Mansur Dai’s flutes are a permanent fixture of Indrachowk

3 min read
09 Aug 2017
3 min read
708 words
From the Archive (May, 2016): In a space crowded with people, cars and shopkeepers, the short snatches of melodies on Mansur Dai’s murali pierce through the traffic noise and the indistinguishable chatter

The presence is further propagated by Mansur dai, the flute seller who set up the tree. He attracts potential customers by playing short snatches of melodies on his murali, its sharp tunes piercing through the traffic noise and the indistinguishable chatter. Then as the customers approach him, he’ll blanket them with the soothing low sounds of a bansuri, almost as if to lull them into buying one of his flutes. When children pass by, he raises the volume as they curiously point at the collection of flutes. People usually buy the cheaper flute from the tree. The expensive and ornate ones are kept in a neat bundle in his green satchel. Handing out the various flutes, he’ll say, “These flutes are made of bamboo. So you can imagine how durable they are.”

The same cannot be said about his knees, however, as they have become swollen from the constant standing he has to do from seven in the morning to seven at night. But Mansur dai is adamant that standing is the tried-and tested method of selling flutes. He does get moments of respite when he leaves his spot to eat. He also sneaks in ‘rests’ in his schedule when he hides from the guards the neighbourhood shopkeepers employ to keep flute sellers like him at bay. When they are around, he will sit down for a bit. Between selling flutes, eating and hiding, he barely gets any time for his thoughts.

The life of a flute seller is hard. But his resolve to keep working is harder—by the incentive to feed himself and his family

He says that he’s so tired by the end of the day that he just goes to sleep after a brief dinner. The life of a flute seller is hard. But his resolve to keep working is harder—by the incentive to feed himself and his family. His business has its troughs—when he sells zero flutes a day—and peaks—when he sells close to 40. People from all walks of life, lured by the sight of his flutes and their melody, venture over to his one-man shop—and if they can agree on a price—add a bit to what’s there in his money-pouch. Selling flutes ranging from Rs 30 to Rs 450, by the end of the day, he feels he’s done what he can to earn enough.

“That is my purpose now. I’m 60 and all I want to have is enough money to feed my family. I don’t need to find the meaning of life like other people my age do. I don’t have the time to think about it,” he says. “I’m satisfied with what I have. I got what was written in my fate.” He came to Nepal from Gorakhpur when he was 20, and his developing interest in flutes led him to setting up his tree in this spot in Indrachowk. He takes pride in his work and believes everyone should as well, if they haven’t done anything wrong. “Besides, what’s the benefit of having too much money? You don’t take your money with you when you die,” he says.

Standing below the steps of the Akash Bhairav temple in front of a plethora of colourful scarves among a confusing crowd of people, Mansur dai exhales an air of surety—a surety originating from his 40-year presence here. Just like the old buildings and temples here, he has been through turbulence and dust. And just like the old buildings and temples, he still stands.