City Food – Sunny’s Sattu Ghol, Chitli Qabar Bazar
A hawker’s summertime life.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The light is so white that it makes the eyes hurt. The market street, here in Old Delhi’s Chitli Qabar Bazar, is always packed — but this afternoon the heat is keeping the shoppers away. Even the ubiquitous street rats are not to be seen.
In such a hostile setting, Sunny appears to be at ease. He is sitting on the streetside, in front of a shuttered store, behind a bucket filled with sattu ghol, the cool drink he sells — sattu flour mixed with water and sugar. The bucket is covered with a red cloth “to attract passersby,” he says. He says that he doesn’t mind the heat. In fact, he welcomes it. “The hotter, the better. Indeed, more people come for my drink then.”
In his late 20s, Sunny says that he left his native Saharanpur in UP “many years ago” for a vendor’s life in the capital. He lives in a rented room in nearby Meena Bazar, that he shares with “3-4” fellow vendors. Despite living in Delhi for more than a decade, he finds it unrealistic to consider it a home. “Maybe because my village isn’t very far,” he says. The vendor goes there every month for two or three days. Patiently waiting for customers, Sunny fondly talks of his parents, three brothers, two sisters, wife, Sarita, and son, Krish “who is only 3 and hasn’t yet started school.”
Finally, a customer arrives. Sunny silently prepars a glass, filling it up with ice for “extra thanda.” These days , he says, he starts his wanderings as early as 5 in the morning, and wade through the streets of Old Delhi until 7 in the evening. In between, he goes back to his room to prepare new rounds of drink. He eats lightly, he pointedly mentions, and always at a same eatery in Meena Bazar. Today he had aloo subzi, roti and dal. “I have this same thing every day,” he says with an amused expression.
The rains will hopefully start by next month, and the demand for his drink will go down. “No problem,” says the man. “I will give up sattu ghol in July and shift back to moongphali, which I sell all year round except for the summer.”
Since Sunny is still young, where does he see himself, say, in 10 or 15 years? The vendor replies instantly: “I’ll be doing this same thing.”