On the dusty sidewalks, inches away from the busy traffic, there exists a kind of alternative consumer reality here. Street vendors are not starter businesses that aspire to work hard and some day afford the rent on a store. They are Dalits (or untouchables) who do not have many rights (including the right to rent property) that higher castes hold. There is a whole world of fruit vendors, cobblers, barbers –sales people of anything really–who set up for business on the side of the road and sell what they can to passersby. I suspect mainly to other Dalits.
I’m ashamed to admit that I rarely buy from them. They simply never sell anything I need, or their produce is so covered in roadside dust and grime that it is very unappealing. Yet I see the same vendors time and time again selling paltry little piles of something every single day, clearly enough to eek out some kind of income.
Its the fruit vendors that are the most eye catching with bursts of colour against the grey drabness of the pavement. Seasonal bananas and mangos from Nepal…grapes from India…apples from China. I particularly enjoyed these colourful carts.