72nd recipient of help (livelihood bicycle) :
‘Yes, I hand all my income to my wife. But there is nothing wrong in doing that, I feel. So what if we are poor, we have to respect our wives. See, only if she has money in her hands can she pay all the people we need to pay. Also, our wives run our lives, our homes. They must have money on them. Even though we are poor people our women deserve respect.’
Shankar Pawar. (30’s)
Profession : Evil eye-buster! (aka Nazar Battu; aka Nimbu aur Mirchi aur Koyle ka Totka.)
History of the evil eye – busters:
Ancient India has a wide range of traditions and old wives tales that are carried generation to generation. There are fast track remedies for all ailments, like how to banish fear, fear of death, common colds, coughs in children, evil eye and frighten evil spirits. People also put them on their vehicles.
The Evil Eye Warder is also known as “NAZAR BATTU” and is used to keep home and businesses etc safe from all the evil spirits and let all the happiness be yours for always. (Ya, seriously!! :p )
This Nazar Battu, aka Nimbu-Mirchi Totka, traditionally has “seven mirchis” (green chilies) and “one nimbu” (lemon) to protect your home from all the bad and evil spirits lurking around or sent by those jealous of you. (Ya, seriously man! ;P ) But due to deflation and inflation, nowadays it’s made from just one tiny mirchi and one tiny nimbu and one tiny piece of charcoal. 😉
At the entrance to houses it is dangled outside the main door, likewise in business establishments; sometimes it is changed daily, weekly or fortnightly. Once removed from its position, it is thrown on the open roads far away from the house or establishment.
Care is taken by passerby’s that the ‘Nazar Battu‘ or Nimbu-Mirchi totka is not stepped on while walking or driving or riding, for it is believed that the one who steps on it will invite all the bad influences that the Nazar Battu had gathered while it hung in its place.
Another mythological belief behind the tradition is:
It is hung outside the door to keep away Goddess Alakshmi, or Jyestha, who is considered inauspicious. Alakshmi is the sister of Goddess Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of fortune and prosperity. Alakshmi brings poverty and misery.
Alakshmi likes sour, pungent and hot things. Therefore shopkeepers, merchants and people tie lemons and green chillies on the doorways of their shops and homes so that Alakshmi will only come up to the door and eat her favorite food and satisfy her hunger and leave without entering the shop or house.
It is believed that after consuming lemon and green chillies, Alakshmi loses her urge to enter the house or shop. She will turn around without casting her malevolent eye on your well being.
Having spoon fed you peeps about Nazar Battu aka Totka, I must say that I consider Nazar Battu etc a superstition and myth! :p :p :p
However, it continues to persist in some sections of our society, both very rich and poor. However, thank God for some myths, as most of them are a source of livelihood for some people.
Shankar is one of them. He lives at Malad, and rides from Malad to Bandra once a week, beginning at 3am; He delivers 450 Nazar Battus to people at their homes or places of work, both very rich, and poor, in Bandra west
Shankar is originally from Solapur, but born and brought up in Mumbai. Earlier they lived at Bandra reclamation, but 20 years ago their hut was demolished and he had to drop out of school too, because they got displaced overnight.
That was the hardest period of his life, other than the time when his young child died due to an illness. He spent nearly Rs 30,000 on her medical care, but she did not survive. That particular expense put him into debt ever since, and now his debt stands at nearly Rs 90,000!
This was another moment when he cried. Earlier when he told me of his child dying, he cried then too.
The other jobs he does on and off is any kind of daily wages work that comes his way 6 days a week. Because one day a week he spends from 3 am to 4 pm delivering Nazar Battus in Bandra west. Ever since roads got concretized and paver-block-ed, the daily wages work he would get has stopped completely. Because he was a skilled labor in laying tar roads. Modernization of our streets stole a big part of his daily wages livelihood. He is still looking for any kind of daily wages work.
How did I meet Shankar?
This morning, I past him while riding to South Mumbai. He was riding a very old bicycle, and seeing its condition I just had to stop and ask him if he needed help in buying a new bicycle.
When I learnt about his life, (some of it is too private to share here), I very badly wanted to help him get a new bicycle in exchange of his very old one. He has been doing this work since 12 years, and the bike he was riding is the very bike he started this profession with, 12 years ago.
The pitfalls in his profession, when the rates of veggies shoot up, lemons and green chillies are not left far behind and most often he has to bear the extra costs due to food inflation. Because most of his middle class and poor clients refuse to pay him any extra amount then. But most of his rich clients willingly pay the extra amount when rates of these commodities go up.
He has a family of three bothers and one sister. His sister is married, and both his brothers also sell these Nazar Battus in some other locations of Mumbai. He was keen I help his brothers too, help them get new bicycles; I did not promise him any such help, but I told him to contact me after a month.
He has four children, two are studying in a Municipal school, and the other two are too young for school. He wants to educate them all.
The money he earns delivering Nazar Battus to people, and from any other odd jobs that he rarely manages to find nowadays, he hands all of it to his wife; she keeps aside some money for their house expenses, and some she uses to pay the monthly installment of their debt that has been accumulating since years. He says, gradually he is able to pay off his debt, however little by little, every month.
I asked Shankar, ‘You really hand over all your weekly or monthly income to your wife?!, Because, few men in this city or elsewhere, may be doing that, I feel.’
He replied, ‘Yes, I hand all my income to my wife. But there is nothing wrong in doing that, I feel. So what if we are poor, we have to respect our wives. See, only if she has money in her hands can she pay all the people we need to pay. Also, our wives run our lives, our homes. They must have money on them. Even though we are poor people our women deserve respect.’
Bravo Nazar Battu Shankar! Cheers!
Thank you to K and Surabhi Shah for buying a new bicycle for Nazar-Battu-Shankar; that’s what some customers call him! His old bicycle we will donate to some needy person.
And thank you to Kohinoor Cycles (http://kohinoorcyclestores.blogspot.com/) Siddharth Vora (https://www.facebook.com/siddharth.vora.58?fref=ts) for the good discount and service.
Thank you to Gazi Ali for the photo of Shankar.