Author: Shail Raghuvanshi

A Knife for Life!

Two women, Ria and Shanta Bai, belonging to different economic strata, do not just work in the same office. Piquantly their lives have many parallels too. Ria, a divorcee, and Shanta Bai, a widow, have similar challenges. Find out how Shanta Bai inspired Ria to deal with life, in the short story by Shail, as […]

Kedar Basha Sharpens Knives and Lives without Remorse

A native of Harichandrapuram village, in Tiruvallur district of Tamil Nadu, around 62km from Chennai, Kadar Basha has been a knife sharpener for the past 30 years. Pragmatic and down to earth, he began sharpening knives as a boy. His grandfather was a pious and charitable man, who donated four acres of land for a mosque. Whatever remained […]

Life is Hard for Amudha but she is Tender like the Coconuts she Sells!

It’s scary to see the bike riders in black coloured clothes in the backdrop of the Jallikattu protests in Chennai. Unfazed by all this is Amudha, who sells tender coconuts on the wayside. Despite the hardships of life, she is not a bitter cynic. She plans for the future and also splurges. For her younger son’s wedding, she spent […]

Despite Hearing Disability Kadar ekes out a Living Selling Socks

Life is not easy for 61-year old Kadar. Though he is neither sad nor depressed, asking about his hearing disability is a delicate task. He lost his hearing ability at around six years, when his father had slapped him hard. He avoided his father for the rest of his life. He had a shop in Burma Bazar for […]

Broken and Lonely, Raju, the Vegetable Seller, Loves Crows

Thirty-six-year-old Raju, a vegetable seller, is lonely and broken. He was blamed for theft by his cousin, who was later caught red–handed, and lost his job. His wife was poisoned by his sister-in- law and she left him. He tries hard to make both ends meet, caring for his aged father. He wishes a child to call him […]

Bamboo Weaving, a Dying Craft, Makes Life Difficult for Gopi

Fifty-two-year- old Gopi had been working on a Chennai sidewalk for the past 30 years. Maybe, the tree that was a part of his handmade work hanging on one of its branches, witnessed the ups and downs in this bamboo weaver’s business. A native of Chennai, he inherited traditional family business from his father. There is hardly any work these days. A lone man, carrying of a business that is a thing of the past, shows how things have changed. Shail profiles life on the streets, in the regular column, exclusively for Different Truths.

Mohammed Rubin: He Journeys from Riches to Rags with Grace!

Fifty-two-year-old Mohammed Rubin runs a wayside eatery in a small kiosk. He says that he wasn’t always in the eatery business. For 15 years he worked in Saudi Arabia, in the shipping business. When he returned to India, in 2013, he decided to start some business. For almost three years, he suffered. Whichever business he did, failed. It […]

Life is no Magic Carpet for Salman in a Faraway Land!

Twenty-eight-year-old Salman is from Bhadohi, in East Uttar Pradesh. He was just 8-year-old, when he came to Chennai with his father. He and his six brothers are all in the business of selling carpets and rugs, a business that their father did. But, life is a faraway land is difficult. Though he had little education, he has […]

The Life and Times of an Unknown Flower Seller and a Spirit Healer, Banumathy

At 45 years, Banumathy is grandmother of seven grandchildren. A native of Madurai is one of a kind. She is not just a flower seller; she is a spirit healer, who until a few years back would suddenly flare up in religious processions and become possessed with the Devi (goddess). She would help people possessed with evil spirits […]

Life on Pavements: Memory and Instinct helps Mahalingam understand Books

Very few people are able to give back to society what they never got from it. Mahalingam, as this 68-year- old second-hand bookseller, is known, studied only till class three. But he understands books instinctively. His memory is his saviour. He can read 20% of the books’ covers. He says, “I am able to sell books at cheap […]

Selvam, a Mobile Tailor, who Sewed the Tatters of his Life

Life often deals a nasty blow when you least expect it. This is what happened to Selvam, a mobile tailor by profession whose arrogance brought about his downfall. An accident and his wife’s faith in his goodness changed it all. His karma made him rise like a phoenix from the ashes of his being. Shail profiles the 36-year […]

Rani: A Lonesome Cobbler Woman of Chennai, Forsaken and Forlorn!

Twenty years ago, 60-year- old Rani Perumal, a native of Chennai was thrown out, mercilessly, on the road, by her daughter. She did not want her mother in her life anymore. Her married daughter, with children, was having an affair. She was cast away because her mother objected to her wayward life. With nowhere to go, she wandered […]

Clarence John: A Bike Repairman, Wayward to Devout Christian

A native of Chennai, 51-year-old Clarence John has been running a bike repair shop on the pavement for the past 20 years. He was wayward, would drink heavily but later he changed. A devout Roman Catholic, his bike repair shop, looks more like a shrine. Shail profiles the life of a faceless person, on the streets, in […]

Ashokan, a Modest and Unassuming Tea Seller

Shail profiles modest and unassuming, Ashokan, a tea seller with a pushcart outside Shastri Bhavan. He began work early, at the age of 12, as a child labour, in a village departmental store. His small pay was insufficient to raise a family. He came to Chennai to better his prospects. A god fearing family man, he speaks in […]

A Modest Auto Driver, Narayan, Dreams Big!

Shail profiles a reticent, young auto driver, Narayan. He is soft-spoken and has good values. Though doing a small job, he has his eyes set of the goals of his life. And he is working hard to attain them. Ordinary people often face their daily hardships but some like Narayan remain focussed. Here’s an interesting account of a […]

Street Smart and Happy, Sulochana is a Vibrant Charmer!

The streets of Chennai nurtured Sulochana for more than four decades. The 53-year- old vibrant woman, full of vivacious energy, began helping her mother, at the fruit and vegetable shop on the wayside, from the tender age of 10. A Telugu, hers was a love marriage with a Tamilian. Despite hardships she is chirpy. Shail talks to a […]

Devarajan Learnt Hard Lessons of Life Selling Tender Coconuts

A humble and modest man, Devarajan, has been selling tender coconut on the pavements of Chennai, for nearly three decades. He took over the traditional work, at 18 that his father was doing. With little education, he is god fearing, hardworking and resolute. Shail profiles the man on the street, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths. […]

The Life of a Flower Seller on the Streets of Chennai

Life isn’t rosy for Hamsa, a 60-year- old flower seller on a street of Chennai. Unlettered, she is at times cheated by some customers. She educated her three daughters and only son. Shail delves into the life and times of the old flower-girl. Here’s a slice of oral history of the street dwellers, as part of the weekly […]

Lakshmi Slogged in a tea Kiosk, Educated Children, Bought two Houses

Surmounting many odds, 40-year- old Lakshmi, helped her husband manage the wayside tea kiosk. Two helper boys were fudging accounts. They were thrown out and she put her shoulder to the wheel to help her husband run it efficiently. The couple slogged. The kiosk would open at 4.30am and would remain open till 10.30pm. They take turns to […]

Venkatesha: A Lonesome Cobbler Stayed Back as Others Left the Pavement

Venkatesha has been working as a cobbler for the past 50 years. He has been sitting on the same pavement for almost half a century. New buildings have sprung up around him during this time. The way of life has changed during this period. The cost of living has risen. Everything has changed except his job and his […]

Minnal Braved Many Brutalities, Educated Children Against all Odds

Minnal Kodai, her name means ‘a streak of lightning’, had a harsh and brutal life. Orphaned at the age of 10, she worked as a maid from childhood. Marriage brought no respite. Frail in body, fierce in spirit, she became a flower-fruit- and-vegetable seller. Barely making two ends meet, she educated her two children. Shail profiles her oral […]

Malathy was pushed out to the Streets to eke out a Living after a Mill Shutdown

  A matriculate, Malathy used to work in a garment mill for seven years after she got married. But, the mill shut down and she had to stop working. Now, she sells towels and hankies on a pavement of Chennai. Shail talks to her during her working hours and documents a slice of oral history. She is among the millions […]

Letter from a Daughter to her Father

Staying far away from her father, who lives all by himself, despite his advancing age, Shail writes a soulful letter to her father, Papa. This is a part of the special feature on Father’s Day in Different Truths. My Dear Papa, This is a letter from your daughter, your one and only child, who loves you very […]