With a population of 250,000, Mumbai boasts of the highest number of hawkers anywhere in the world. This unique population group is mainly made of migrants in the city who in multiple ways help in the functioning of the city.
To welcome the New Year, I decided to spend the last weekend of 2015 capturing the stories of these street hawkers and their resolutions for the New Year. After spending two days I was amazed and humbled by their resilience. Living a tough life was not a barrier to smile and spread hope and happiness. This story is dedicated to them!
My day started with a walk at the iconic Gateway of India which was built more than a hundred years ago, but, continues to fascinate all visitors till date. This is where I met Deepak who helps these visitors carry back a piece of their memory in the form of a picture.
Originally from Madhubani, Bihar, Deepak made Mumbai his home 22 years ago when he started working as a photographer. His only resolution for the coming year was to continue the hard work and embrace any new technology as the competition from mobile phones was high. Another photographer, Vinod, was more upbeat about the coming year as he was going to become a father and his resolution was to spend as much time with his baby as possible.
Walking into the shopping heaven of Colaba Causeway, I was greeted by smiles and handshakes when I got the hawkers talking about their life. Ritesh was getting married next year and his resolution was to keep his wife-to-be very happy next year; his friend Radheshayam was more practical and wanted to find new ways to make more money.
Soon I came across Uttam Giri from Nepal who sells ‘rudraksha’ beads, and he told me, “I just want to earn good money here and go back home to my daughter and wife. I will come back again here whenever needed.”
It was heartening to see how he came from thousands of miles and was happy with the limitless possibilities in Mumbai. While for some, the concept of New Year’s resolutions and dreams was abstract, for others like Rajesh, the helicopter toy seller, it was already something playing in his head.
“I want to build my body with exercise and good food and I aim to join the police force by the end of the year.”
Inspired, I bumped into Mohammad Fayez Khan, the ever smiling coconut water man whose New Year resolution was to make sure that his son gets into a good college in the coming year after he turns eighteen.
Next on my list was the Haji Ali Dargah. There, I had a more relaxed and personal interaction. Everyone very conveniently opened up to me and I had more than my week’s quota during just two hours.
Most of the people I spoke to were young and full of energy and their dreams ranged from God’s blessing for a prosperous year to Junaid’s steely resolution ‘I want to save money next year to build a house for my family in Lucknow’.
The one resolution that stayed with me was from Akhtar Ansari who owns a small ittar shop. “My resolution is to be able to contribute towards nation building, and continue loving all my countrymen.”
As I was leaving, I met Arjun who had a more fun resolution for himself, “I want to save money and go to Malaysia where my uncle lives. I want to enjoy the beaches and also learn a few tricks of the trade from him.”
The next stop in my list was the Mumbadevi temple, the Goddess who also gave the city its name. The first person I spoke to was Naina who had a tough time controlling her laughter, she told me that ‘my resolution is to stay unmarried for another year as I am interested in learning more about my business.’
The sun was going down and I was hungry. When I reached the lanes around Kala Ghoda, I was quickly drawn to the temporary food stalls there.
Rambabu Soni told me with a smile that he wants to ensure education for his three kids, while his young helper Harish had a much more interesting resolution.
“I am done with using a micromax phone. I want to save up more money and buy a nice Sony phone.”
It was getting dark and I was up for some good street food, so I headed to CST (erstwhile Victoria Terminus). With the change of the place, the demographics changed as well. The hawkers here were mainly from South India. Siddiqi Manas Majumdar, who runs a food eatery, had big plans for next year:
“I have been working with someone else for years now. This year I want to change that and start my own business.”
I ate to my heart’s content and hit the bed soon, firming up my own plans to make a few resolutions myself for the coming year.
My second day started at Juhu Chowpatty, a little late in the morning. Having had so many conversations already, I knew that the New Year didn’t mean the same thing for everyone. Many saw it simply as a change of date, but when I probed deeper, I could always find a dream which everyone wanted to fulfil in the coming months. Vicky was one such guy with big dreams on Juhu beach who wanted to open to his own photography studio.
Next on my agenda was to visit the Shivaji Park, the park where legends were made – namely Sachin Tendulkar. This patch of greenery in the city on a hot afternoon was active with sportsmen.
I munched peanuts and had a long chat with Prahlad from Uttar Pradesh who has been living in Mumbai for over 24 years now. As a kid, his resolutions used to be all about becoming a hockey player, but now his life is all about his son who is finishing his BA in Delhi right now.
The popular somosa guy, Sooraj Chauhan from Allahabad, has resolutions about working hard to give his family a comfortable life.
I finished my Mumbai exploration with the sunset at Marine Drive.
Smiles of India – an ground initiative: we have collaborated with a travel blogger Siddhartha Joshi, who is also an ace photographer. He would be travelling to more than 10 cities across India in a two-month-long campaign capturing unique and interesting stories that bring about smile, happiness and positivity with a theme centered around ‘Celebrating Life’.