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Boxwallahs were small-scale travelling merchant peddlers in India. They were known as boxwallahs because of the large boxes in which they carried their merchandise (usually clothes and costume jewelry), though the term has been known to be applied to any traveling peddler and also to people involved in business and commercial activities (as opposed to "babus" or civil servants).[citation needed] Boxwallahs, the peddlers with boxes, were a common sight in the streets of Delhi and other north Indian cities from about 1865 to 1948.[1] Boxwallah English was the commercial and trade English that Englishmen used when interacting with Indians (traders) during the British Raj.[2]

The Boxwallah is also the title of an ITV Playhouse TV film that aired on 31 July 1982 and starred Leo McKern and Rachel Kempson.[3]

Boxwallah in fiction[edit]

Rudyard Kipling was particularly attracted by the idea of a boxwallah and the idea of a boxwallah is present in several of his short stories. In "From Sea to Sea", Kipling talks of a mistreated Burmese girl as if she were a Delhi Boxwallah, presumably because the protagonist bargained too hard with her.[4] In "The Sending of Dana Da", the title character makes a deathbed reference to his former life as a boxwallah.[5] Most famously, Kipling used 'Boxwallah' as a pen name for his skewer on British Indian life in "An Eastern Backwater".[6] Evelyn Waugh also mentions a 'wallah' at the end of his short story, "Incident in Azania." [7]


  1. ^ The Hindu : Delhi's good old Boxwallah
  2. ^ The Hindu : Linguistic incursions
  3. ^ "ITV Playhouse" The Boxwallah (1982)
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 8 April 2014. Retrieved 2008-09-05. 
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 8 April 2014. Retrieved 2008-09-05. 
  6. ^ An Eastern Backwater by Boxwallah, Andrew Melrose, London, 1912(?)
  7. ^ The Complete Stories, Evelyn Waugh, Hachette Book Group, 2011