City Life – Veeru Bhai’s Self-Made Cart, Central Delhi
Life of the cart.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Carts are regular sights in this city of street hawkers. Usually they are but a broad plank of wood plonked over four wheels. But Veeru Bhai’s fruit cart—or thela, as he calls it— is different. Yes it is of wood and wheels, but it is much smaller than the common variety, and looks like one of those trolleys that apron-clad maître d’s push around in elegant restaurants.
“I made this cart on my own,” says Veeru Bhai. This afternoon he is going about a central Delhi street with his cart decked up with fruit salad, each disposable bowl containing sliced pieces of kiwis, strawberries and dragon fruit.
A native of Allahabad in UP, Veeru Bhai, 53, has been wheeling about Delhi’s streets with his fruity offerings for decades. In fact, this cart is an important part of his biography. He made it in 1994, the year he arrived in the city. The cart looks its age, the tires are weary and almost flat. “They still work after all these years,” Veeru Bhai declares defensively. In a way, this shabby-looking cart is the map of his Delhi. He bought the wood from the Peti Market near Angoori Bagh. He bought the tires from the Cycle Market in Chandni Chowk — which in fact is a popular place to buy and repair cycle rickshaws. “I bought the nails and bolts to patch the cart together from the cycle market too,” he adds. Veeru Bhai brought it all together into a thela at his home in Choti Mor near Lajpat Rai Market, in two days flat.
Showing a secretive closet underneath the cart, he says it’s a “tehkhana, where I keep the extra fruits.”
Yet, it is true that this cart is not exclusive to Veeru Bhai, and that quite a few other fruit hawkers roam around with carts thus designed. The fruit salad seller agrees graciously, clarifying that none of these carts is mass produced. “Hawkers either make them themselves, like I did, or they get it made from people who know how to make it… somebody like me.”
Indeed, he charges 1,200 rupees for making such a cart. That his skill in this craft is outstanding is visible from his own work tool. In a time when everything comes with an expiry date, “my old thela is still going on,” he says, pushing the cart ahead.
Cart is his bio