Fun-filled, traumatic, joyous, troublesome, boring, cruel, pleasing, satisfying, challenging, tempting, misleading - yes Life is full of 'em - that is why life is so very SPECIAL - and yet the thrill is in "living" life! And all the accompanying ordeals are the frills attached with the thrills.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Where have they gone?

My current place of residence has been my home for many many years and looking back, there is a radical change in the neighbourhood. The most obvious one is socialising with fellow neighbours which has been on a drastic decline (sadly!) and other is the absence of many many street vendors. In due course, we even don't seem to notice their absence. Here are some of the 'once-familiar' tones which is on the decline or completely absent these days.

Ammi polayalayo (or whatever that is!) : The lady with a hammer and chisel. The eye-catching attire is when she bundles the hammer and chisel onto her head and carries her baby in her saree. She is the one who chisels the often used ammi and kozhavi (mortar/pestel). When the mortar-pestel are used often, the rough surface becomes smooth, thereby taking more time for the ingredients to get ground. More and more people turning towards mixies and motor grinders, seemed to have had a big effect on these poor people.

Krishnaaaaa...aayil : This was how the kerosene vendor went about marketing his 'krishna oil'. I wonder if the blue tint given to kerosene (to prevent illegal trading) gave this common name. The vendor used to pull a bright yellow coloured cylindrical steel tin mounted on two tyres.

Uppu thatha : The frail thatha with a contrasting white moush and hair was a friend of the kids. The only dress we saw him in was a cotton cloth wrapped around his waist. He used to tirelessly go about selling his uppu (salt) from street to street. I hardly see him these days.

Saana(m) pidikaradhe... : The man carrying a cycle wheel structure attached to a wooden structure with a pedal and a sharpening stone used for sharpening blunt knives, aruvaals and importantly arugamanais. I am sure the whole 'machine' was his own design and self-made. Sad that many of our conventional inventions have either gone unnoticed or unappreciated.

Jodrippair : Maybe it was 'Jot repair'. I know people refer to shoes as jot (as in 'jottala adippen'), but don't know if its the same. I used to go ga-ga over the cobbler's tool bag. Almost all of his tools are made from a used product. The needle would be nicely packed in a rubber stamp handle, the scrapper would be a shoe polish tin lid and the way he makes the stitches - wow! For me, its a treat to watch anyday!

Kulfikaaran : Though I do see them in the beach, their daily rounds in the streets seem to have reduced a lot. The bell was the kulfikaaran's trademark sound with a petro-max light hanging on his tri-cycle. In our street, our family was probably the only one buying kulfi from him but nevertheless he was popular in many areas. What is reminiscent of the kulfikaaran is his sweat clad face seeming very ghost-like when seen above his petro-max light. I used to watch in awe the way he takes out the kulfi from the metal/plastic-rimmed containers with a knife and slice it up. He would place it on a dry leaf (forgot the name of that leaf). The taste used to be awesome though I used to get odd tastes in between. Some of my friends have warned that the water/way of making might not be very hygenic but the kulfis haven't troubled me so far!

Soan papadi wala : Just like the kulfikaaran, the soan papadi wala is confined to the beaches these days. When I think about the son papadi boy, I am amazed when I realise that I have not spoken a word with him nor have I heard his voice. His arrival was signalled by his bell and the huge bell jar would be tied firmly with a rope to the wheeled cart.

Kadalai vandi : Very similar traits as the soan papadi boy. His trademark sound was the roasting sound of sand and groundnuts on an iron wok with an iron spatula. He would bang the spatula on the wok to announce his prescence. I still remember the words 'MINIMAM 25 paisa' written in a very bad handwriting and bad spelling in front of his cart. It was 10p earlier, then it became 25, later 50 and now I think its 1 Re minimam, sorry minimum! Whenever I got groundnuts from him, my eyes would fall upon the books which he probably got from the old paper mart for selling his groundbuts. Most often, there used to be some kind of text books like Chemistry, Maths and I used to wonder then "aah! what is this guy doing? This guy doesn't know its worth"

Kaikari paatti : Though the tri-cycle cart vendors still visit our streets, the paattis (grandmother) carrying the vegetable basket are not to be seen these days. One should see how the different varities of vegies are neatly arranged in that one round basket. A cloth bundled as a bun on her head would act as a support for the basket and she would sit in the verandah for hours chatting with the ladies of the house. I remember helping the paatti lift the basket and place it on her head when she is about to leave and boy! that is some weight! Imagine having to carry such weight in the scorching sun across many streets. Hmm... what grit!

Paal cover, buddi, papaaar : The old newspaper man is still prominent but the number of them has drastically reduced. In those days, scent bottles, plastics were his best buys and so was iron. During our childhood days, we always used to mimic his tone and the nice paperkaaran used to smile back - not minding our childish mocks. One of the paperkaarans of our street who has been around for a long time has his son studying in one of the good schools in our locality. Isn't that great news?

One thing which is common among these people is their sincerity to earn money instead of resorting to cheap tactics like begging, stealing and other means. I can't imagine myself in their shoes. I can afford to be lazy on a day and forgo going to work but to them each day counts. Its not a question of wanting to become rich but to ensure their family gets their next course meal. My salutations to their grit, determination, hard work and endurance. They do teach us some lesson - don't they?


simplemissie said...

Lets call it hmmm...modernisation...Things around us change so fast na?

Marutham said...

Nice blog..... NIce title..

Yeah I miss The Soan Papadi kaaran- although appa never prefers to buy, epiyaavadhu Amma will(Appaku theriyaamal ;) ) And Paal papaar.... Adhuvum kanalA!!!

Elaam Mobile technology vandha kaalam- indha mobile WALA's kaanum.

Ravi said...

Maybe its due to modernisation or mindset of people. I guess people take more pride is visiting a hep outlet than buying from the street vendors.

Thanks! ha ha I liked the last pun punch!

Thanks for coming by and please do keep visiting (but I am very irregular in updating my blog). Your blog is fascinating. I wonder how I missed your nice blog all this while. I'll remember to visit yours often.

Balaji S Rajan said...


A great post! So nice of you to have remembered them. I think I should meet you. I have always wondered at those people. Sometimes, when I find life going very materialistic I used to take a day off and just sit at home. Oh..those wonderful days. I used to lie on my ease chair near the gate under the Neem tree with a book or favourite newspaper just to hear the sound of those vendors and their conversations. Our neem tree used to give shade on the road and it used to be fun to listen to those vendors who used to gather in the shade during the sunny afternoon to take rest. I still remember the uppu thatha..who used to sing... Vellikizhamai Vellai Uppu..... and also the man who used to sell......."Arai..pppp.Podi...." Also the fruit vendor who used to sell "Valai palam..... pannandu...palam oru pa...". Few years before, I heard a old voice whom I have not heard for many years. I rushed outside and called him. We introduced ourselves. He was not there for many years on the roads since he had gone out of place. He remembered us and said that we have grown and he could not identify us. We recalled how he used to sell "Ilanthaipazham...". This time he was selling lemon and he gave a dozen extra and my wife wondered at such people. One of the paper selling old man,visited us and said that he will not be visting us anymore, since he has grown old and finds it difficult to cycle. I took pictures of him, and he later visited for extra copies to send to his relatives abroad. I still have a copy and even wanted to put a post about him. You have fulfilled my thoughts. Thanks for your post. It brought back nostalgic memories. I am sure the future generations are going to miss such characters.

Ravi said...

Balaji Sir,
First a big thanks for your lovely comment (it made a write-up by itself ;-)). Amazingly the love & hospitality showered by such people is unmatched which goes to prove that these qualities don't necessarily come with money or education (like the incident where the thatha gave you extra lemons). Some which I missed are the kola podi kaaran (kolaaaaa maave...), the plastic bucket (bugeeet) silver saamaan (who gives buckets/vessels in exchange for old clothes & saris).

Your description of the easy chair under a neem tree was picture perfect. I could literally visualize it. Balaji Sir, it would be an honour for me to meet you. Please do let me know when you come to Chennai. We could definitely catch up.

Marutham said...

Hm...I wonder too...How did i miss your page! :) Well now that we know!! Thanku for your comment on the post abt my tour! :) It was too kiddish/stupid of me...Isnt it? :) Now am doing really better..Ofcourse, having a fun time with mom & dad... Am not a person who can putup a long face for long.. :) That too not with parents :P ! SO me back on my track!:) Soon going to post something really funny... :)

Waiting for your next post!


Marutham said...

//Looking at the other side, appa knew that he could rely on you just like in this case where he felt you would be the best person to control the situation. //
IDha naan engayo ketrukken..... :> Sound very much familiar! Some1 really close - a blood realtive's-words!!

Hm...fishy!! Does your real name by any chance start with A?

Ravi said...

M, Great to know that you eventually did have a good time - see I told u!.
Fishy??? About me? :-)) Well, Ravi *is* my real name.

Stephanie said...

Ravi...happy birthday to you!!!!!

Marutham said...

Whre have you gone?? :P...Heehee...enga poiteenga- no post recently??

sthupit girl said...


It's been ages. damn I just realised how busy i've been. will definately visit more often, now that i finally have time. Though, i don't think it's going to last. Sigh.

And you apparently haven't really being missing me :)

Hope alls well,

Yours forever sthupitly.

Ravi said...

I had to travel last week and so could not post. Maybe it'll take a while before I make a post again. But I'll keep visiting other blogs. So remember to remember me ;-)

I was not the one to forget. I have been visting your blog and am up to date with all your post (just that I didnt reply to 'em). Good you remembered ;-) Keep visiting again and enjoy the free time.

simplemissie said...

New post please.

simplemissie said...

Just out of curiosity. Do you write or have written poems before?
Won a very big award for the same several years back.If I were to use the first 3 initials of ur name would it be R.V.I.

Ravi said...

Soumya, sorry I didn't get the second part of your question - first 3 initials of my name? Well actually Ravi *is* my real name ;-)

New post - I'll try my best. I am out of India right now and am feeling so home sick. Hope I can get into the groove pretty soon.

Siva said...


Arumayana article.. appadiye konja neram malarum ninaivugalthan... few more ppl missing here.. 'Thayirkar..','kodai repair' (during rainy season), veetu vaasala ninnu suthura chinna ratnam.. ice vandikar... pepsi vandi... baloonkar.. (durrr durrnu oru soundoda varuvar)... innum neraya...

anyhow thanks for kindling my memories.. :-)

Ravi said...

Welcome here. And thanks for adding to the list. Yes, your list further kindled my memory :) Keep visiting Siva.