Encounter at The Gateway of India

When you are entertaining guests from abroad, they always want to see The Gateway Of India. Funny how small silly Indian things satisfy them so. When we proceeded to the Gateway, it was pretty crowded for a thursday mid-afternoon.
After appropriately ooh-aahing they spotted a mehendi-wala ( maroon dye put on the palms in an intricate fashion) and the two girls and me included ofcourse had some done on our hands. Not the instant Mehendi. but the traditional paste. The man had just finished with the palm of one of my guests and was doing some on my forearm, when his aide started packing everything up. I looked at him questioningly and he said, “madam, police log aa rela hai” (madam, police men are coming this way). He assured me that he would take the money i owed him and promptly disappeared. I guess he mingled into the crowd since his entire stall had been packed into a small duffel bag.
Along came strolling a middle-aged policeman, with a typical pot belly and twirling a baton near his knee. Most of the vendors had run harrum scarrum and only a few were boldly standing in the policeman’s line of vision. I was wondering why they were not packing and running too because no one is actually allowed to hawk or peddle things and articles on the Gateway grounds.
The policeman-hawaldar by his looks- reached upto the big colddrinks stall smack behind the Gateway and in front of the sea. “Salaam saab” the owner said loudly. The hawaldar nodded.
“Khaana khaya kya saab” (have you had your lunch sir)
“Haan haan bas bas” the hawaldar says. (yeah yeah, enough)
“Kuch thanda du kya saab?” the man nonchanantly offers the policeman.(should i give you something cold to drink sir?). “Hmm-mm, dhandha kaisa hai?” (how is your business?)
“Bas aap ki dua hai saahib” ( its going good because of your blessings sir)

and he walks on. My mehendi wala is staring at the sea a little away and making a face. He looks like a normal lower class man whiling away him time at the Gateway, which is neither a crime nor a punishable offense. While the hawaldar is still strolling i went up to the mehendi wala to pay him, and questioned him. “Aap sab kyu bhaag gaye aur woh frooti wala kyu baitha raha? Woh hafta deta hai kya??” (why did all of you run away while the vendor selling frooti stay on? does he pay money {??extortion??} to the police?) I had guessed that that must be it, but I wanted to confirm once anyway.
“Madam”, he replied, ” hafta toh ham sab dete hai. Ham 100 rupya ek din ka dete hai, aur woh 300-400 deta hai.” (madam, even we pay money. But we pay only 100 rs. everyday while that guy gives 300 rs. everyday)
By now another man was hovering near by who put in his two penny worth too. “madam, ham log garib hai, din mein 300 kamate hai, police ko 300 denge toh ghar kya le jayenge. Uske upar toh yaha ke gundo ka haath hai. Woh unka damaad jo hai.. Isliye police aati hai toh bhaag jaate hai, bhale ham hafta toh har din ka dete hi hai. ” (we are poor people. we earn 300 in one day, if we give that to them then what do we take home. That guy has the local goons protecting him and paying for him. because he’s their son-in-law… thus when the police arrives we run away, although we pay them money too.)

I left them to go take pictures of the police, by now a lady constable has joined the earlier hawaldar. They first thought I was just taking normal pictures so they did not pay much attention (also I just had a cellophone in my hand to take the pictures from), but I guess I could not cover myself well enough, or maybe the frooti-wala informed them that I was taking their pictures. Which led them to think that I am journalist or something. And thus they hurried away from there.
The mehendi wala came and thanked me. “madam, aap se darr ke woh log jaldi bhaag gaye nahi toh hamara aaj ka business kharaab hota” (they(police) ran away quickly because they got scared of you, else our business for today would have decreased.)

I though this was highly ironic!! But I was pleased no doubt. If calculated there were around 30 vendors in the Gateway premises, if they give a minimum of 100 bucks daily they give 3000 rs to the police men daily. That means Rs. 90, 000 for 30 days!! Go figure!!

4 Comments so far

  1. KDS (unregistered) on June 11th, 2006 @ 11:48 am

    Their Heroine!!! But somehow I dont like the sound of tht.
    You never said whther he took the payment from you or were u rewarded for rescuing them??

  2. arZan (unregistered) on June 11th, 2006 @ 10:42 pm


    A very nice post. The gateway of india is one of my favorite spots to visit from my childhood. My grandfather used to take me there ever so often on sunday evenings, and on some days we would go for the boat ride too.

    Its sad that in recent times, they have cordoned off the gateway and no one can actually pass thru it.

    Ironic eh !

  3. Selma Mirza (unregistered) on June 11th, 2006 @ 11:33 pm

    Indeed ironic that one cannot pass through the gateway! I had my times of calling out to myself in the Gateway, and hear the walls call back my name :-)

  4. Zain (unregistered) on June 15th, 2006 @ 11:38 am

    Poor me. I was there last year and only saw the gateway from a moving car; couldn’t get out to see and feel that. It was raining on the whole six day trip to Mumbai. I love Mumbai.

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