How New Delhi’s ‘Ice Man’ keeps cool

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse -

AS the tem­per­a­ture heads to­wards 40 Cel­sius in New Delhi, Ram Babu sets off on his bi­cy­cle in an un­likely race against time to de­liver ice be­fore it melts.

The 52-year-old is one of scores of ice ven­dors bat­tling traf­fic, pot­holes and hordes of peo­ple in the In­dian cap­i­tal to sup­ply small shops, in a tra­di­tion span­ning gen­er­a­tions.

Babu has been buy­ing the thick blocks from a whole­saler al­most ev­ery morn­ing for 30 years, wrap­ping them in brown sacks to keep them cool and then strap­ping them to the back of his bike.

He rides an es­ti­mated 15 to 20 kilo­me­tres (9 to 12 miles) a day, de­liv­er­ing mainly to the scores of road­side eater­ies lack­ing re­frig­er­a­tion that are crammed into the city.

“It’s a daily strug­gle. But this is something that I have been do­ing non­stop. Be it Sun­days or hol­i­days I have never taken a break,” said Babu, as he care­fully un­loads the blocks onto a bustling side street.

The fa­ther of five earns about 15,000 ru­pees (US$223) a month from sell­ing the ice, but says in­come has been falling steadily as more busi­nesses buy their own fridges.

“Now ob­vi­ously most house­holds have fridges and the of­fices have big wa­ter cool­ers. It is tough to sus­tain prof­its.”

Af­fec­tion­ately dubbed the “ice man” by friends and neighbours, Babu takes pride in the tough, tra­di­tional job also done by his fa­ther and grand­fa­ther.

But he said his chil­dren are more in­ter­ested in find­ing jobs in of­fices and fac­to­ries, and are un­likely to take over when he even­tu­ally re­tires.

“Look, I am al­ready 52. I will carry on work­ing for a few more years,” he said.

“But my sons are not into this. For them it is a me­nial job. I don’t blame them and I will never force them to do it.”

Pho­tos: AFP

Ram Babu cuts a chunk of ice from his stock.

The streets of New Delhi are hot, but he tries to pro­tect his blocks of ice with a brown sack.

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