Sunday, May 7, 2017

Ram Singh, the Hawker of India

Ram Singh, the Hawker of India

I met Ram Singh, an old man in his 60s. He is a hawker, selling chana chatpati (crispy chickpeas) in Ahmedabad city for last 25 years. He lives at Saraspur in a room paying ₹3000/month. When he came in 1990, the room rent was only ₹100/month. 

Are you selling chana chatpati for last 25 years? Ha Sahab. Children who ate my chatpati became doctors, engineers and when they meet ask the same question, chacha, are you still selling the chatpati ? 

How could you sustain with only one activity of hawking chickpeas for 25 years? When I asked further, he explained his life story. He belongs to a village of Bharatpur District of Rajashthan. He hails from a poor Brahmin family, doesn't have land for cultivation. His wife and three children are living in the village in Rajashthan. His elder daughter did BA and got married, the middle son is in the last year of BTech in Jaipur, and the younger son is in Std 10. His wife rears two cows and manage the household expenditure. He earns ₹250-300/day, pay rent, spend some money on food and rest the savings, send home for his family. He makes the chatpati himself and manages his family for 25 years. 

When I knew that he is a Brahmin, I asked one more question. You could have earn more from rituals of marriages etc, being a Brahmin, I tried to explore his avenues. Na  ji, I am illiterate as my father didn't give me education. I don't know hymns etc. Me and my chatpati are okay for my family needs. He replied. 

You are Brahmin and your name is Ram Singh, it doesn't match. I asked him a logical question. He couldn't reply just said it is a tradition in their family to write Singh after the first name. When somebody lives in a place away from home, in another state, name itself gives basic security writing Singh as suffix, I presume.

There are thousands of families in India, may not be earning $2 day day for each of their family members. Nearly 90% India lives in informal sector. Children of rich families born with a silver spoon in their mouth, can do whatever they like as their parents spend handsome money after their education, comforts and development. But for the poor, survival is the basic need. And within that constraint, if somebody like Ram Singh educate his son in BTech or graduate his daughter, it is a big success story of life. And that has been achieved following utmost honesty and maintaining the culture of India. Where does the Indian culture and honesty live? It lives in the heart of the common people, the informal sector of India. 

US developed with the model of Spending Economy. They earn and they spend. India is growing with savings economy. We earn and increase our bank balances. If people start spending on the products and services of the informal sector, it is not only an activity of buying goods or services but a contribution to the development of the families living in Informal India.

If you are passing by the Bata Shoe Store, opposite of Sales India, Ashram Road Ahmedabad, stop for a minute, don't miss the chance to enjoy the chickpeas chatpati of Ram Singh, the hawker of India.

Salute Ram Singh

7 May 2017


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