The Street Vendor



At first light the boy brought him two plastic sacks of sweets –
Orbs of puffed rice glued together with toffee –
In preparation for the holiday to commemorate God
When street vendors could expect to make some extra rupees

I watched him struggle to keep those sacks
On his tiny bicycle-wheeled trolley along with his
Iron scales and weights, a stack of paper bags made from old newspapers
And a small mound of unsold rice balls left over from the day before.

I watched him that bent old man in his cotton kurta
Juggling the means of his survival at the start of the day.

In the evening I saw him again
When I bought a bag of those sticky sweet orbs –
four for a rupee –

The street was noisy, crowded
It was hot
The air foul with fumes and smoke

The two big plastic sacks were still on his trolley
Only half of one sack had been sold

And he was still standing there
Juggling his survival
Fourteen hours after I first saw him
That old street vendor.



For photos and stories about street vendors from many different nations, see Serious Travel Images:

Dead Language

Every 14 days, a language dies.

Half of the roughly 7,000 languages spoken on Earth will likely disappear, as communities abandon native tongues in favour of English, Mandarin, or Spanish….’




Our language was given to us by the Gods who created our world.

We had our own language and that was who we were.

We had names for every kind of tree, for every kind of plant, for every kind of vine, plant and flower.

We had names for every kind of animal, bird, reptile and fish.

And friend, in those days, there were so many – so many – species of trees, plants, animals, birds, fish and insects.

All around us. We were a part of them and they were a part of us.


Our language!

We had stories and songs to guide us through the forest, to know where we were going and why we were there.

Our language was the promise that our world would be replenished.

It was the promise that after we died, we would return to our world.


One day men who spoke a different language came with their Evil Magic and destroyed our world.

Our people were scattered.

We became slaves.

Some of us worked on the roads, some of us fixed fences, some of us worked in mines, some of us worked in factories.

We found ourselves alone, speaking a dead language.


What had we done wrong?

How had we angered the Gods?

Or were our Gods dead?

Many of us lost the will to live and drank ourselves to death.


As for me, a survivor, I spend my days walking through the mud where once the forest thrived, unable to speak to anyone, thinking words in a language no one understands.

I talk to myself, talk aloud, hoping that someone, another survivor somewhere, will hear me and answer me.

I wait and wait, listening to the echo of my own voice,
Speaking a dead language.




A photo of Ivaritji, the last survivor of the Kaurna people, who once inhabited the area where Adelaide, the capital city of South Australia, stands today. The photo was taken in 1939, shortly before she died, by anthropologist Norman B. Tindale. A far better reproduction of this photo can be seen in the South Australian Museum.