City Life – The Fruit Seller of Daryaganj
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Living it honestly.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Farhan Akhtar is a handsome young man who would not look out of place shaking hips with scantily clad girls in Bollywood blockbusters. But for now our hero is selling fruits at a stall in Daryaganj’s Sir Sayyed Ahmed street. And for someone who never misses his namaaz and has Aital Kursi as his mobile phone call tune, it must be a God-gift to live this kind of honest, hardworking existence.
Each night Mr Akhtar hires an auto to Azadpur sabzi mandi, Asia’s largest wholesale vegetable market. It is in north Delhi, an hour away from Daryaganj if there is smooth traffic. There Mr Akhtar purchases fruits that come daily from all over India, and the world. The choosing, picking and buying of different varieties of apples, mangoes, pomegranates, melons, grapes, pineapples is a long, exhaustive business and Mr Akhtar manages to return only as the dawn starts breaking behind the Red Fort’s ramparts.
However, Mr Akhtar’s ‘day’ is still not over yet. He has to hand over the fruits to the stall owner, run by a polite old mullah, and then only he goes home to sleep. A few hours of bed rest there and then Mr Akhtar hops back to the stall to claim a commission on the fruits sold till that hour. This hectic pace enables Mr Akhtar to make a daily earning of Rs 200, sometimes even more, sometimes also less.
The amount, admittedly, is not much and Mr Akhtar is forced to share a small room with three other people in Pataudi House, a once-upon-a-time-grand mansion in Daryaganj. He tries saving as much as is possible for there are responsibilities. Money has to be sent monthly to parents in Lucknow who have no other source of income. When I asked Mr Akhtar if he has a girlfriend, he replied, “Rather than wasting money on girls, I’ll better like to earn my maa-baap’s blessings.”
While Mr Akhtar dabbles in pricey apples imported from lands as far as China (Rs 120/kg) and Washington (Rs 110/kg), he himself is very budget conscious about what he eats. True, he likes meat but mostly he patronizes an inexpensive vegetarian eatery called Shankar Dhaba in Kuchal Paramal. It is good there – one plate of Shahi Paneer comes for as low as Rs 10.
However, these cost-cutting measures coupled with a deep sense of duty towards old parents doesn’t mean that Mr Akhtar knows no fun. He hangs out in Connaught Place, watches films in a friend’s DVD player, sing Bollywood numbers, guzzles down bottles of Coke at one go and yes, he loves Kashmiri apples (Rs 70/kg). The Delhi Walla wishes him a happy life.
With their goods
No fruit juice for Mr Mullah
Back to apples