City Landmark – Pappu’s Gullak Cart, Seelampur
Seller of a rare thing.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
He has a big belly, makes lots of money and is very kanjoos, not prone to give away his riches. Who is he?
Hint 1: he is not a person. Hint 2: you can hold the whole of it in your hands.
It’s the gullak. That almost-extinct clay pot of old times in which a child would occasionally
drop a hard-earned coin. The pot’s only opening happens to be a frustratingly narrow slit. Once the gullak would be full, in six months or six years, it would be flung on the floor. The gullak would shatter into pieces, its sikke spilling out with clinking sounds of chann chann chann.
Fast forward to today.
At least one man in our megapolis daily hawks these gullaks. This afternoon, Pappu is pushing his cart through a Seelampur crowd. A sherbet seller agrees that this a rarest of rare sights. “Even I haven’t seen any gullak seller around here,” Pappu says cheerily. Most of his gullaks are as small as a chai cup. “I have 20 rupees gullakein as well as 200 rupees gullakein.” He picks up a gullak from his cart and theatrically drops it on the ground with his mouth open as if in astonishment. “See, made of mitti but so strong.” It hasn’t broken.
Pappu gets his gullaks from faraway Gurgaon. “The karigar lives near the railway station,” he says, and sells his handmade gullaks on a Sector 6 roadside. Gullaks are also made by a bunch of artisans in west Delhi’s Uttam Nagar, he informs.
Pappu became a gullak walla a decade ago after arriving in the city from hometown Ferozabad, the town famous for glass bangles. “I too used to make chooriyan, but the industry is dying.” A chance encounter in Delhi with a gullak hawker steered him towards his current career. “Everyday I sell 1500 rupees worth of gullakein.”
A corner of Pappu’s cart is packed with a few non-gullak clay things, too: kundi, to keep water for birds, and jharia, to clean the airee (heels).
Now a woman stops to yap about a gullak she wants for 10 rupees less. Easygoing but firm, Pappu stays loyal to his original quote. The woman walks away after losing the bargain. Pappu pushes his cart into the next turning.