Odd and Unique Jobs in India


India is a country of great differences. Here high rises meet slums and corporate jobs meet menial labourers with equal elan. We bring you snapshots of some age old professions that continue to bring home money for some daily wage earners!

If you stay in a city, you must have heard screams of, "chaku-dharwalla". Chaku-dharwallas are men who cycle around various parts of the city sharpening the knives and scissors of homes, fisherwomen and small eateries. The knife-sharpening equipment is powered by the very cycle on which these men travel. Although at times, knifesharpening devices are operated from stationary units too. Interestingly, this trade also exists in Mexico, Turkey, Madrid and Kenya. 

The oldest knife-sharpener devices were actual pieces of rocks. Knives were sharpened over these rocks by moving the knife rapidly from close to far, in one direction only, under a steady source of water.

In the olden days, when coir mattress didn't exist, people would use mattresses made from cotton. Mattress makers would fluff cotton using a metal and wire machine called a jatta, which combs through the cotton and removes knots and dirt and fluffs it up. The fluffed cotton is then stuffed back into hand-made mattress covers. The mattress is then stitched up with stitches running across the top and bottom to make sure the newly fluffed up cottonwool stays in place. It is said that mattresses made by hand using cotton are a lot softer. 

The first mattress ever made was probably made of leaves, grass or possibly straw and covered with animal skin. The first dated mattress has been traced to Persia in 3600BC where the mattress was covered with goatskin and was filled with water. The first cotton mattress was made in the 18th Century.

This is a very old tradition in India and across the world and has been passed on for many generations. In India, basket weaving was essentially the work of womenfolk who would weave baskets that were used to store fruits, vegetables and other products that were either harvested or created by the menfolk in villages. Even today, one can see people on city streets making woven baskets. The baskets are sold to traders that resell them to vegetable and fruit vendors. 

The oldest known baskets are from Egypt and have been carbon dated to between 10,000 and 12,000 years ago. Other baskets discovered in the Middle East are up to 7,000 years old. However, baskets rarely survive as they are made from perishable materials. The most common evidence of knowledge of basketry is an imprint of a weave on fragments of clay pots, formed by packing clay on the walls of the basket and firing it.

During the olden days, newspapers were printed using typesets— moveable type which was composed by hand. For this type of printing, cast metal sorts (the technical term for letters of the alphabet and punctuations) were used. These were put together to form words and then lines of text. These lines of texts were then tightly bound together to make up a page image called a forme. The letters had to be well-placed such that they would form an even surface of type. The forme was then mounted on a press, inked and an impression was made on paper. Hand composing went out of style when the continuous casting or hot-metal typesetting machines such as the Linotype and Monotype were introduced at the end of the 19th Century. These machines could do the work of 10 hands on a typeset. Computers finally got completely rid of hand composition and the letterpress printing style. However, a few connoisseurs still pursue this style of printing and people who can create typesets are greatly valued.

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