Not the silencer for gun unfortunately but the for my age old Fiat Palio NV. For a while I knew something is a miss as my beloved Palio was suddenly sounding like a NOS drunk race car. But unlike a real race car mine was high on noise and low on performance. My hunt for a “fix” took me to mechanic that specializes in working on exhaust pipes.
Meet Balraj Singh- The specialist. And he looks the part.A bit of paunch, steady hands and a look on the face that shows that he knows. No wonder as he has been in this business since 1988. I asked him what made him pick up this particular trade and he explained how his wife’s relatives were in this business since many years and that’s where he picked up the skills. As we waited for some M-seal to arrive for a previous customer he started explaining me how in the good old days he used to make a lot of money. He was known for his skills to make silencers from scratch for all the imported cars like Mercedes and BMW till these cars started becoming available in India and spares parts were in plenty. He was particularly very proud of doing bronze work for a Mercedes which Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru used to ride on during republic day parades. Some days he would make as much as Rs 20,000 per day. He had a brand new Fiat which he used to drive from Vikas Puri to East of Kailash. Now he is lucky if he makes 400-500 Rs per day. According to Balraj the trade has completely changed now. Even a regular mechanic can remove a few nuts and bolts and fix a silencer. Earlier it used to be cut and welded and there was a demand for his skills.
And here Balraj is getting under the hood of my car and welding the lose point in the silencer which was making my car get a hoarse voice. Just regular glasses, using acetylene torch and no protective gear of any sort. Price of the service-Rs 150. In college we used to read
that when ever new technology or industry comes jobs are lost in one and created in another. But in real life its not the same people who lose jobs or businesses and get new opportunities.
The story of Balraj is the story of lots of people in India.They had once their time in sun and now the times have changed. I wonder how he must be feeling as he now chugs along in his cycle from Vikas Puri to get under the hood and gets ready for another day in the lives of ordinary hardworking people from India.
P.S: Balraj Singh works at a Taxi stand near the LSR and Zamruddpur Traffic light. Next to the petrol pump. He has a good hand and some interesting stories to share.