Posted by: cochinblogger | December 30, 2010

The Dhol Sellers

One evening, as I was ruminating on the state of the world over a glass of vodka in my favorite bar, three youngsters trooped in and occupied the adjacent table. They ordered their drinks, and began talking among themselves in Hindi. Now, I was brought up in Calcutta, and anytime I hear Bengali or Hindi, I’m immediately reminded of my time in that great city. I don’t normally talk to strangers in bars, but feeling expansive after a glass of vodka, I began talking to my neighbor in Hindi.

It turned out they had come all the way from Delhi to sell a traditional percussion instrument called the dhol (see http://www.dholfoundation.com). Raju’s (he was clearly the leader; see photo below) native place was Rajasthan, while his companions belonged to Uttar Pradesh. All three sold dhols in Delhi for a living.

I see many such migrant vendors on the streets of Cochin, and I’ve always wondered whether they did good business here. I put this question to Raju. His answer was surprising. He said they got excellent business from the tourists here.Well, were there not tourists in Delhi, I asked? Yes, he said, but the tourists here were prepared to pay a much better price for the dhols. He said they timed their visits to coincide with the arrival of luxury cruise liners at Cochin port, and from these passengers, they were often paid fantastic amounts in U.S. dollars.

Now, that stunned me. Imagine street vendors in Delhi planning their itinerary around the movements of luxury cruise liners in Cochin!

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