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  • Writer's pictureCapt SN Ahmed

Qalai Wala rides me back to my childhood!

Since the time aluminium, steel & non stick have entered our kitchens, there is one important thing that has vanished from the streets of Hyderabad, rather mostly all the urban India.

It is the "QALAI WALA" (Kali wala)

Today's generation may not even know who is this kalai-wala but people who grew up in the decades of 70 or 80 and before that, very well know about kalai-wala

I remember when I was in Rajasthan in my childhood, once in every 10 days a family used to come near our houses and more or less settle for the day. The lady used to tie a bedsheet on the lower branches of trees and put her infant in that. The men used to dig up a ground and put some machine kind of things and then the fire used to come out burning the coal. Then they used to put some white powder on the utensils and put that on the flame. A huge white fog used to emerge and we children used to run away scared that these men will kidnap us using this layer of thick smoke.

The complete sight of my childhood memory came alive when I saw Sheikh Khaiyyum on the streets of General Bazaar.

He was doing kalai to brass vessels of various sizes. I couldn't resist and sat next to him. He had a team of 5 to 6 members. He told that the white powder is called 'chaandi ki mail' which when comes in contact with fire gives heavy white smoke (what we kids used to get scared of).

He did kalai to a few brass utensils in front of me and they started shining like silver. WOW.

I remember the earlier days when the family used to collect just some vegetables or rice or daal or oil, to cook & eat and may be someone gave their old clothes to them. I asked Sheikh on the earnings with this business on streets.

I was surprised (and happy too) to know that anywhere between 7000 to 15000 they earn daily as a group of 5. He said the major revenue comes from hotels who need to get the kalai done on daily basis for their huge biryani-deg and other stuff.

I felt good that the art of Kalai, which I assumed had died long time ago was a paying business today.

No wonder I was not able to see the kalai-walas of my childhood so frequently on the streets. I am really very-very happy.

While you share my happiness, I will carry on some other street of Hyderabad.

C ya soon

Capt Ahmed

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