Delhi awakening, a look from my balcony

 Nariyal walla



Anyone who sees the metropolis of Delhi as a chaotic city, where life flows frenetically and the day takes place for a good part stuck in traffic is wrong.

Delhi is a city of many faces, and yes, the main roads are very busy, but as soon as you step outside and venture into the various enclaves, colonies and urban villages, life takes on its tranquil, human-scale dimension. Each area has its own, depending on its characteristics.

Where I live now, for the past 5 years, the neighborhood is very quiet and the enclave is silent. I must say that I don't mind too much since my life takes place a lot outside and almost daily I am filled with noise and confusion. The enclave has 3 access gates from the external streets, and is surrounded by a low wall, my street has 6 houses on one side and 6 houses opposite, all between 3 and 4 floors, and it is a closed street beyond which there is a portion of old Jahanpanah forest.

From here gangs of macaques arrive from time to time and peacocks arrive daily early in the morning and at sunset.

At dawn, together with the peacocks, the comings and goings of the various wallas also begin.

The walla is basically the one who takes care of... if a person decides not to leave the house for the whole day, the world will still go to him, every day regularly, only the lockdown due to the pandemic has managed to prevent these activities from taking place activities, and the essential ones are resumed, with special permits, after a few days from the beginning.

Those who own a car rarely get on it in the morning if it is not shiny and bright, here they get dirty quickly due to the sandy dust that accumulates on the roadside, for this reason every morning the gadi dhone walla (gadi , pronounced gaRi is the car, dhona from the verb to wash) they arrive by bicycle, with an empty bucket and rags, they fill the bucket from the tap that is located at the entrance of every house and begin to clean the cars of those who have paid for them the monthly fee. When needed the owner throws the keys from the balcony and they also clean the interior. Cleaning starts from the roof of the car and ends with the tyres!


Gadi dhone walla


 It is desirable that the car is used before the arrival of the ruthless jaru walla, the women who clean the street with the jaru, they pile up everything that people have thrown on the street the previous day, unfortunately this is a habit hard to die in India, in doing so they raise clouds of sand that redeposit everywhere, at this stage of the day it is good to collect the hanging laundry and the shiny cars, carelessly left parked, regain their layer of dust in glory which will be removed during the day following...

Before the arrival of the jaru walla, however, they have already passed in order:

the phool walla who places little bags with flowers on the gates of the houses for the daily poojas, the paper walla, or the one who delivers the newspapers to the subscribers, his pockets are overflowing with small black rubber bands with the help of which he transforms the newspaper into a projectile that he launches, with infallible aim, onto the terrace of the various recipients who, as early as 6 in the morning, can pick it up and read it while they have breakfast.


 Press walla


Doodh walla


Those who have a subscription for doodh (milk) will have to go downstairs with their container and strainer when the doodh walla arrives, he has half-liter ladles and so he will measure the quantity destined for the various customers. The customer will receive his milk and proceed to pasteurize it himself.

The kabadi walla (pronounced kavaRi) goes by on his bicycle shouting kabadiiiiiiii, he has white bags that he will fill with old newspapers, cardboard, scrapped appliances, plastic, in short, whatever you want to give him. Usually the kabadi walla weighs and pays, then goes and sells it to the collection centers of the neighborhood, personally I could never get money from these men who already earn the minimum to support themselves and, if one happens that doesn't know me, he always remains amazed when I tell him to put away his scale and take what I give him along with my blessing.

Anyone who doesn't have a permanent maid receives a visit every day from the one who will be cleaning the floor, we call them bhai, which then means brother, the more sophisticated call them maid, in English.

At a certain time the carts of phal walla (the fruit seller), nariyal walla (the seller of coconut drinks), subzi walla (the vegetable seller) start coming and going, these come and go several times and there are always two or three different. By the way they shout listing the goods they carry we are able to know who is who, everyone has their own style, so if I want to do my shopping at Jyoti's I will look out onto the balcony when I hear her coming, then go downstairs and choose the Merchandise or I'll leave it up to you. Jyoti comes from the very distant Tamil Nadu and resisted as best she could throughout the first lockdown, living alone in a small room, her husband left him years ago because he was a violent man, and her two boys study in their home town, then, worried about her , they asked her to come home as soon as it was possible to find a vehicle and so I didn't see her again for two years. She has been back for a few months, every morning at 4 o'clock she pushes her cart by hand up to the general market of Okhla, up the slope of the ring road, refuels, and then arrives here, always smiling, wrapped up in her winter shawl wool, flip flops on your feet. A woman I greatly admire.




Occasionally the seller of flutes and balloons, or the one who sells carpets, sometimes the shoemaker, the knife grinder or the one who sells buckets and plastic basins also pass by. More rarely, the one who sells the gaskets of the pressure cookers, which are used a lot here, also makes small repairs, such as replacing the valves.

Finally it's time for Rinku, the young boy from Bihar who comes to collect the garbage, the kuda walla (pronounced kuRa). Rinku announces himself with a whistle and we leave the rubbish on the landing. The custom of the whistle began with the lockdown, when we had to take the garbage down individually to prevent him from entering houses and "exposing himself".

The figure of Rinku is very dear to me, this boy when it's very hot every now and then asks me for a glass of water, I often prepare him water and lime with a little sugar and salt, here you sweat a lot at certain times of the year. year. He has a wife and a little girl in the village, they live with his parents, and during the initial period of the pandemic I was very concerned about his situation. A very good boy, also always with a huge smile and great kindness.




I'm not a routine lover, however, I do feel these mornings daily rituals reassuring and I realized it just when they were brutally interrupted on March 24, 2020, this intertwining of stories and lives gives me comfort and not it absolutely makes me feel that we are a shapeless multitude of 20 million scattered haphazardly on a surface of asphalt and concrete, which Delhi is not.


I have deliberately not declined the term "walla" in the feminine and plural form in order not to confuse the reader who does not know the Hindi language, mi with the others.


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