The open Air Tandoor, the Press Wallah, The Service Lanes,---are the subjects that suggest themselves for thinking and writing about as I go for my morning walk. But I am not sure of the connection between them. I begin to units in the hope that as I proceed the sub-conscious relationship will come out. The tandoor wallah seems to have become quite an institution in our street. His clientele varies from the elite carwallas to the common rikshawallas. The former type take their tandoori chapatis and daal home and eat with as much relish as the latter type who squat around the tandoor In a semicircle on concrete slabs eat their meal straight from the tandoor, hot, spicy and garnished with garlic. It is a small world full of gossip, strife, and drama. Who is this tandoorwallah and how he came to establish himself here at the corner of the crossing streets? This is all illegal. It is not according to the plan. My interest is roused only because it is not according to the plan in a planned city. Asking the tandoor wallah would not produce any appropriate answers. So I have to play the guessing game. The corner of a crossing is important because it is a vantage point visible to a large number of people. It is not in the main street because you will be too much in the eye of the guardians of law and may have to pay a very heavy price for survival. Yet it has to be near enough. The investment has to be minimal, hence there are only four poles for a removable tarpaulin. A tandoor has been dug into the ground as a permanent investment. It is covered with a stone slab when not in use. The floor is kaccha but well maintained by plastering with mud. The seats are curbstones picked from the street. Thus everything is such that it can be dispensed with without any real loss. The business hours coincide with the lunch time and dinner time. So the occupancy of the place only appears causal as if some vendor has sat down to serve some customers in the street. Once you establish yourself as a useful part of the street, which means that the people in the street look for you, then you can say the place belongs to you. You are then like the famous ‘Bhallewala’ on the steps of the central bank in the Chandni Chowk of Delhi.
The presswallah, on the other hand, is a family man. He has to find shelter also for his family. He cannot afford the prevalent rent of a single room accommodation in the city. He could get space for pressing the clothes in the front lawn or a garage of some house in exchange for doing free pressing for the owner. But a family needs space to stretch itself. The city has plenty of disused service lanes. The administration has made several efforts to clean them up. But a thing which does not serve any real purpose except carry some pipes underground which nobody sees soon finds other users. The presswallah is one such. He is at the corner of the service lane because he has to be visible to his potential clients. He has put up two tarpaulins for his work and his family.
The service lanes of Chandigarh have been a pain in the neck for the administration. In the new development, therefore, no service lanes are provided. All pipes run in the road in front. But for the existing service lanes, no satisfactory use has been found. It has been suggested that the land of the service lanes be allotted to the owners of the houses in the lane. But that proposal ran into legal quagmire. The enterprise of the Presswallah suggests a possible land use for the service lanes: Why not use them for the open air service establishments which are so common in our cities. The climate makes it possible, even desirable. There are cobblers, tinsmiths, ironsmiths, stove-repairers, charpoimakers, cycle-repairers and the like who could be accommodated in the service lanes. Seeing how much can be done in the narrow streets of old Delhi, a ten feet or three meters width is quite enough for the service activity and keeping the place clean, then we may create an original institution in Chandigarh which would be in keeping with our tradition, climate and our economic and social compulsions.