City Food – Mango Pickle Walla, Around Town
A pickle vendor.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It’s hardly a secret that Delhi abounds with hawkers selling just about everything imaginable. Such as toothbrushes made from Neem twigs.
Then we have Raju’s homemade pickles packed in a metal tub tied to his bicycle’s carrier. Unlike most other sellers, the 52-year-old man doesn’t need to advertise his wares. They’re in steady demand. The spicy smell invading an entire lane is so intense that passersby may suddenly yearn for a nice pickle and parathas breakfast.
Raju explains he got into the business a decade ago “when I spotted a man in my village selling pickles.” This looked like a worthwhile enterprise, “and I thought it would work particularly well in Delhi because this city has far more transient workers than my hometown.”
His assessment was spot-on. Day labourers and rickshaw pullers in the capital are the sort of customers “who want to save as much money as possible, and definitely don’t want to spend very much on lunchtime food.”
So they simply buy cheap pickles to combine with dry rotis. “It fills up their stomachs and provides some taste, too.”
A customer now turns up, peers into the pickle tub and buys a couple of pieces for 10 rupees. Raju lingers awhile longer along the lane, ladling out more pickles to more customers before quietly peddling away. Leaving behind the pungent smell of his tempting pickles.
A pickle man’s story