In New Delhi, some traditional trades are Dying Slowly

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Roadside dentists, ear cleaners in India losing their jobs due to modernization, globalization, says expert.

Every morning, 42-year-old Mohammed Saleem arrives at Connaught Place, the historic commercial center in the Indian capital New Delhi, looking for customers.

Saleem, who wears a red cap and carries a bag in his hand, has been working as a roadside ear cleaner – a job he learned from his father, and the profession is said to date to the Mughal era.

For the last 30 years, Saleem has been working as a traditional ear cleaner in different parts of the capital using old techniques.

“This work has been passed to me from my ancestors,” he told Anadolu, as he waited for a customer. “From my forefathers to me, we have managed to keep this noble profession alive.”

In his bag, Saleem carries a bottle of mustard oil and a prong to clean the ear. These days, he manages to get eight to 10 customers per day after working from 9 a.m. to 6.30 p.m.

Saleem is worried. After spending several years in the profession, customers are fading and people are not interested in carrying on the work as they feel it can no longer provide a livelihood.

“Earlier, we used to earn a decent amount from the profession, on an average of 700-800 Indian rupees ($10) a day. The earnings have taken a hit because of fewer customers.”

“Earlier, there used to be a dozen ear cleaners here. Now the number is a lot less.”

Saleem fears that in the coming years, the profession may completely vanish.

“Our children are getting a proper education. So, I don’t think they would work in this profession like me,” he said. His three children in northern Uttar Pradesh, are studying at a government school.

Saleem is not alone. Three miles away in the streets of old Delhi, Rakesh, 50, is making rounds looking for customers.

“Since morning, I have only had three customers,” he said.

Rakesh, a native of Rajasthan state, is a third-generation ear cleaner who has worked for more than two decades.

“For the whole day, I keep roaming on the roads and by the end of the day, I earn 400-500 Indian rupees ($6),” he said at Delhi’s busiest Sadar Bazaar market. With age, he feels he may not be able to work much longer.

“I am getting older and not able to see properly. My children are doing private jobs. I don’t think I would be able to work for a longer time. With me, my family will stop this profession as well,” he told Anadolu.

Roadside dentist

In the old section of New Delhi, apart from ear cleaners, many professions are witnessing a decline.

Arvinder Singh, 44, is a roadside dentist, who has opened a small open-air clinic. It has no modern tools, chairs, or dental instruments. But he has learned the trade from his father, who did the same after learning it from his forefathers.

His customers are from low economic backgrounds and cannot afford costly dental treatment. The customers come for quick consultations and fixes.

“I want to change my tooth … it has been painful for one week now,” said one customer from Delhi, a rickshaw puller.

Singh said he would charge 200 rupees ($2.50) for a tooth replacement. He has similar fears that in the coming years, the profession may not exist.

“I am working because this was passed to me as my ancestral job,” he said. “This profession would continue only if my children would do so. But, they are not interested and they want to do some respectable work after finishing their studies.”

In Delhi over the years, in several places, the number of such traditional professionals has been reduced, according to Singh.

“There used to be a number of such people doing this work, scattered in various parts. But slowly the number is thinning. You won’t find many people now,” he said, adding his work does not include extracting teeth, only installing new ones.

In India, medical experts have called them quacks and demanded action, but people like Singh continue to provide remedies to a section of society.

Next to Singh is a man running a similar arrangement. But, he prefers not to talk about his work and the treatment he provides to patients, fearing government action.

Modernization, globalization

Experts believe traditional practices in India have seen a change recently because of modernization and globalization.

“There are multiple factors responsible for why we are seeing traditional practices like ear cleaners, or any similar profession on a decline. There is more awareness among the people now about these practices so they prefer the qualified professionals,” said Sarvesh Dutt, a former journalist and Delhi-based media expert.

Source : Anadolu Ajansı