Fifty-year-old Amarnath was selling fruits when the corporation employees along with police came to his shop at the road leading off Rajiv Gandhi salai known as Old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR). It was October 7 and they ordered him to keep the shop closed for a week. The Chinese president Xi Jingping was scheduled to drive along the OMR road on 12 and Amarnath’s shop was along the route. He wrapped up the fruits and sent them back to Koyambedu market in an auto in exchange for the supply next week.
“What else can I do? It’s governments land,” he said.
“There is heavy VVIP bandobast in the area”, said G Subramaniam, a constable at the J-14 Taramani police station which has areas along the Rajiv Gandhi IT expressway in its jurisdiction. He added that shops within a 100 meter radius of the expressway, as well as the two police stations in the route along which Prime Minister Modi and Xi Jinping are to travel with their cavalcade, have been closed for three more days.
His daily income of Rupees 1000 has stopped and he has borrowed Rupees 2000 from a friend for his needs. He tried to sell off the leftover fruits that were going stale to the juice shops but no one is ready to buy them.
Padmavati (44), Amarnath’s wife, washing utensils in her tiny kitchen cramped with bottles of spices and photographs of gods and goddesses said that these days are going to be of loss and hardship.
Drums, vessels and buckets were filled with water which comes on alternate days and is kept on the vacant space just outside the small bathroom. Rotten bananas, onion and garlic peels where scattered on the floor of the one-room rented house about 250 square feet. The refrigerator, chairs, cooler and a single bed was all in dust and crammed in there.
Their son, Karthik Rajan (19) works part time on the shop and studies B.A Economics at the Guru Nanak College in Velachery. Their daughter, Rajalakshmi saved money for her own dowry which included 20 sovereign gold and house furniture. She is an M. Com graduate and a tuition teacher.
Manoj Subba (22), a worker at the Karnan Juice Stall (also being shut down) faces the same plight as Amarnath. He takes this as an opportunity to visit his family in Darjeeling and said, “What else should I do? I have been sitting idle since Monday.”
Now, there is not even a hint of Amarnath’s shop. Some auto-rickshaws have taken over the place. He sits in the area that housed his and other small shacks, shacks that were deemed too ugly or too much of a security threat to the visiting Chinese leader. Behind him, the breeze catches the Paytm posters on the shops shrouded in blue sheets.