Let us talk walk together through a weekly market located in the heart of Delhi. At a time when malls and sanitized shopping spaces have become the overpowering reality can weekly markets of this kind continue to enjoy a space of their own or will they disappear one day at not being able to fit into the conventional definition of the smart-city? Here we explore a weekly market which speaks the language of simplicity, uninterrupted human interaction and a space where social interaction is effortless.
Ananya Pathak |The New Leam
Variety is indeed the spice of life! When you venture into a weekly market in the hub of the city what you realise all over again is the fact that the smell of spices, the hustle bustle of the crowd, the strategy of bargaining and getting the right price and above all the ambience of sheer festivity can never be experienced in the modern, sanitized malls where the smell of affluence overpowers all other fragrances.
Vendors and customers from near and far flock the weekly market and lend it an enlivened character that perhaps no other kind of market can ever replicate. Fresh farm produce at affordable rates accompanied with the myriad opportunities for entertainment such as a variety of food stalls and rides for children are enough to attract a huge crowd to these markets. The colours and fragrances of fresh vegetables and fruits lure customers and make these local markets the first preference for many lower middles class and subaltern customers- for whom the malls are both monetarily and psychologically inaccessible.
Mango, chilli or mixed pickle no matter which one you choose you are bound to be amazed at the way that these vendors have mastered the science of Indian taste- while they offer customers a portion of the pickle to taste before they buy it, what this also denotes is that there seems to be an element of trust between the seller and the customer beyond the transactional engagement. The genuineness, the naturalness and the ordinariness of social interactions in weekly markets are in many important ways reminders of the simple and cooperative village life where deepest problems like discrimination, poverty and hierarchy; people continue to interact in a non- armoured, informal manner. The weekly market takes us back to simpler times.
Utensils ranging from those made of iron, copper and steel to those made of clay cover various nooks and corners of the weekly market. Their glaze and shine seem to magnetically pull women closer- and then there seems to be a prolonged process of bargaining after which the utensil is sold or rejected. This process of debating and deliberating towards attaining the right price of a commodity which in the colloquial language is called ‘ Mol-Tol’ is not only an extremely interesting phenomenon to watch but it also shows one how not all people are equipped with enough material wealth to buy products at an excess price and to accommodate necessities in their budget they do need to negotiate the prices. This active participation in the transactional process by both the seller and the buyer is what lends the market its organic character and this is what makes it so strikingly different from online shopping on retail websites where there is a market but only in the virtual sense of the term.
This little boy assists his father every day after returning back from his school. For children like him the roles of adult life are learnt not from any external source or institution but from practice in real life circumstances. The boy’s childhood may not be seen as a happy one by another child from the rich or upper middle class family but what we also must not neglect is the fact that this boy does not lead a shielded existence, an isolated life where there are all the amenities but no sign of genuine human warmth or companionship. He lives, grows and experiences the world in markets such as this every day. He may not have an ipad or access to fast food but he has access to fountains of experience and exposure that no air-conditioned school can ever provide.
Fried savoury snacks are central to weekly markets and they end up attracting both the young and the old alike. They do not have the sophistication or the hygiene standards of the high end restaurants and cafes but what they have is the fragrance of the earth. They are made and consumed by simple and ordinary men and women for whom more than being a market as a space for selfish transaction these weekly markets has become an opportunity for interaction and social exchange. This feeling has transformed food into an occasion of laughter and endless gossip rather than a mere biological need. There seems to be endless time and a non-hurried existence that make the weekly market a non-hierarchical and shared space for all.
We end this photo-essay with this picture of ripe and juciy tomatoes scattered on a mat for sale. These tomatoes have come to the market from farms near and far and are products of the labor of farmers belonging to various castes,villages and communities but what unites them all is their bright color- Red. Can any of the farmers who grew these tomatoes now discriminate between the one that grew in his own farm and the one that did not? It is impossible. The weekly maarket teaches us an important lesson of existence:nomatter what our caste,creed or religious affiliations maybe we are all the same in flesh and blood. It is with this positive and life-affirming note that we walk off the weekly market.
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