Friday, 23 October 2015

The Wallahs Last Hurrah

We at PC Towers have occasionally posted on the sights and sounds that the 'modern world' is losing fast. These were primarily from my youth, but featured those from other countries that people had remarked upon losing.

In this case its the very real loss to the Indian public of the 'kabadi wallahs' ... aka 'rag and bone men' to those in the UK and 'totters' to other ex-colony English speaking nations. The kabadi wallahs are usually Dalits or 'untouchables' as they were once known, or Muslims. These usually form the bottom tiers of the post British Indian society.

Kabadi Wallahs Are Disappearing

Apparently the wallahs face a very uncertain future, as India's 40 million or so 'middle classes' become ever more 'westernised' (despite the efforts of nationalists to stop them), and start turning 'green'. The word 'green' can encompass a lot of ideas, especially in somewhere like South Asia, but in this context it means that instead of handing worn out but serviceable items of household goods, the middle classes are either 'recycling' themselves, or selling items on 'eBay India'.

Ironically, the final blow for the professional kabadi wallahs is that the new green Indian 'recycling' companies, who employ collectors who pay for the items collected, and that formerly were given away to be removed. So much so, that even where the kabadi wallahs can try and offer something for the waste, its not enough to compete with the recycling companies.

So soon, perhaps inside a decade, the last calls of 'Junk, bring out your junk', will be heard around the gated cantons and communities of Indian cities, and another little piece of history will have been wiped from the experience map, as 'globalisation' carries on relentlessly on the back of green capitalism.Some people may say good riddance to the old, and bring on the new, but for the bottom rung of the new Indian society such as the rubbish collectors, there is no alternative employment.


  1. I recall that the BBC TV show It Aint Half Hot Mum had a Punkawalla or maybe a Punkha wala? Anyway he used to pull the string that made the ceiling fan wave about. I bet that they are long gone. Killed by electricity if you see what i mean!!!

    1. Apparently a person selling, repairing or making fans, both handheld and electric, would still be known colloquially as a punkha wala, since the term means fan man. Still that's a TV show the PC brigade at the BBC don't repeat do they? Thanks for the comment.

  2. I was amazed to hear about the Dabbawallas of Mumbai who collect workers' lunchboxes from their homes every day and return them in the afternoon with unbelievable efficacy.

    1. There was a TV documentary on this a couple of years ago. Very interesting ...


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