‘Conversations about the Urban, One City at a Time’  

in the words of young writers

Shortlisted | The Cry of Curb-Side Hustlers

Are you interested in writing about cities?

Divya Ramaseshan explores how the street vendors, seeking only a small space to sell, face challenges with government solutions like centralized complexes, disrupting their sales dynamics and livelihoods. The essay is a part of shortlisted entries for Urban Imprints essay writing contest, March-April 2024.


All they want is a small space around them. Enough to showcase their products. And just enough to earn their daily bread. They do not desire any fancy equipment. Nor any brand endorsement. Most of them don’t even want a chair to sit on. Who are they, and what do they want?

“Street vendors”

It’s common to see them around pavements all over India, especially in booming busy markets. In Chennai, T. Nagar, and Pondy Bazaar are practically taken as their home.

For years, the government struggled to provide a solution for them and juggled safer environments for pedestrians to walk on. The possibility of not being encroached upon by motorists and small shops was inevitable.

These stalls get better exposure to customers as they are easy to notice and have comparatively cheaper prices. Even so, when multiple shop owners are next to each other, they call out by advertising sale offers with their voices. These street entrepreneurs are also quickly ready to bargain as their daily profit, and the number of sales they make are exponential each other.

Interestingly and unfortunately, a solution arrived in Pondy Bazaar to shift the crowded street vendors into one public building complex. It gave pedestrians a chance to use pavements. But what happened to those vendors?

As we interviewed a few of them, they criticized the solution: “All our sales depended on customers easily identifying our products and purchasing them as they walk by. But now nobody even knows about us as we are all jammed together in one building.”

The psychology behind their sales ultimately went upside down, and their life became miserable.

One door opened, and another one closed—something for us to think about.

Not every solution solves the problem. Unnecessary complications arise.

Mentors’ Comments

“Always nice to see people being interested enough in street vendors to write about them, but this piece would have been executed better by focusing on a specific site; also it needed a lot more editing.”
– Arpita Das

“Great start, but eventually word length means that the piece seems cut short.”
– Peeyush Sekhsaria


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