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Unique Professions in India

by Shruti Agarwal


Mohammed Zahid has been selling Bansuri (flute) at the Kala Godha Art District in Mumbai for 13years now. He is from Faizabad, in U.P. He sells flutes from rupees 30 to rupees 300. He walks around the area playing the flute and calling out for customers. Many of his customers are foreign tourists. He earns an average 150 rupees a day. Sometimes even about 500 rupees a day.


According to a custom, in certain areas of Rajasthan, women are hired as professional mourners after the death of a male relative. These women are referred to as a ‘rudaali’ (roo-dah-lee), literally translated as female weeper. They in turn publicly express the grief of family members who are not permitted to display emotion due to social status. The rudaalis make a scene crying out loud. The impact of their mourning also compels other people at the funeral to cry.


The fortune teller with the bull walks around neighborhoods and market streets. His special bull would answer a set of questions by nodding its head in a yes or no. This fortune teller carries a small drum and collects alms, in cash and kind. Children and adults come out of the houses to watch them.


Maruti Bhai Rao is a 65 year old man, who travels in Mumbai with his weighing machine from KanjurMarg Station to Powai garden, spending a couple of days at each spot. He charges rupee 1 for enquiring a person’s weight once. He visits the garden during weekends and spends more time on the station during weekdays keeping in mind customer traffic. He manages to earn about 30-40 rupees a day. He has 5 sons - all of them work in Mumbai.


Mohammed Alim has a ‘junk collection’ shop at Lamington road, Mumbai for the past 5 years. He belongs to Lucknow, U.P. and has been working in Mumbai for the past 13 years. He used to Go about in neighborhoods to collect junk from houses and small shops before setting up the shop. He refused to disclose his monthly income.


This peanut seller sits at a bus stop near Crawford Market in Mumbai. He seasons the peanuts wit salt and lemon and sells them in paper cones and packets. He earns about rupees 3000 a month. His sales dip heavily during the rain months. He belongs to Allahabad and has been selling peanuts for the past 5 years. He used to sell fruit before that.


Santosh Sharma is a barber on Lamington Road in Mumbai. He has been in the profession for the past 20 years. His day starts early morning at 7:30, when he stays around VT Station as he gets more customers there in the morning. He stays in Dadar in Mumbai. His hometown is Banaras, U.P. and he belongs to a family of farmers. He earns about an average of rupees 200 a day and saves enough to go home to Banaras once every year.


This is a cart puller, who works at Crawford Market in Mumbai and carries loads within the area. He carries about 100-200kgs in each round and usually with the help of an assistant. Both men keep exchanging the pulling and pushing activities. He is paid according to the load and distance. He manages to earn about rupees 100 a day. He has been working as a coolie for the 5 years since he came to mumbai from Delhi, where he used to work in a biscuit factory.


Sheesh Lal belongs to Allahabad and has been working as a ‘coolie’ for over 5 years now. He carriers objects from shops to godowns, to vehicles for loading and off loading. He works on Mohammed Ali Road in Mumbai, earns about rupees 50 a day. He carries objects in a cane basket, which is supported on his head on a cloth bundle. When the basket is held vertical on his shoulder, it means he is available to work.


Sharad Mule is 32 years old and carries clay pots from shops to homes, market places, potters etc. for a living. He carries about 45-55 kg at a time sometimes. He starts work early in the morning and works through the day till 8 ‘o’ clock in the night. He earns about rupees 100 a day.


Dashrath kumar Choudhary is a photographer at the gateway of India in Mumbai since the past 40 years. He is the oldest photographer and the only one to own the polaroid instant photo machine. The influx of digital cameras has hugely affected the business of photographers at this tourist spot. He belongs to Allahabad in U.P. to a family of farmers. He earns about Rupees 400-500 a day, with some days also paying off nothing.


Ramesh is a balloon seller in the Kala Godha art district in Mumbai and spends most of his time at the Gateway of India monument. He carriers a large inflated balloon which is the signature style of most balloon sellers around the area. He sells a single deflated balloon for rupees 5 and roughly earns about rupees 100 a day.


From jodhpur, Rajasthan he has been making traditional indian leather footwear since childhood. His father was also a cobbler. Today, he sells his shoes through an agent to various shops in Delhi, Mumbai and Jaipur. He also crafts custom made shoes for customers. Shoes are priced in the price range of Rupees 100-200. His monthly income is about Rupees 5,000-8,000.


Bhim Singh is from Jodhpur Rajasthan. He plays the ‘shahnai’ at weddings, parties and festive occasions. He belongs to a family of music performers, who traditionally played in various cities and villages of Rajasthan. He belongs to a three member team of musicians all members of his extended family. He did not disclose his monthly income, but revealed he works through an agent. Most customers pay him according to their wishes.


Sona Bai and her family consisting of her son and his wife and two kids, comes from Pune and belongs to a family of antic performers. Her father used to perform in all major public functions in Pune. They show acrobatics and the traditional and famous tight rope walk. They play the ‘dholak’ (drum) while performing and talk in the native language ‘marathi’ to show scenes and build a story. She has been performing since she was 8 years old. She did not disclose the income she makes out of this profession.

In India, paan plays an important part in social life, customs and traditions. It is a beetle leaf filled with condiments and often relished by many, after food and on traditional occasions. This paanwaala has a permanent shop at Colaba in Mumbai for the past 30 years. He considers making paan to be an art, almost like painting. His paans sell from rupees 5 to rupees 250 each, depending upon what has been added in it and the quality of the leaf.


Subhash works at a sugarcane Juice stall, owed by Ram Avtaar who is addressed as ‘seth’ by all workers at the stall. He came from Bihar with a few cousins to work at the stall about 7 years ago. The day begins at 8:30 in the morning and ends at about 10:30 in the night. He works on a monthly wage of rupees 3000. The sugarcane juice is a favourite among the people and he sells a glass full for rupees 5.


This Lemon Soda seller sells fresh lime soda for rupees 5 a glass and has been doing so since the past 11 years. He procures ice from an ice merchant nearby and water from a water seller in the area.


Narayan Salve is from Aurungabad, Nagpur, but has been in Mumbai since he was a teenager. He and his son sell flowers near Kanjurmarg Railway Station. He also has a few small rooms which he gives on rent for accommodation to earn more money. Selling a roses for rupees 5 each and garlands for rupees 7 each, he earns about 100-150 rupees a day. He felt as long as he and his family could eat a day’s meal ,all is fine.


This lottery ticket seller, sells tickets on Lamington Road in Mumbai for rupees 5 each, for lotteries of about rupees 5-10 lacs. He starts his day in the morning at about 9’o’ clock and sits throughout the day till evening 6:30-7:00 pm. He came to mumbai about 8 years back from Lucknow, U.P. and has been selling lottery tickets since. He earns about 5000 rupees a month.


A dhobi is a washerman in India. Dhobis go from house to houes collecting dirty clothes from households. After a day or two, they return the linen washed, sometimes starched and ironed. Dhobis were the forerunners on the Indian subcontinent to modern professional dry cleaners.
In Mumbai, this place where the Dhobi's wash their clothes is called 'Dhobi Ghat'

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