City Life - Citizen Vinod in Heatwave, Fasil Street

City Life – Citizen Vinod in Heatwave, Fasil Street

City Life - Citizen Vinod in Heatwave, Fasil Street

Working in extreme temperature.

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

It is unbearably hot these days—such words lack heft unless one dares to walk on Delhi streets during the burning midday hours. Many Delhiwale have no choice but to continue doing exactly that everyday, exposing themselves uninterruptedly to the dangerously blistering sun. Look around here in Old Delhi’s Fasil Road— rickshaw pullers are plying their rickshaws, the fruit sellers are selling their fruit, the labourers are hauling bricks on their carts, and Vinod Kumar is hawking the cold sattu ghol on the dusty roadside (10 rupees per glass).

The mild-mannered man is battling the extreme heat by sheltering under a multicoloured parasol. The stall is basic, the drink is inside a large green thermos.

Sattu, or roasted jau/channa powder, is a staple in many parts of the country, including Bihar. It is stuffed in parathas, downed with milk, and eaten with rice. It becomes sattu ghol when mixed with water. A sattu aficionado may prefer the sour version spiked with lemon juice, salt, roasted cumin and crushed mint leaves. The Delhi pavements are partial to the plain meetha edition—sattu water with lots of sugar, which gives instant energy, particularly necessary to those customers whose work demands great physical exertion.

This is Vinod Kumar’s first stint as a sattu ghol hawker in his street vending career. Outside the summer months, he sells boiled eggs. “Nobody wants to eat eggs in such heat, I make a temporary shift every summer.” Until the last year, he would spent the summer months as a temporary worker in a small footwear factory in Anand Parbat. “No work there this year,” he says.

The Walled City lanes are currently teeming with sattu drink wale. Most vendors crisscross the lanes through the scorching heat, carrying cloth-covered buckets filled with sattu ghol, with ice chunks floating on top. Take Sattu ghol vendor Sunny. His day starts at 5am and ends at 7pm. When the rains will arrive in July, and demand for the drink will plummet, he will return to being a peanut hawker.

As the afternoon heat grows intenser, Vinod Kumar opens his lunchbox. Wife Lalita has packed rotis with turai and dal. Meanwhile, humans continue to throng the inhumanly heated street.