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Kabariwalas & Ragpickers

The kabariwala is an intrinsic part of Indian life.  He is the original recycler.  He will take away your old rubbish like newspapers, schoolbags and bottles.  He gets new things made from old things and that is how he earns his daily bread.

We often buy products from local shops in paper bags made from recycled newspapers.  The kabariwala is the originator of these paper bags.  I have a cleanout every so often and leave lots of rubbish outside the house .  It is gone within hours.  If the kabariwala doesn't take it, the ragpickers probably will.  The ragpickers are easy to spot.  Small children and sometimes women, going around with a sack which they fill with whatever rubbish they are collecting.  Some collect only polythene and some only paper.  This helps them to eke out a living.

I personally would never like to take money from a kabariwala.  They seem to be very poor.  My mother-in-law, however,  would never give something away to a kabariwala if she can help it.  Now a ragpicker is different, as they specialize in rubbish.   Every so often, my mother-in-law will call in the kabariwala, make him weigh everything she gives him and haggle with him down to the last half of a rupee.  I used to really dislike that but I realize that I'm quite out of order.

She's not being greedy as such.  She likes to think that she is doing something to help the family financially as she is now quite elderly and unable to do too much work.  Besides, kabariwalas are not beggars and have always been ready to pay for the items they recycle.


  1. I have admiration for you to be so open minded as to make a life in another land so totally immersed in the culture. I have read several of your posts and you convey the essence of the moment well. Precautions like calling your nephew is wise. Be safe and enjoy the riches of such a life. ~Lisa~

  2. How interesting. I like hearing about things that go on on the other side of the world ;)


  3. I think we have similar things happening here but not sure what the names are... I will find out!

  4. That happens here to a lesser degree. You put stuff out for heavy trash pick-up and before the truck comes, half of it is gone.

  5. I love to hear about life in India from the inside!
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  6. Very interesting!That's how you make your articles about every day life seem! We have Goodwill, Kings Ranch and other places that take throw away items and use it for others. Goodwills take the items and handicapped people repair and resell for their income, while Kings Ranch takes the items to help with the kids they take in that don't have homes. Two good organizations.

  7. Things always look different from various points of view. I can see the way you feel and I will act the same way if in this situation... but your mother in law's point of view is fair enough: her family is the most important thing and she acts to help the family and the people she cares for. Have I ever said that I love this blog because it makes me learn so many thing??? Have a wonderful day!

  8. Gaelikaa, recycling is a business. In India, it is a very big business. The profit margins that the kabadiwalla generates is mind boggling. Please do not feel bad about taking money from him for the service he renders. He resells whatever he takes from you at more than double the price that he pays you. He is not a man to be pitied, but respected for his entrepreneurship. He is not a beggar.


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