our list, but definitely not the least. They are the vendors of street food. Like any Asian country, India has a strong street food culture. Visit any market and you will see people swarming the chaat wallahs for their favourite items such as panipuri, papri chaat and aloo tikki!