Behind ODI carnivals are hawkers hopping cities with merchandise

Written by Gopal Kateshiya | Gopal Kateshiya | Ahmedabad | Updated: Dec 6 2011, 14:54pm hrs
Cricket fans at Sardar Patel Stadium in AhmedabadFans cheer Team India during the third ODI at Sardar Patel Stadium
An international cricket match at an Indian stadium cannot be imagined without flying Tricolours, placards of fours and sixes and painted faces on the stands.

Hawking this merchandise is a pack of some 500 street vendors who are always on the move, travelling to wherever there is a match. And no, they are not on any IPL contract.

These hyper-mobile hawkers hail from states like West Bengal, UP, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat and others. They buy the merchandise from local markets where a match is being played or carry a stock from cities like Mumbai or Bangalore.

On Monday, they were parked outside Motera stadium where India played West Indies in a day-night match, selling the Tricolour, colourful wigs, stickers and so on.

As soon as a match gets over in a city, they board a train for the next venue. They usually check into in dharmashalas or cheap guest houses that offer a room for up to Rs 500, which is shared by four to five of them. On an average, a hawker would earn anywhere between Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000 per match.

Moni Biswas from Kolkata was initiated in this business by a friend 20 years ago and has seen all the major cities of the country where matches take place. I was studying in standard 9 when I had to abandon my studies due to poor economic condition of my family, 34-year-old Biswas told The Indian Express.

I used to sell ice cream inside circus tents. Somebody told me that selling this merchandise is a profitable business and I tried my hand. Twenty years later, here I am, a man who has travelled most parts of the country, said G Ganesh of Chennai.

The 45-year-old said that he earns enough to run his family by selling his merchandise and returns to his old business during off-season in cricket.

Bhagwan Patil from Nagpur also supports his family of two school-going daughters and a wife by selling flags, wigs, bands and painting faces of spectators. I have no problem in running the family. Sometimes, they complain about my extensive travelling and long periods away from home. But they understand my business and cooperate, Patil, 30, said. He is a strong supporter of Anna Hazare and also sells Gandhi topis and other merchandise associated with the activist.

Mohan Patel, 64, from Surat has been in this business for the last 12 years. I used to sell stickers of deities and posters. In 1999, I went to Mumbai to try my luck in cricket merchandise. I liked it and I am now into it full-time, Patel said. He has three sons and two daughters and all of them are married. When Patel is away, his youngest son takes care of his wife, who has cancer.

The hawkers complain about lower prices in Ahmedabad for their items as compared to Vishakapatnam and Cuttack, the venues of the first two matches of the ongoing ODI series between India and the West Indies. They said since Motera hosted the World Cup semi-final between India and Australia, the enthusiasm among cricket fans was somewhat less and that affected their business.

By late in the evening, many of the hawkers were preparing to leave for Indore, where the fourth ODI is to be played.