Thursday, July 21, 2016


Reminiscences of my school days would be incomplete without a mention of the gypsies. I thought it was appropriate to dedicate an entire piece for them as a mark of respect for them. Although, we often tend to see them as vagabonds and criminals, there is something really attractive and mysterious about them. While on our journeys to school and on our way back to our homes, there was not one day when would have missed seeing a band of the gypsies somewhere on the route. Dressed in the most haphazard and unkempt manner, at first sight, they are certainly a bunch that does not deserve any mention. But observe them a little more closely and you will see why they are an amazing bunch.

One of their skills that caught my fascination, is the way they brought down squirrels with the catapult. I have also seen them shoot small birds with their air guns. There are days when I have stopped my cycle to watch this flawless execution being exhibited. It requires such a great amount of practice and focus to bring about this impeccable execution. I have seen hardly one or two in their bunch, miss a shot, over the entire school time span that I have seen them. This meant that most of them, were really good at it. It really made me think, as to how I could scale up my performance in my academics, through sheer practice and focus.

The other fascinating aspect that I observed, was that they had their own products that they made and sold. I had mentioned in my last post on the same subject of school reminiscences, that there would be vendors who lined up with their sale spots on both sides of the road on the salary day of each month. The gypsies also would put up one or two sales spots in these. Of course, we could find their sale spots on other days too, at different places. What they made, were mostly trinkets and jewelry of various colours, made of beads and metal and other small metalwork. They also sold catapults of different sizes. They had their own supply, assembly and selling systems in place. A bunch of them, would go out on the roads and the streets and use their sticks that had magnets fixed at their ends to pick up different types of iron stuff and scrap. They could be nails or rings or any small parts that found its way outside the Railway shops. Another bunch, would sit and make whatever products they could from what the supply bunch collected. My assumption is that they would invest in the purchase of the beads, that were very much a part of most of their products. What was fascinating was their passion in what they made and the faith that their products would sell, when they were still a group that were being looked down in the social strata by the hoi polloi. I doubt whether their social position has become any different today either.

Monkeys are very much a part of the bunch. The gypsies get them dressed in beautiful human attires and make them do all the monkey tricks. A lot of people gather to watch this and generously give them money. This show was always there on the Railway salary day of every month.

I remember watching a very funny scene while returning from school, one day. A police team was trying to clear out a gypsy bunch from a location. One of them, while lifting his air gun in the process of quickly evading the police beating him up, happened to portray a position as though, he was aiming the gun at the police. The poor fellow got beaten up all the more, miserably :))

With the rampant growth of e-Commerce, the products of their type are being made and sold by several other individuals through home based ventures. Women can stand out in the crowd or go boho-chic by incorporating the gypsy woman jewelry into their outfit. You enter a fascinating world when you have a tryst with gypsy jewelry. You can spot beads from the size of a mustard seed to that of a lemon in their works of art. I think women should go in for this jewelry only if they are in the mood for experimenting as they are sure to stand out in a crowd in a pretty quirky way with these. That way, they get to tweak their looks everyday to go in the gypsy way. A free spirited and flamboyant mentality is what a gypsy look reflects and that is yet to catch up in a big way in conservative India. There are several gypsy tribes all over the world and each have their own flamboyance in their way of life.

I very rarely take the Railway road these days and it's been a long time, since I have seen a bunch of gypsies. It would be really interesting to see, how the mobile technology has impacted them as mobiles have crept into the hands of almost everyone in India. Imagine some one in the gypsy community getting a good exposure on e-Commerce. He or she could make a big impact, while India is going through this transformation in shopping now.


Agatha Doreen Blah said...

When I was in College in Madras, whenever I saw the gypsies I found them really intriguing. I would wonder how they lived, whether it was fun or difficult because they were so different but somehow I used to like watching them.

Roy Cherian Cherukarayil said...

Yes they sustain their life is really a mystery.

praveen's blog said...

Roy, not sure if the location you are mentioning is the vacant spot next to J &D office. Another interesting aspect is their language, which did not have any script but was able to communicate every human feelings possible. The different sect or clan had their own language, I also came across a group on Prague which had similar nomadic life and one of my colleague had done extensive research on these gangs. I also remember reading a news article about one of the kid getting admitted to Med school in Chennai.

Roy Cherian Cherukarayil said...

Very good observation Praveen. In fact you can hear a distinct "Heyyyyyyy..." before they take off on that babble....babble for us :)) but actually they have a clear communication happening that time. Yes, one bunch was near the Joint Office and the other somewhere close to the Carriage Works bridge. Gypsies across the world have a very interesting profile.

jubi Abraham said...

Roy, It is only because you were cycling to school you had the opportunity to wait and watch their activities without being caught at home for late coming form school.... we three brothers wanted to watch the same gang on our way to Sunday school but there were too many informers in that area since my Dad was working in Joint Office, and we got beaten up once for buying one catapult (Of course out of offertory money) and hiding it under the bed meticulously ... but still got caught and investigation revealed the source of can guess the intensity of the blows we got ha ha... god old memories got kindled by your blog. And yes their slang.. path pin path paisooo...Thanks.

Roy Cherian Cherukarayil said...

Hello Jubichetta,
Hahaha...really a funny's natural for anyone to have the inclination to own a catapult.




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