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The poetic life of a 68-year-old street vendor

January, 30/2022 - 15:05

Street vendor Đinh Văn Diệp's life can be summed up in his own words: "I don't know if I'm the poorest guy in this city, but I am sure I'm the happiest!".

 

Although life is hard, Diệp always tries to face it with a positive attitude. — Photo danviet.vn

HÀ NỘI — Street vendor Đinh Văn Diệp's life can be summed up in his own words: "I don't know if I'm the poorest guy in this city, but I am sure I'm the happiest!"

For the last six years, the sexagenarian can be seen wandering the busy streets of Tôn Đức Thắng and Khâm Thiên, trying to sell an unusual street product: the ballpoint pen.

Well-dressed with a bag full of pens with him, Diệp stops at the big intersection and reads his pen-selling poems out loud.

"Sky is blue, clouds are white; buy a pen, it'll make me smile," goes the street vendor. The tired faces of people stopping at the red light become amused and stop to buy one or two pens from Diệp.

Diệp's life story, however, is a stark contrast to his fun poems. While most people at his age are retired, Diệp is still the breadwinner of his small, dilapidated home in the alleyway of Tôn Đức Thắng street.

"I have no wife or children," said Diệp, "All I have is my older sister and a niece suffering from Agent Orange to take care of."

The family lives through state benefits and Diệp's daily hustle on the streets.

"I was a lottery vendor for 30 years, but then nobody buys lottery tickets anymore," said Diệp. "And then a friend talked me into selling these ballpoint pens, and here I am now!"

Diệp's pens cost about VNĐ2,000 (US$0.088), and people get one for free if they buy 10.

"I can sell about 200-400 pens per day, each pen making a profit of VNĐ800," said Diệp. "And that gets me and my family through the day."

"Diệp's a good man. It's the struggle of life that made him look so much older," said his neighbour, Vũ Thị Vân. "Although selling pens isn't profitable, sometimes he still gives pens to others for free."

A day for Diệp starts at 7am. The 68-year-old walks from his house to the Ô Chợ Dừa intersection and sells his products to people stopping at the lights.

After two hours of hard work, Diệp returns to his house for a rest and a refill of pens. "I'm old, can't stand for long," said Diệp. The senior citizen concludes his day at around 5pm.

Despite the hard work, Diệp always has a positive outlook on life, which he instils in his customers with every poem he reads out loud.

Students always come back and look for Diệp, as he always gives his blessings.

"I wish you the best in your studies!" says the jolly man as his young customer's wave goodbye.

In the most crowded intersections of Hà Nội, right at rush hour when people are tired and bored by daily life, a spirited old man still hustled on with a smile on his face.

"I might be poor, but I'm always happy. I can sing and read poems all day, how many people can do that?" Diệp remarked joyfully. — VNS

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