A study on the relation between formal –and informal sectors of cities, which are dealing with sociocultural tensions. Kolkata is used as a casestudy and interviews has been made with the street vendors we collaborated with in the project Streetkitchen_Kolkata
There is no public space in Kolkata, since every inch is privatized – though in an informal and illegal way. People running a formal shop in static buildings pay tax, while street vendors don’t, since street vending usually is illegal. Instead they very often pay bribe to the police or various types of mafias. People put up stalls and create “homes” on streets, in niches, in abandoned buildings and on movable carts. The informal spaces are temporary, mobile and built from recycled materials like plastic, metal and bamboo.
The people on the pavement and the food stalls are looked at as messy and anarchic behaviors from the point of view of those in power, but they are provisional measures, which all help to create an urban situation in constant motion and transformation.
Interviews with street vendors:
What is your name? Gunadhar Samanta.
When did you start this food stall? In 1968.
Where do you live? I live in a village about an hour from the city called Narendrapur.
Do you have children? Yes, i have 5 children.
Are they educated? Somehow educated.
Do they work with you? Two of my daughters used to work with me, but they have not worked with me for some time now.
Did you sell the same kind of food when you started in 1968 as you are selling now? Initially I had many different kind of food, but now I have a limited menu, because I know want people want.
In Kolkata there are many places for finding good street food, but many of them do not really care about hygienic issues. Here we found you are keeping your shop clean and giving a lot of importance to maintain hygiene. Do you have any comments on that? Yes, I believe that hygienic issues are very important when serving food.
You have been running this business for such a long time – are you facing any sort of problem, be it from the public, from the police or from political parties? Look, I may not improve any more, because now I am not young any more.
No, I am asking do you face any problem running this business? Yes, when you run a business like this you face many problems, – for instance sometimes we have to give free food to some people.
You sell your food at a very nominal price, – how do you manage to get any profit? omehow we can manage to earn a little to survive.
Do you compromise in quality in order to maintain the low price? Look, i try my best, but cost of the food is an issue.
What is your name? Asim Chakrabarty.
When did you start this food stall? 3 years back.
Where do you live? I live close by.
Do you have any other source of income? No.
Do you have a family? Yes.
Do you have children? Yes.
How many? One.
Do you think you can manage your family with the amount of money you earn? Somehow i manage.
You are also giving some sort of service to the society, because a lot of people are coming to the city from far away for work, and they do not have a lot of money to go to a restaurant for a meal. Are you facing some sort of a problem running this business? No, no, – i don’t have any sort of problem, everything is fine.
Who are normally coming to your food stall for a meal? Are they socially and economically coming from the same background – or different? No, no different people come with different backgrounds.
Do you serve food only during the day, – or do you serve both at day and evening? We give service only during lunchtime and people come and eat and some people come for take-away.
Do you have to pay any money to the police or political party in order to run your business? No – I don’t have to pay anything to anybody.
Do you have any problem about getting clean water for cooking and washing? No, – we buy water from the bhariwallah. ( water carrier)
Are you happy with your setup – or would you like to improve it? Yes – suddenly I would like to improve it.
Interviews and black & white photographs by Dev Nayak
Studies of food stalls: