Saturday, May 30, 2009

City Secret – Bollywood Seller, Ballimaran

The Delhi walla's pretension in writing makes me want to lodge a bullet in his balls - Blogger Nimpipi, the woodchuck chucks
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Bollywood Seller, Ballimaran

Selling Shah Rukh in Ghalib’s territory.

[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Mr Arif Khan’s business establishment stands a few steps away from Ghalib’s last haveli in Ballimaran, an Old Delhi neighborhood best known for being the address of... well, Ghalib’s last haveli.

Ironically, Mr Khan’s cart has no book by Ghalib. That doesn’t embarrass him - “I’m illiterate, can’t read,” he says.

Ghalib-lovers might beat their chest but then how many in this city read him?

Mr Khan has other knick-knacks that will make you forget the Delhi’s greatest poet. Like his collection of hundreds of not-so-new Bollywood picture postcards: early Shah Rukh Khans; baby Saif Ali Khan in a romantic pose with the matronly Sridevi, baby Saif Ali Khan in a romantic pose with a male actor(!) and for the naughty, there is even the saucy Mandakini (who showed her you-know-what in the 80s hit Ram Reri Ganga Maili).

Call it masala mix. If Ballimaran is a fossilizes relic of what Delhi used to be, then Mr Khan’s postcards are what Bollywood was till a few decades ago. But filmstars are not the only commodity here. Athlete types can buy postcards of tennis player Sania Mirza. There are WWF wrestlers, too - all for a rupee each. The same cards which admittedly look tacky here turn arty in Hauz Khas galleries where they would sell for not less than Rs 50(!)

From where does Mr Khan get this stuff? “I go to Sadar Bazaar and there it comes from Bombay,” he says.

Five years ago, Mr Khan was employed in a small Ballimaran firm that made lampshades. Then the Chinese goods invaded the bazaar and killed the Indian lamp trade and Mr Khan literally had to come out on the street, this Ballimaran street – Gali Qasim Jaan.

While nothing sells like Bollywood, Mr Khan's other blockbusters are beedis, rings, toffees, chips, aamras, gutkas, rubber-bands, combs and other things I cannot recall. However, despite his houseful cart, his heart is rather empty.

Mr Khan is in his 40s (he looks older) and still without a partner - no wife, no lover. “I stay with my chacha, chachi,” he says, “and I didn’t marry because there is no place in our one-room house in Ballimaran.” Doesn’t he feel lonely? “It’s OK,” he says with a slow shrug.

With a daily income of around Rs 200, lower than the price of a pizza at Khan Market’s Café Turtle, Mr Khan could have barely supported a family. Life anyway is tough even without it. Look at his weather-beaten face, graying hair and stooped shoulders. But hard times notwithstanding, Mr Khan has a polite old-world charm around him. I will visit him again. For his sake and for Shah Rukh's.

Where Next to Skyoptics, Near Ghalib's haveli, Galli Qasim Jaan, Ballimaran Time 11am-11pm

Mr Khan and his cart

Bollywood Seller, Ballimaran

Life's tough but that's ok

Bollywood Seller, Ballimaran

Ghalib's haveli

Dead Poet's House

That's Shahid, in a store near Mr Khan's cart

Goggles like His


LumousP said...

Thats what happens in a country with a B-I-G film industry. it tends to eat other things up.

Ibanov, Sir Rekaf said...

Life's tough. Unfortunately, the urban youth doesn't acknowledge the fact. Or maybe there's just too much money in today's world, which is somehow beyond the reach of people like Arif here.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr.Soofi. You seem to know a lot about Bollywood. What's the movie scene like in Pak ? Do you also have shows opening on Friday nights, PVRs and multi-plexes ?

I am not a big movie fan, and I think that bollywood stars are more personalities than actors - you know what I mean. I like Kareena, Tabu, Aamir and Priety.

About 15-20 years ago there was this craze of Pakistani TV Plays - like, 'Dhoop Kinare' and 'Tanhaeia'. We used to get the videos from rental shops. Nowadays there is this TV Talk Show host who is a cross-dresser, doing the rounds in Pak TV.

- Delhi Female

Rima Kaur said...

but a rupee is tiny.

Rajiv said...

hey soofi bro,tujhe to koi girl kabhi aankhiyon se goli maar degi :D

blogtrotter said...

well, ur insights on delhi did help me have a good look at delhi last year during my stay for studies.
i even happen to make a small travel documentary on chandni chowk. the pics on ur blog is refreshing....

Chotta Betaal said...

Mar diyaa ... Sufi ..

You got your finger on the pulse of Dilli ... thank you for sharing

What evokes the charm ... the nostalgia of Dilli ... IS THOSE INCIDENTAL run-in's ... specially in Old Delhi side ... thanks for sharing that 'old world charm ... the subtletly ...

The mindless Nehruvian Dabbe-pe-Dabba, Sector-by-Sector, DDA architecture ... the equally jarring nouveau ... hehe ... boorish ...Punjabi-Baroque Bangla's, the ugly Bihari-Bhaiyya auto mafia ... they just don't do it for me;)

CP ghettoised .. still holds it's own ... even Vs. wanna-be numbing & sterilised Gurgaon or Noida (.. wot a name, sector-by-sector ... like a giant ... meat-packing plant ... for humans). CP renovated would be something else ... no:) Ahhhhhh ... memories ...

Instead of cordoning CP off re: preservation, they gone ... doggone off & put in the Metro, smack dab in the middle (... do they call it Rajiv Indira Jawaharlal Gandhi Metro Station ;)??? )Central Stn. Metro fad is on ... now, r they gonna to put a Helipad, ... hehe ... India make it's own helicopter .. methinks .. Dhruv ... so y not helipad ... new fad ...

Is there an 'auto-rickshaw' museum in Dilli yet, godd idea methinks!

(Pavan C. Joshi)

Rishi Kant Pathak said...

Hi Mayank,i like the way you have written about have given me the chance to remember my old days in delhi.

anjali said...

life is tough even for those who earn more than that...