Standing outside the Chinnaswamy stadium in Bengaluru, Aslam Khan is a busy man. He goes from one person to another, asking whether he can paint the tricolour on their cheeks.
"I have been jobless during the last few weeks and now I'm finally getting to do some work," says Aslam Khan, smiling. "How can you support India without painting your face with the tricolour!" he remarks.
Aslam is one among many people who depend on cricket matches to make a livelihood. These men travel across the country during matches, selling jerseys and flags, wristbands and hats, for their survival. And while they all have hawked outside stadiums for years together, most of them have never seen the inside of a stadium yet.
As Aslam was speaking to us, a loud cheer erupts from inside the stadium, where India is playing Afghanistan in the latterâ€™s first test match. â€śFor years, we have only heard these cheers standing outside the stadium. I wish there comes a day when I would be standing inside the stadium,â€ť he says.
â€śBut what to do, we have to earn some money to take care of our families first,â€ť says Abbas, who reached Bengaluru from Delhi a day before the match and has booked his place on the footpath right outside the stadium. On the day of the match, he is up at 6 in the morning, arranges all the jerseys of the Indian cricket team neatly on a mat and waits patiently for the fans to start pouring in.
"Business is not good during test matches as the players wear white clothes, so the fans don't buy coloured jerseys," says Abbas, who has been travelling across the country, wherever a match is held, to sell team jerseys and flags.
The vendors arenâ€™t particularly fans of the sport â€“ but they have a lot of hopes on the proceedings and the outcomes.
"I hope India wins the toss and bats first,â€ť quips JP Gupta for instance. â€śThis way, our business will go on for a few days at least," he hopes.
â€śWe donâ€™t care who wins, but we hope the people support India because that is the only way we can run our business,â€ť says Ashok.
After this match in Bengaluru, India is not slated to play home matches for quite some time, which means these vendors will have to look for alternate means of a livelihood.
â€śDuring those days when there are no cricket matches, we take up odd jobs as a driver, painter or as a carpenter,â€ť says Ashok. JP Gupta says that he will go back to his home in Varanasi and look for some other work.
The Indian Premier League is the best time of the year for these vendors as the tournament goes on for a period of one and half months, where most of the matches attract huge crowd.
Aslam Khan sings an old Hindi song as he is painting the tricolour on the cheeks of a fan. He says that a cricket match is a time of joy and excitement for the fans but for these vendors, every match is a struggle for survival.
Most of these hawkers are away from their families for a long time as they travel wherever the team goes in the country.
"We travel in general compartments with all these items from one place to another, take up a room in dingy lodges or sleep on footpaths, railway stations or bus stands," says Aslam who went on to say that he is waiting for this match to end so that he can go back to his family in Lucknow.
â€śI could have become an artist if I wanted to but that wonâ€™t get me the money to survive in this city,â€ť he says, with a bittersweet laugh.