Kolkata’s Madan Street is a busy street, located at an angle from Chittaranjan Avenueand sheltered by old buildings. On this street I possibly saw more shops dealing in Transistor Radios, repairs and sale of new and old radios, than all the radio shops put together in my time on the streets elsewhere. I did not hear any radio playing though, unless I lost it in the sound of the bustling street.
In the shade of Subid Ali Mansion
, shops, roadside hawkers, rickshaw pullers, and daily wage labourers throng the street in a maelstrom of activity, in time developing an easy familiarity from seeing one another day after day, year after year.
While contesting common space for survival on the street is a reality, occasionally spilling over into scarcely disguised hostility, it’s not uncommon for bonds to develop among those working the same street in similar or different capacities. Bonds that make them look out for each other.
Through the working day, in brief respites from hauling loads or other exertions, these bonds are renewed in brief encounters roadside where a shared beedi or jovial banter reinforces their sense of belonging to what is in essence an extended family, the ties occasioned for no better reason than that they live and work together on the same street.