Our world and life have changed very rapidly in the last few decades. The change has been visible, obvious and in your face. Amid all these changes, some relics of the past ways of life still linger on. Once in a while, we encounter them. That is the occasion to acknowledge their past service and marvel at their continued existence.
One such relic of the past lifestyle, which moves along on a bicycle making the rounds of the city, is the knife-sharpening man. A few decades ago, this man riding a bicycle with a contraption that moved a metal disc with the pedalling of a cycle could be seen making the rounds of the residential colonies. The moment he landed there people would come up with rusted and blunted knives and scissors in hand. He would take these metal objects and work his magic. Soon enough these implements would be returned anew, with gleaming and sharpened cutting edges. What he did look like magic for sure. At least to young wide-eyed children who would circle his cycle and watch him work. They all looked with total fascination as golden sparks fly as he puts a knife's edge on the fast revolving disc with a whirling sound.
Most of the knife-sharpening men this city had are now long gone. But then for the ones who have a strong nostalgic bent of mind, these knife-sharpening men do appear once in a long while.
Rajkumar (70) is one such knife-sharpening man. Every morning he picks up his cycle from his Old Delhi Sadar Bazar home and starts peddling towards Connaught Place, the central business and commercial district of New Delhi. He has been in the profession of sharpening knives since he was 15. Says he, “My father had a shop from where he sold knives, scissors, and similar implements. That is where I started to sharpen knives as a kid. Soon I started doing the same thing on a bicycle moving from place to place. This is all I have done in my life.”
Rajkumar laments about changing times. “There was a time when households used to get their knives shapen. But no one needs our services now. People simply repace their knives when they are worn out. Also, the steel knives last much longer,” says he. He comes to Connaught Place as there are a lot of eating joints with their busy kitchens and he still gets some business here. He will sharpen a knife for 20 to 30 rupees. Says he, “Earlier I used to earn up to rupees 800 in a day now I barely manage to earn 200 to 300 rupees in a day.”
In another part of the city in the deep south, one Hari Parsad carries the same trade. A resident of Kotla Mubarakpur, he sells knives, scissors, locks, and chains besides sharpening knives. “There is not much work now but this is the only thing I have been doing since I moved to the city from a small town in eastern UP, so I continue to do so”. He says he has four daughters and he has married two of them. He knows no one is going to pick up this trade after him and he has no hard feelings about it. “This trade is going to end with me,” says he, with a smile, and gets moving amongst the vehicular traffic, pulling his cycle along, and is soon lost in the crowd.