By Bridget Wood:
A wayward leg slings over the edge of the rickshaw, its owner folded in the back catching break from the sun’s prickle. Street dogs snuffle through the rows of rickshaws and pop-up stalls, incense burning, pans sizzling and the constant cacophony of Delhi’s own symphony of horns.
Out of an ethereal haze of dust emerges a whole microcosm. The footpath sprawl. A city within a street, self-made by Delhi’s newest members, those desperately coming from beyond the capital dreaming of greener pastures.
Okhla Sabzi Mandi, a large wholesale vegetable market, is the centre of this side street city and the promise of an income to many of its regional inhabitants. This is a snapshot of their lives.
Auto Rickshaw Driver
Auto Rickshaws or ‘autos’ zip through Delhi’s frantic traffic dodging cows, pedestrians and countless potholes in a never ending bid to beat the crawl of traffic. Fakrudin has been an auto driver for the past ten years, traversing the whole of Delhi and providing transport to its 21 million inhabitants. His family live in Delhi however Fakrudin is often required to work late in the evening so depends on his wife to run the household. On an average day Fakrudin earns approximately 500 rupees ($10AUD).
“No it’s not sufficient, but I have no other option so I have to manage with this amount,” he says.
Fakrudin and many of the other auto rickshaw drivers in Delhi are struggling with the price hike to register their vehicles.
Lime Juice Stall Holder
A dog is nestled under the tarp, head resting on a pile of hulled out lime halves, a stream of flies and incense swirling around its ears. Above him Radhesham stands with an old juice press manually juicing a pile of limes for his thirsty customers.
Radhesham has been at this stall for 20
years and can expect to earn 400 rupees each day ($8.50 AUD). Despite the long hours (Radhesham works until 11pm at night) he says he is lucky he has an educated son who can look after the house and family.
Adorned in pressed silver, tassels, streamers and colourful murals, India’s trucks dress to impress. With their owners spending the vast majority of their lives driving around in their livelihood, their trucks are decorated to represent their appreciation for the belching old beasts. A truck driver for ten years, Basushridhar supplies vegetables to the surrounding areas and regularly works until two in the morning, carting goods around. By the smell of today’s load, tonnes of onions are waiting in the back to be collected. Depending on the day, Basushridhar can earn between $4 and $10 AUD yet says he is hesitant to discuss his lower pay with his superiors for fear of it being taken away.
“It doesn’t work out well. Sometimes, the policeman takes it and sometimes it goes to somebody else.”