The Recycling Men

During my childhood, every Indian street had a ‘raddhi wala’ – meaning the ‘man who collects old newspapers’ from one’s home. They exist even today in many parts of India.

The raddhiwalas usually had a shop in the town’s main market –  a small shed stuffed to the brim with newspapers, tied into bundles with coir ropes.

We usually called the raddhiwala once in a quarter. He usually came with a simple balance for weighing, and an assistant to help.

My sisters and I helped carry out the newspapers. The raddhiwala usually sat at the entrance, near the porch, weighing, and loading the paper into his gunny bag. After the newspapers and magazines were weighed, the bargaining for the ‘per kilo rate’ would commence. Back and forth, back and forth till both parties pronounced themselves satisfied.  My mom usually made tea for the raddhiwala and his assistant, after the job was done.


            Courtesy –

The raddhiwala exchanged small talk with my grandma and parents, sipping his tea and smiling at us, asking us our names.

Sometimes, when the newspapers were being sorted, we found some long lost treasures such as drawings that we had made or bits of craft paper that had hidden themselves snugly  between the folds of the newspapers.

The raddhiwala’s shed was always overflowing, and we often wondered what he did with all the newspapers. My Dad told us that he sold them to other businesses.

The other important ‘recycling man’ was the plastic man, as we called him. He usually came during our afternoon siesta, calling out loudly, “Plastic, plastic.”

This man accepted anything old that you wanted to throw away – from clothes to old pots and pans to newspaper  and books. He accepted all kinds of old material and would assign a value to them. He would then allow us to pick out any plastic item from his bicycle, such as buckets, mugs, cans, boxes etc, for the same value.

All the women were happy. It was a win-win.

These were the two ‘Recycling Men’ from my childhood.