Meet the mattress-fluffer-up-wala

Meet the mattress-fluffer-up-wala

I read an article in the Huffington Post recently about runners obsessively sharing all the joys and the highs and the lows and the statistics of their running, so enthused and happy-hormone-d out are they.   So I shall cunningly try and disguise all the running-y news in this post with some genuine non-running snippets.

Thik hai?

So here’s the thing…having inveighled my way into a fab run this coming Sunday morning, I now need to run a lot this week.

As in a lot.

As in Sunday’s run is actually a half marathon.

As in I have never run that much, and am still slowly preparing for the Delhi half marathon in November.

Gulp.  But a heritage run from Qutb Minar to Old Delhi, with some of my running girls for company, was just too tempting a prospect to miss.

So off I trotted this morning into a Delhi that was quite foggy and misty and felt winter-like, aiming to increase the distance I run.

I suspect a lot of the fog-like pall hanging over the city today is actually due to pre-Diwali pollution, with all the crackers and fireworks going off.  But the odd thing is, that although one knows that the city is polluted, on a day like today it doesn’t actually seem so.  Sure it was foggy, but it didn’t smell and taste polluted.  But there’s nothing I can do about it, and I am lucky enough to be able to run in relatively green and open spaces, so there you are.

Anyway, off I trotted down a deserted Raj Path, with India Gate just about visible through the gloom.  Imagine having all this for oneself.


Arrive at India Gate to find loads of soldiers milling around, all looking super-smart and snapping to attention as I ran along.  Somewhat thrilled by all this attention, I told myself they were all saluting me, and not that pesky army jeep that was driving behind me…

As I got to the monument however, a young soldier hesitantly came up to me and said “Sorry Ma’am. No”.

“Ah”, quoth I in Hindi as his English was clearly limited, “Can I not run around India Gate this morning?”

“No Ma’am.  Sorry Ma’am.  Thank you Ma’am.”

Perfect manners, bless him.

So I did what I have wanted to do for a while, and ran round the outer circle that surrounds the monument, and there really is always a silver lining in everything, because otherwise I might not have met this fabulous man :


He is a “pinjara” (or, is it “pinja”? Hindi speaking friends…?) and basically he re-plumps up your old mattresses.

The “pinjara” walks along twanging the bow-like wooden implement, to let you know he is down in the street, but over the years they are becoming increasingly fewer.  I remember in my early days in India hearing these men relatively frequently, but nowadays, hardly ever.

This dignified man gravely answered my questions, and here is the “gyaan” summarised for you : he is from Uttar Pradesh state, it takes him about 2 hours to re-card a mattress.  It costs Rs500 and he was walking to Sundernagar where there is always business because of all the big old houses there.

I tell you, the things you see when you are out and about early in Delhi…

Back down Raj Path I trotted, and up to the gates of Rashtrapati Bhawan, where I ran several laps up and down Raisina Hill.  Just because it is so totally fabulous to be on your own, surrounded by acres of Lutyens and Herbert Baker architecture.

I stopped and checked on the men who built all these amazing structures :


Not sure quite what Mr. Donkin’s job entailed  – “E and M”?

And you have to wonder what poor Mr. Parker would think about the sanitary situation today…

Actually, what would any of these men think about the deliciously wonky road markings on Raisina Hill ?


So between the pinjara and all that saluting, and chatting to a delightful road sweeper who turned off his music on his smart phone to greet me, and avoiding the monkeys who were out in force this morning, I clocked up 18km –  the most I have ever run.  So that is all pretty exciting.

And how pretty is my track log around India Gate?



  1. What a delightful post! I loved your writing style, and I’m so glad I stumbled across this blog. I’ve heard of mattress fluffers, but you hardly see them these days. Reminds me of this piece I read about the dying profession of Bhistis, traditional water sellers, who are now reduced to a tribe of just about two or three members concentrated around old Delhi.

    1. Thank you, Amiya, for your kind words, and coming from the writer of such a lovely blog as yours, that is a real compliment. Stunning photos, and your Spiti story has pushed it even higher up my bucket list than it already was!
      I have an American friend who is the only person I know who still sends postcards. And whenever I receive one, I love it.


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