In photos, the paradox of Shillong’s street food and hawkers left without trade

The WhatsApp group of union leaders is in turmoil. Someone shared a YouTube link. Foreign. Yes, a foreigner is delighted with Shillong Street food.

It was dark in the middle of the confinement. Rumors. Hunger. Even a story of suicide.

“There was no money to buy the cell phone for the kids,” S told me sadly.

The administration talks to businessmen about unlocking shops and malls. But no question of street vendors.

“They don’t let us live in peace.

The Union responds.

And the cameras, speakers, sticks and guns are out.

What is a city that does not erect barriers…

Last night we dream of a starving city. Guns smacked their lips. The mirrored houses smelled of a freshness that did not make you sweat and swallowed the three fat women of the malls dressed in empty streets where they could drive and taste the air-conditioned street

And we dream.

Some are still angry at the YouTube that now exists on the government’s tourism tweet.

“Saala, and us? We who cook are not hot and tasty?

Romance of local cuisine. Spicy street nostalgia. Instagram it.

Morning #Jadoh @ Laitumkhrah | Vegetables from #Garo Hills @ Secretariat Hills | #Doh Thang @ Khyndailad
#Putharo, #Pu Khlein, Pu doh @Rynjah | #Pork momo @ Lumpyngngad | # Garo Hills Snails @ Polo Market
Soh Ïong @ GS Road | Kharang/smoked fish @ Iewduh | Doh Snam/Blood #Sausage @Smit

We are nostalgic for our job.


The Meghalaya government came out strong.

And the cameras, speakers, sticks and guns are out.

They even bring the SOT, the SPECIAL OPERATIONS TEAM (I call it secrets).

What is Northeast if not a SOT?

Why is Shillong dirty?

How many street vendors are there?

Is their food safe?

asks the court.

And the streets are empty.


Police Act, they call it when they arrest Kong Pdiangsuk Wahlang from Jail Road. They even seize his momo steamer and a rickety table.

The signs read: Nom Bidi Sh Marak, I have been sitting here for 10 years. I am Pdiangsuk Wahlang. I sell momos. I’ve been sitting here selling momos for 10 years from 1-8-9pm. Three-year-old NM Sangma Momo shop.
Name Chanda, item sold: roasted nuts, for 20 years. I’m Padon Swer, I’ve been selling grilled meat here for 35 years at Police Bazar. Name Abina Pyngrope, sell rice and tea, Police Bazaar, I want my rights, thank you for four years. Name Jolene Wahlang, sell grilled meat, how many years, five years. The government should soon listen to our demands. Anisweety Shabong, I have been selling rice here for five years at Police Bazaar, I stand here claiming my space. Name, Kynti Thabah, sell Kwai Place Police Bazaar 10 years Thank you Name Narida Sohphoh Sell Kwai, sat here for three years. Elvereen Shabong, I have been selling rice here for two years, I stand here to claim my rights. I am Kong Ifilda Nongdhar, I have been selling Kwai for 10 years.
L Kharshiing from Mawiong, I sell vegetables, I have been here for 12 years 03/12/16. Nedarlin Warjri, I live in Mawiong, I sell vegetables, I have been here for 15 years. Mary Warjri, I live in Mawiong, I sell Kwai, I have been in this place for 13 years. Khamti Ryntathiang, I live in Wahingdoh, I sell vegetables, here for 12 years. Name Bonesty M Umlong, I have been selling Chinese food for three years from 5 p.m. to 12 p.m. Name L Nongrum, I have been selling Chinese food in a vehicle (van) for three years from 5 p.m. to 12 p.m. Name KL Lyngkhoi, selling Khasi food, 5 p.m. to midnight. Name Simon P Thabah, I have been selling Khasi Food in Van for three years from 5pm to midnight.
Name SL Mairang, I sell vegetables, I have been here for a year. Nom R Nongpluh, sell vegetables and fruits, please help us who are poor and earn daily wages. Please help us street vendors. Nom Rose Sharing, selling: vegetables and fruits, I have been selling here for four years. CL Marwein, I have been selling Kwai for 34 years. Me Hilda Rumba, I sell nuts and momo. Jerina Khongwar is my land and my country, I sell Kwai and newspapers, I work to feed myself, I have had this shop for 20 years. Where would I go? Name Probing Jana, I sell Kwai, newspaper, biri, cigarette, I have been here since 2005.
Name Smt Lashmery Arengh, items vegetables rice, sticky rice, dried fish, dried meat since 2002 in Polo Garo Bazar. Name Regina A Sangma, article sold vegetable, business since 2002, Polo Garo Bazar. I stay in Lumshyiap, Smt Chimbera Sangma, vegetable business sold since 2002, Polo Garo Bazar. Me Umesh Prasad, I have been selling pokodi for 14 years, it’s the only job I have. Satender Sha, I sell old ones, I’ve been here since 1994.
Nodial Kyllang, I have been selling potatoes and vegetables since 2012. Hawker name T Marwein, location Jail Road, I have [been] selling here for 18 years, starting at 5 p.m. Name Shining Khyriem, betel nut and vegetable company, we all give you fresh, we are below the poverty line, please help us, thank you. Shing Khyriem and Pidolis Jana, polo, betel nut and vegetable shop, Nongmynsong Shillong, we are below the poverty line, please help us faithfully.
Name Banrilin Warjri, address Mawlai Mawroh, 26 years old, I have had this shop for three years. Name Saralin Lyngdoh, sell Kwai and juice, I have been selling here for 20 years, SURVEY.
Name Berit Thabah, article sold fruit store, since 1992, Polo Market. E Sohtun, I sell local fruits I have been selling here in Polo for 16 years from 2000.
My name is Karuna Rabha, I have owned this street food for 15 years, the menu and price list is as follows: 1. Fried Chow 2. Egg Roll 3. Fried Rice, so I hope you will see the question and will appreciate , Sincerely, Karuna Rabha, address AC Lane Shillong, Meghalaya. Aklu Shah, thirty years ago I opened my shop on the trail, I sold pakoda.
Name Aidralin Syiemiong, I have been selling here for 10 years, selling tea and rice, please come and inquire us. Name F Kharjana, I am selling fruits, I have been selling for a month.
Name D Lyngdoh, I [been] has been running this shop for 15 years. Name Poonam Sahani, selling puri, sabji, tea, year: 2008 to 2016.
Name Plin Morgnar, since 2005 I have been selling vegetables here for 11 years.
Roi Sohtun Mawphu Sohra, I have been in Motphran since 2009, selling fruits and vegetables. Sbon Sohtun, I have been in Motphran since 2009, I sell fruits and vegetables, Soon Sohtun.
Aiborlan, I sell alu muri, six years old

I remember the notes I took that day in the middle of taking pictures and looking for the police and the bulldozer

“She comes from West Khasi Hills, who started out as a labourer/carpenter. But the irregularity of the work and the low wages pushed him to choose to become independent. He sells vegetables near Petrol Pump, Jail Road. A job that gives him as much freedom as dignity. SHE comes from Lumparing every day around 2 p.m. to sell vegetables. Before, she worked as a housekeeper. It was her former employer who helped her with some capital to start her business selling vegetables when she expressed that she had to fend for herself and try to earn more as her family’s needs increased. . She says that this business gives her more freedom because she starts working at 2 p.m., which allows her to take care of her children and also gives her dignity because earlier, as a domestic helper, even when ‘she’s sick, she’s worried she won’t be able to go home. work. But this being her own business, she can make other arrangements. HE is from Mawlai – young father – he tried hard not to crack, how could he in front of his child. SHE sells local fruits and nuts. She has been troubled by the Shillong City Council/Police for years, but more intensely in recent years. After the recent evictions, the owner of the nearby non-tribal dairy provided her with a small ledge so she could continue to sell her fruit to support her family. She is grateful to the store owner, even though what she can sell now from there is far less than what she would do in her place near the trail. ELLE had to give up her license in the third year due to her financial situation. Now in the shadow of an unfinished five-star hotel, she sells vegetables. As she told us, I’m doing what our chief minister said, which is to be self-employed, don’t wait for a government job. SHE comes from Mawphu. If you read your food history, you would know that they say oranges went around the world from the slopes of Khasi Hills. Mawphu (before it was overwhelmed by a senseless barrage) produces one of the best oranges. What angers me is that the elites of Shillong have made a business of selling this indigenous/organic farm to the table and all the other NGOs are going for the highest bidder. This old lady does all this without having to travel to international conferences. She is not a face on a poster or tourist brochure. It is a face of the class war that the local elite wage against the state’s tribal poor. HIS dropout son wrote the chart paper. “Thirty years ago, I opened my shop in Footpath. I sell Pakora etc. Municipal took his table and his utensils three times, they burned him, they told him. Thirty years ago, a FAMILY of fishmongers started selling fish at Polo Bridge after learning skills as laborers at Iewduh Fish Market. Their belongings were recently stolen from where they were storing them in the name of eviction by the authorities, who took away not only several thousand rupees worth of fish, but also their capital investment of scales, measures and knives. to cut. HE pulled out his empty cooktop and stuck his menu and name on it. A friend asks HER where she is from – she replies – THE POOR HAVE NO COUNTRY. And then this bihari puri seller shares her concern about her fellow khasi. “Forget me, the government even treats Khasi hawkers like criminals.”

I ask S, how many pictures did we take. He has no idea. “I was full of fear and excitement,” he says.

“But we survived, didn’t we?”

All images were made with Meghalaya and Greater Shillong Progressive Hawkers and Street Vendors Association between 2016 and 2021. I am a guest member of the Association.

Tarun Bhartiya is a filmmaker, poet and political activist based in Shillong. This article first appeared on its Blog. A version of this will appear in the forthcoming book edited by Dolly Kikon and Joel Rodrigues From the Heart: Food Stories and Recipes from Northeast India, Zubaan, 2022.

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