City Life – Hawkers’ Closing Hours, Pragati Maidan Metro Station
Melancholic time of the day.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Something resembling melancholy tends to settle across the vast city in early evening when the crowded streets rapidly empty.
Take, for instance, that path leading to Pragati Maidan Metro station in Central Delhi—jam-packed with pavement hawkers during the day.
But now….well, Muhammed Naseem has already shut down his moongphali stall, even as Manish is filling up stuffed animals into a sack. The soft-spoken Kismet Ali who sits with his weighing machine has already left for home in Anna Nagar. Dheeraj is filling the gunny bag with his unsold stacks of books and Dhirendra Jha is gone with his bundles of socks and handkerchiefs.
The young Sonu, selling paneer cheelas, still hopes “at least one or two people might turn up and be tempted.” Meantime, young Nitesh has now covered his tripod stand with a white cloth. “I’ll keep my things in the mandir for the night,” he says, gesturing towards the nearby temple. “Most of us will entrust our goods to either the temple or car parking,” he explains, while preparing to leave for home in Jumna Bazaar.
He’s been manning his snack stall for the past five years, which in the hawking trade, he informs, is a very long time. And now, carrying his wooden stand over the right shoulder, Nitesh slowly heads for the temple.
The last hawkers finally desert the pavements as darkness inevitably sets in. This succession of leave-taking is sheer poetry; come any evening about 9pm.
The remains of the day