Till about a decade ago, it was the local milkman who woke me up daily ringing the bell of his cycle, pouring milk into the steel vessel or glass bottle kept overnight on the doorstep. Every day the vessel is cleaned and reused. This was a daily ritual in every middle class South Indian home. Evenings were complete only after the candy-man came by pushing his cart. Cracked plastic pots and buckets were religiously saved for the fix-it man, who stopped by every few months.
Dry fruit-sellers and small traders came regularly, ready to barter their ware for bric-a-brac, from lumps of hair to disfunct pens and plastic. The austerity of reduce, reuse and recycle was just the way of life. But not anymore. These mobile traders, nomadic in the sense that they wandered with their trade, have nearly vanished.
Modernisation and mindless consumerism that came with it spelt doom for these trades. I have been documenting the last of these people, capturing them with dignity and respect. My photography project looks at them as heroes of a bygone era, who propelled sustainable living before the three Rs of it became an activist’s mantra.