A Tribute to Peer Saheb, a home-based informal waste worker

A Tribute to Peer Saheb, a home-based informal waste worker

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It’s with deep sadness we share that Peer Saheb passed away on October 19th, 2018. He suffered a cardiac arrest, while on a short trip with his family to Chanpatna.  Peer Saheb was a home-based informal waste worker, a member of Hasiru Dala and also volunteered his time by giving inputs to the daily show hosted by waste pickers and scrap dealers titled “Kasa Shramika Parisara Rakshaka”. In 2015, when the recyclers of Nayandahalli participating in a research on the makings of Nayandahalli as a recycling hub, came together to share their stories by way of a radio series titled “Daastan-e-Nayandahalli”, Peer Saheb spent a lot of time sharing stories and information. 

We feel honoured to have been able to capture important information on the makings of Nayandahalli and also discovered an important link of workers in the informal waste recycling value chain. 

Take a listen to the three episodes that we are airing in remembrance of  Peer Saheb. We also have a special tribute by Shreyas Sreenath, who shadowed Peer Shaeb to understand and appreciate his way of work in plastic recycling. 

Team Radio Active 90.4 MHz

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Tribute by Shreyas Sreenath

I can describe the first day I met Peersahib like the back of my hand. We sat on two plastic chairs in his cramped apartment, one unit among hundreds built by the JNNURM housing project. He had his grandchildren running around his feet, one of them begging him for more biscuits, the other one begging him for more cake, both climbing up on top of him from time to time to dip their snacks into the piping hot cup of tea he had in his hand, his daughters and sons busy chastising him about his health. This was his home. Or rather, to those family and friends that loved him, he was home. He carried with him, in body and spirit, whatever warmth and wisdom had been sucked out of his government-funded housing.

“ಮೊದಲಿಂಕಾಲದಲ್ಲಿ ದೀಪ ಕೆಳಗಿಂದ ಬೆಳಗತಿದ್ವು, ಇವಾಗಿನಕಾಲದಲ್ಲಿ ದೀಪ ಮೇಲಿಂದ ಬೆಳುಗ್ತಾವೆ” (In those days, the light used to shine from below, but these days, the light shines from up above). He said this in his Mandya accented Kannada, but he could speak just as eloquently in Dakhini, Urdu, and Tamil.

I will never forget this particular statement. It was one of the first things he said to me as I asked him about the changes he had borne witness to.  He was alluding to the candles and gas lanterns of his youth, contrasting them with the electric lights of today. “Wise men used to tell us that we have to look for these signs,” he said, “these signs tell us that the world is turning around, shaking up what we know, these signs tell us that an era (yuga) is coming to an end.”

I noticed from then on that his conversations with me were filled with such poetic turns. He persisted in reading signs around him to speak of and understand a world that was transforming beyond any of our individual comprehension. Once, he told me with some resignation that the scrap materials he grew up with weren’t around anymore, and his son knows much more about the new items that was coming through the city, their make and their going rates. “But these new items try to fool us,” he said, “you can’t tell one material from another, the scrap that comes through the city nowadays reflects the kind of people we are becoming: cold, calculating, untrustworthy.”

Perhaps, this is why he worked through his old age to forge unity, solidarity, and a sense of fraternity among Bangalore’s waste workers and recyclers. Before anyone else, he saw that one era was coming to a close and a new era, an era beyond any individual comprehension, was dawning upon us.

We heed Peersahib’s wisdom when we forge a path together to cast light on this new dark age. And if once, he shined brightly from below, from among us, his light now shines from up above.    May his soul rest in peace.

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Take a Listen to the three episodes

This episode features Peer Saheb, and traces his journey of  working in informal waste 

“Plastic Saamaan Bindige”: Shadowing Riyaz and Peer Saheb

Riyaz and Peer Saheb are waste pickers at the Nayandahalli waste collection zone. To supplement their income, they often sell inexpensive plastic-ware in the areas surrounding the godown. Each day they pick the areas where the sale will be made, and the work is divided evenly – one pushes the hawking cart, the other calls out to the world the type of products they are selling that day. On some days, they carry around aluminium vessels which people can get in exchange for old clothes.

The work day starts early and finishes late evening, with a lunch break in the middle. On the way, both pick up waste items like old wires and broken plastic items, to be later sorted, stripped, and sold. Fridays, the Muslim Sabbath day, are off-days.

We followed Riyaz and Peer Saheb on one such hawking sale day. Listen to them discussing their lives, their challenges, and how such ad-hoc work adds up to provide them with a livelihood.

Dastan e Nayandahalli –  All About the Informal Plastic and Metal Cart Business-RJ-Siddiq-Salma-lliyaze-Babu-Per Saheb

 

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