Selling tri-coloured dreams on the roads

August 14th, 2008 - 12:45 pm ICT by IANS  

By Azera Rahman
New Delhi, Aug 14 (IANS) It had started raining again and, like always, the traffic slowed down amid a lot of groans from the queuing cars on one of the capital’s roads. As if from nowhere, eight-year-old Chintu came hopping by with his sunshine smile and brandished his tri-coloured ware on everyone’s faces. While some shooed him off, most commuters, for lack of nothing else to do and taken by his sunny disposition, started talking to him and skimmed through the items he was selling.

Wearing his patched shirt and dragging along a worn out pair of slippers, Chintu couldn’t stop smiling that day - he had had a good sale.

“August 15 is just here, no? That’s why I have no problem selling my stuff,” Chintu told IANS gleefully.

Miniatures of the national flag, those on tiny stands which can be placed on the car dashboard and at homes and tri-coloured kites are some of Chintu’s wares on display, like most other street kids’.

Festivals such as Diwali and Christmas and national celebrations like the Independence Day mean a lot to the street children who make their living at the traffic lights.

According to Kailash Satyarthi, chairperson of the Bachpan Bachao Andolan, there are more than 5,000 street kids selling different things on Delhi’s roads.

Unlike other days when these kids are greeted with groans and motorists roll up their windows, these festivities bring in good cheer for them as they have better sales and are able to bring more money home.

Take Rajashri Mondal for instance.

The week preceding Independence Day has been very good for her family thanks to the good sales.

“I have a mother and three younger sisters. My sister has also been selling flags this time but hasn’t been able to do as well as me. She manages to sell around five or six flags. She’s still learning,” said the older sister, all of 12 years.

“But in all we have been getting better money than usual…so we are happy,” she smiled a toothy smile standing at the intersection near Moti Bagh in south Delhi.

Pointing at her ware, she said that she gets them from Sadar Bazaar, the capital’s wholesale market.

“I bought each flag for Re.1 and I sell them at the rate of Rs.10 for four flags. The miniature flag stand is for Rs.10,” she said, holding one of the flags, made of glossy paper and plastic.

But neither Chintu nor Rajshri is happy with the incessant rain that has been hitting Delhi.

“It’s raining non-stop! People don’t roll down their windows because of that and those in the autos refuse to even look out. Even we can’t afford to run around and get all our stuff wet,” Chintu complained.

But, overall, they are quite happy with their sales.

“At least people are more open and eager to buy our goods around this time of the year. Even if they don’t, we can push them into buying it,” Raghu, another kid, said mischievously.

And he has a valid point.

Aashika Jain, a marketing executive, for instance, said that she has a collection of miniature flags that she has bought at the different red lights during the traffic jams.

“Every time I think that I have had enough of these, but when these kids come up to you and request you to buy at least one flag, I feel what’s the harm in spending Rs.5 and making their day? We don’t think twice before shelling out Rs.100 on a cup of coffee. Then how does this matter?” she reasoned.

Boney Dewan, a swimming trainer, said that on Independence Day he goes out on a long drive along the capital’s empty roads and comes back home with an armful of tri-coloured ware.

“Call it patriotism or whatever, on Independence Day I just give in to buying as many flags as I can! It brings smiles on the faces of street kids from whom I buy the stuff…overall it’s a happy feeling.”

(Azera Rahman can be contacted at azera.p@ians.in)

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