When a 45-year-old well-built man’s weight is indicated by the weighing scale to be 49 kilograms, the man need be feels queasy. Pratap Kumar Singh, a visitor from Uttar Pradesh was offended when the weighing machine of Chhote Lal Ado indicated his weight to be just 49 kg. Without paying a single paisa to Chhote Lal, he left fuming.
Chhote Lal’s weighing machine shows not just an incorrect weight but its blinker is always stuck at a figure one less than half a century each time somebody stands on the machine!
According to Chhote Lal he is 115 years old and his means of livelihood depend solely on the weighing machine he has. Squatting outside a temple close to Jama Masjid in the Capital, he manages to earn Rs. 30-40 per day. From a small village in West Bengal, his daily attire consists of a white shirt above a dhoti pulled over his knees. From 10 in the morning to five in the evening, Chhote Lal squats on a jute sack with his machine neatly placed on a paper to avoid scratches underneath. Not only that, each time a customer steps off the machine, he wipes its surface with a piece of cloth to keep the dust at bay.
Sitting at one of the busiest corners of the old city teeming with hawkers of garments, shoes, plastic products, perfumes, electronic gadgets, food, all competing to attract passersby in novel tones, Chhote Lal is a study in contrast. “He is too old to call out to customers. A few passersby take pity on him or they come out of curiosity to get their weight measured. He charges Rs. two only,” says Joginder Kumar, an earphone seller, who stands close to him.
Since Chhote Lal came to Delhi some 25 years ago, he has also been a shoe keeper in temples. “I worked as a labourer in my younger days, I am very old but I have never begged in my life or cheated anyone. I have my self-respect,” says the Baba, as he is referred to by fellow hawkers.
“I don’t know where he lives or where he has come from. He is so old that when a few days ago somebody was running with his weighing machine, he didn’t even stand up; the water seller brought it back to him,” says Joginder. The machine fell from the hands of the fleeing thief and ever since, its needle is stuck at 49.