His job for the past 40 years has been folding boxes and he loves it


He's been folding boxes since he was 10. And with Diwali approaching, Khan's in a folding frenzy. But he loves his job as his gift boxes has helped him support his family. Photo: Unsplash

It's six in the evening. He's making boxes. He has been making boxes since 10 in the morning. In fact, he has been making boxes for 40 years. This 50-year-old man must be fed up of making boxes almost all his life.

Jamal Khan laughs, bobbing his head up and down. He is sitting cross-legged on the floor in one corner of a little qabristan, or graveyard, tucked within Old Delhi's appropriately named Mohalla Qabristan.

He is surrounded by dozens of boxes he has made since the day began.

"These aren't of wood but of MDF," he points out.

The Diwali festival is approaching, he explains, saying that this is the busiest time of the year for him.

"Most people exchange gifts on Diwali and they need the gift boxes." The rest of the year remains sluggish "but somebody or the other is always in need of boxes."

Khan inherited the profession from his late father, who arrived a lifetime ago in the Walled City from Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh, India.

"We first lived in Skakur ki Dandi, then we moved to Turkman Gate, and now I live with my wife and sons in Sheesh Mahal, behind Delite Cinema, which is 10 minutes walk away from here."

Khan began assisting his father in box-making when he was just 10.

"May be that's the reason I don't get fed up of my work. I never went to school, I never realised there could be other options in life, so I never felt discontented."

He is happy to report that he can't say the same for his children. The sons are in school and most probably they won't take up his work, he feels.

"They will do what they will want to do," observes Khan as he concentratedly applies a coating of liquid gum on the surface of a box-in-progress. "When a supplier gives an order for big boxes, I end up making around 50 daily."

Today, the boxes he is making are relatively small and he has rustled out 150. As the twilight sky darkens further, Khan gets up, turns on a lamp, and patiently sits down again. Preparing to give the finishing touch to a box, he suddenly raises his head as if struck by a novel argument.

"But I can never be fed up of making boxes. This work has supported my family all these years, and the earnings help me educate my sons. "He now poses for a portrait, declaring he will leave for home some three hours later. – Hindustan Times, New Delhi/Tribune News Service

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