A walk through these bazaars is enough to convince one of the need to save these traditional markets
Noida. Kota. Anta. Rishikesh. Shimla. Chandigarh. Dhenkanal. Mumbai. London. Delhi. This has been the geographical trajectory of my life thus far. They were all home at some point, only the length of calling them home varied.
A medley of colours creates a riot in an otherwise dull bazaar which is always waiting to find a handful of customers. The spices on display are usually home-made and with their strong aroma, can easily put the popular brands to shame. If only product and not packaging was what people sought, these would be no inferior to other established spice brands in the country.
Every time I left one and moved to another, and hiraeth – home-sickness for a home to which you cannot return – took over.
These Bazaars have something for everyone. There are still some who wait for a full week to buy things that give them joy, from these bazaars. Nothing like selling million dollar smiles at affordable prices
Having moved away from homes in small towns, I realise now how much I miss them and how hard I try to find semblance in the big cities I now live in.
A lady inspects a stainless steel pan before making a new addition to her kitchenware
It’s almost as if the towering malls in the big cities had eclipsed the memories of the bazaars of my past – the bazaars which I regularly frequented, as a child; the weekly bazaars more popularly known as haats.
Intricately embroidered colorful Mojris are available at half the rates of what their counterparts are selling them for in the malls
These haats religiously make stops in the various residential colonies tucked in the city, on fixed days.
Hundreds of pairs of glasses wait for a buyer to see them eye to eye, in Som Bazaar, a weekly market in Pushp Vihar area, Delhi
The merchants are the same, the products the same, only the location changes.
Ashok Kumar, a travelling merchant, follows the trend with full sincerity and tries to stock his stall with fashionable merchandise for the few who still trust him to bring the fashion to their wardrobes
During candid conversations with some of the merchants from these travelling bazaars, I figured how they are struggling to keep their business alive.
64-year-old Mizul Haq has been in the trade for more than three decades and he has seen the times change. A short conversation with Haq reminds one of the beautiful words by Mahmoud Darwish, ‘Time has flown, and I have not flown with it…’
64-year-old Mizul Haq is a resident of Madangir who travels throughout the week to make an earning. “I have been doing this for three decades, and have seen things change,” explains Haq.
Ganesh is a young entrant in the travelling Bazaar business and for him setting up his stall is nothing short of Labour of love. Everyday, Ganesh meticulously arranges the hand-printed bedsheets in the best possible display with his limited means but unfortunately folds them back only to put on display again, with a hope to find a customer the next day
He confesses how his sales have dropped by almost 60-70 per cent from what they were earlier. On a Monday afternoon, tirelessly fitting the iron bars of his small 8x12ft make-shift stall in Pushp Vihar in South Delhi, Haq takes a sigh and points towards the mall in the vicinity and adds, “That has taken away my 60 per cent customers.”
Ahmed sells beautiful blankets at unbelievably reasonable rates, despite this he does not find enough customers. He blames the “mall culture” for the dwindling number of customers
Other merchants mirror Haq’s concern. “The new generation is obsessed with brands, moreso because it adds to their ‘status symbol,’” explains Mahesh, a cosmetics stall owner.
A young energetic seller shouts his lungs out to attract customers with his clever one-liners, hoping it works and brings attention to his otherwise bare stall
In an attempt to convince that his products are authentic, he has rechristened his shop from Mahesh Cosmetics to Hollywood-Bollywood Cosmetics Shop.
Between now and then, Waris has witnessed the change. He embodies the sensitivity and emotions of most of the merchants when they pack up their stalls every night, without selling even a single product, and return home not with heavier pockets but heavier hearts
Despite the wide variety of merchandise available, these markets find very few visitors. “We have roadside stalls and cannot compete with the shops in the mall. We can only watch them steal away our remaining customers,” reveals Ahmed who sells beautiful blankets at reasonable rates.
It is amazing to see the wide variety of merchandise available; from apparel, footwear, kitchen utensils, stationery, toys, cosmetics, these markets also stock fresh vegetables, spices, pickles etc.
As the buying power of the youth is increasing, they are looking for a better shopping experience, one which welcomes them with metal detectors, showcases options through a wide range of mannequins and ends with recycled shopping bags of hi-end brands.
Mahesh is a simple man who understands the competition he is facing with big brands. In an attempt to convince that his products are authentic and top-end, he has rechristened his shop from Mahesh Cosmetics to Hollywood-Bollywood Cosmetics Shop. He is confident that a name change will increase the credibility of his products, promising more customers
A walk through these bazaars is enough to convince one of the need to save these traditional markets. According to books on Delhi, these markets must be preserved because they represent a history, a tradition and a cultural continuity. But I, personally, want to preserve them to keep a part of my past alive.
Merchants spend more than two hours daily to erect the structures of their makeshift stalls by assembling the planks and the iron bars to display their products in an effective and eye catching arrangement. To ensure the customers get a good view of their merchandise they hang their products high enough and also ensure there is proper lighting at night
Sunday – RK Puram; Daryaganj
Monday – Pushp Vihar; Karol Bagh; Vikaspuri
Tuesday – Sector-2, Noida; Tilak Nagar
Wednesday – Sadik Nagar; Govindpuri; Vasant Vihar; Shyam Path; Moti Nagar; Rani Bagh
Thursday – Masjid Moth; Mayur Vihar; Rajender Nagar; Ramesh Nagar
Friday – West Patel Nagar; Vikram Enclave; Sanjay Nagar; Mohammadpur; Rajouri
Saturday – Sarita Vihar; East of Kailash; Lajpat Nagar; Vijay Nagar; Karam Pura
All images: Baya Agarwal
AUTHOR'S BIO: Baya is a silent observer. She loves to travel, meet new people, hear them out and make her own impressions of them. She romanticises about all that is gone – past, not just her own but also of places and other people. Baya maintains her small town diary through the blog.