A walk of life: The vibrant saga of Delhi’s sidewalks

The city’s sidewalks are home to the homeless and a workplace for others. While they are a reflection of the myriad challenges of marginalized people, they also host simple joys like an afternoon slumber or a moment with friends over a meal

A walk of life: the vibrant streets of Delhi

(All photos: Ahona Sengupta)

India’s metropolitan cities make space for the urban poor in its own unique ways. Being the national capital of the country, Delhi is no different. 

One such space in the city is the sidewalk. Built for pedestrians to walk, the footpaths have their own stories. As one steps out of a plush residential colony and makes their way to a sidewalk, the most popular face in Delhi is that of a hawker selling hot fluffy kulchas with chhole on the side. Among a line of shops, are those offering a range of seasonal fruits for people to beat the Delhi heat. 

Even in the age of posh ice-cream parlours, carts selling icy delights on the footpaths never fail to have a queue of children and adults choosing their flavours, yet sticking to the evergreen Chocobar. 

Street food is not just delicious, it’s nostalgia for many! And only when one wanders the streets of Delhi, do they uncover the city and its dwellers. Ambling in its lanes, you encounter the informal city – where someone is weaving a floral garland, while people are huddled at the corner for piping hot tea and a puff of smoke, vehemently discussing how their day went.

In winter, sights of youth playing gully sports become more popular in contrast to the empty afternoon streets in summer

Usually, the streets in Delhi are a hub for sprawling hawkers, wandering peddlers, vendors in makeshift shops frying a pile of ram laddu or even pani puri, a cobbler busy repairing an office goer’s shoes that tore off midway, someone selling Momos with the mayonnaise and red chutney on the side. 

If not people, it’s home to lifeless vehicles stationed on the side, unable to find space in the crowded capital.

Besides, encountering a lone random tree branching out in a neighbourhood, where shops have popped up, is not rare.

Scenes in Delhi’s footpaths are bustling, yet idyllic. It provides the urban poor a means to earn a legitimate livelihood and adds to the city’s character.

 

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