Just saw a school girl, returning home after attending afternoon school shift, enjoying the last drop of her manchow soup from a roadside vendor. At Rs10 for a soup bowl that contains some veggies also, the girl seemed to be having a good deal that was value for her hard earned pocket money. And it’s not only the neighbourhood Chinese stall that sells a soup bowl for Rs10, half a plate of veg chowmein for Rs30 and some manchurian for Rs.25, but also a dosa stall giving crispy hot masala dosa for Rs25, idlis and vadas at Rs5 apiece and fluffy onion Uthappam for Rs30, served with two types of chutneys and sambhar. And a rice plate for Rs40 is a full meal comprising two chapatis, vegetable, dal, rice and pickle. Mumbai’s vada paav is still a hearty meal for Rs10 while samosa, India’s favourite snack at Rs10 a piece is great accompaniment for a cup of hot tea that costs another Rs10. Bhelpuri, sukha bhel, singh chana mix, popcorn at Rs5 or Rs10 are great energy boosters for a tired person.
The thought of this blog came to me when I saw that small school girl whetting her hunger and satisfying her taste buds by having Rs10 soup and this sight changed my views diametrically. Having visited some of the iconic overseas locations, I had become a stickler for cleanliness and orderliness. The wide and well appointed pavements bereft of encroachment by vendors, spic and span with not even a hint of dirt, people strolling or cycling lazily that I got exposed to while being abroad, made me strongly abhor the congested, fully encroached, dirty, uneven pavements of Mumbai. I also detested trash being disposed on roads and pavements by these roadside vendors. But the above sight has changed it all. Even an ordinary sweet shop sells samosa for Rs20 that can go up to Rs30 in a more upmarket restaurant. A meal in a 5 star hotel can cause as much as Rs2500 per head! When the not so well off elements of the society can be served hot delicacies at affordable prices, why should the elite resent these food shops for encroaching pavement? I am planning a different mission from henceforth- I will strive for regularising these small vendors by helping them get licence, sensitising them to improving hygiene, telling them to put up their stalls at strategic locations that do not block a pavement fully and educating them on trash management. Freshly cooked, hotly served and deliciously prepared affordable food is the right of the deprived of this country. It also provides self employment to millions of budding entrepreneurs . We only need to manage them more intelligently and scientifically.