In the age of home delivery, malls and hypermarkets, who sits by the side of a congested road, painstakingly making an assortment of useful items with bamboo?
Sixty-six-year-old Rajayya has been sweating it out here for over eight years.
Clad in a ‘lungi' and sleeveless banian, he is now a permanent fixture at the junction of West of Chord Road and Magadi Road. Like Prasanna theatre and the Shani temple there, he is a recognisable marker. “Oh, the bamboo man!” regular commuters on the road exclaim when enquired about him.
Mr. Rajayya looks frail, with bony hands and a receding hairline. However, the tall sturdy ladders, intricate baskets and thick window screens on display behind his bent-over head, stand proof of the strength and dexterity of his work.
Ask him why he does this, and his answer is only that he cannot think of anything else he would rather be doing. “It has never occurred to me to try something else,” he says, sounding puzzled. What he turns out is art that is sold at high prices in trade fairs and boutique shops, I tell him. He doesn't look particularly impressed. “My parents taught me this back in Nanjangud, and I taught it my sons too.”
His older son Rajanna weaves bamboo along with him, and goes to other parts of the town to sell the same. But, his younger son, Mr. Rajayya is proud to say, has finished schooling and has attended an interview for selection to the State police.
The family moved to Bangalore after his daughter's marriage and came to Banashankari. “My son visited her and wanted to move here,” Mr. Rajayya says. His wife Basavamma weaves more baskets and more screens at their house in Dasarahalli.
The baskets sell for Rs.50 each and the screens for Rs. 500-700 each. As we talk, two men come to inspect his ware, and pick a 15-foot bamboo pole, which is barely noticeable among the green ladders.
They buy only that for Rs. 30, to unclog the plumbing in their house, they explain.
“There are days when we sell nothing at all, as there are days when we get bulk orders,” Mr. Rajayya says. “We can only do this, and that is all we want as well.”