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Swept away

Statesman News Service |

Delhi’s Chimney Sweeps have vanished, laments colleagues. Time was when it was a problem to get rid of the importunate tribe. They would come to a bungalow and insist on cleaning the chimney nearly every other morning. No amount of protestation would work and many a time they would have to be taken to the chimney itself to prove that it had not collected enough soot to need cleaning.

In the old Cantonment towns particularly, they had gained such notoriety that servants had standing orders to shut the gate whenever they tried to enter the compound. And this happened often. Almost every afternoon the family’s siesta would be disturbed by the barking of dogs and the querulous noise made by the cook and the chowkidar on the one hand and the insistent pleading of the Sweep on the other.

But with modern housing and new opportunities of employment, the chimney sweeps have become rare. A few years ago one could see remnants of the tribe pedalling about on rickety bicycles with long poles and brushes tied to them on a Sunday, But not any more.

No stamps

After the disappearance of the telegram and the post-card, now it’s the turn of stamps. Only Rs10 stamps are available. So, if you have to send an ordinary letter, you have no option but to pay double. Postal staff say the supply of stamps has been stopped since the past two months. Wonder why? A harassed customer quipped that the government is probably bent upon winding up the Post Office itself because of SMS, Whatsapp, Facebook and other electronic social media websites. Maybe true, alas for thousands, who still rely on the old postal system.

False alarm

Being bombarded with security warnings all over the place ~ in newspapers, railway stations and Metro stations, to name a few ~ it’s natural for one to be extra vigilant. The slightest hint of suspicious movement is enough to set off alarm bells. Thus it was, a colleague narrated, a child’s toy led to near panic in the women’s compartment of the Metro on the Yellow-line. Returning home, our colleague noticed a couple of women accompanied by a clutch of children, from a toddler in its mother’s arms to a (probably) 10-year-old.

The group had a few bags of shopping, including toys for the children. A young boy, of around five, pulled out a plastic push-along wheel toy ~ a wheel attached to a stick that emitted a ringing sound as well as flashed multi-coloured lights.

The kid began merrily wheeling the toy around the compartment, before discarding it beneath the seat as his attention got diverted by his siblings. After a while, from the other end of the compartment, a young girl suddenly pointed to the flashing lights beneath the seat and started screaming that there was probably some explosive with a timer! Almost the entire compartment panicked and moved towards the doors, some preparing to alert the driver on the intercom. However, one of the ladies looked down and pulled out the offending toy, much to the relief of the frazzled co-passengers. Soon, realising the comic situation, the entire compartment broke out into laughter as the embarrassed mother switched off the toy’s battery.

Ways of children

Children can often be unpredictable, putting their parents to much embarrassment, a colleague recounted. His daughter, all of two-years-old, was refusing to eat any food. Worried that she may have some stomach ailment, our colleague and his wife rushed her to the hospital. As is usual with children, they were armed with water, milk and some light snacks ~ biscuits, chips and a packet of mixture. As they waited to see the doctor, the little one demanded for something to eat.

As the child’s mother began feeding her some mixture, the doctor called them in. When the couple explained their child’s eating problem, the doctor quipped that it was not the child but the parents who needed “treatment”. Pointing to the child merrily gorging the mixture, he asked how the parents expected her to eat regular food after this. A universal problem with children, junk food is most convenient to feed, though the repercussions can be quite bad.


Just an axe stands between natural and concrete jungles, a green activist quipped, commenting on the impending felling of over 20,000 trees in South Delhi government colonies.




Contributed by: R V Smith, Harshita Saini, Rakesh Kumar and Asha Ramachandran