Tag Archives: Hyderabad

India’s Currency Crunch:What are People in the Vegetable Markets Saying?

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‘When it rains lemons, make lemonade’ is an age old saying. In my case, it was tomatoes. Vegetable prices had dropped 20 – 50 percent after the demonetization of currency. The evening of November 8, 2016 made financial history in India as Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 suddenly became just paper! The nation was in shock – a sleepless night for rich and poor.

Television, radio and social media were abound with stories and jokes within minutes. Two days later I heard of truckloads of vegetables lying in docks and containers in a waste as traders had no cash to buy and no time to stand in long queues to exchange old notes for new currency.

A visit to the Bowenpally wholesale market in Hyderabad would give me the current picture, I decided. I parked my car and decided to explore the big storage and distribution yard. The market yard is open all days of the week from 4 am. The local municipal corporation has made adequate provision for a canteen and resting rooms to  ease traders, farmers and loaders.

market-entrance-gate

 

canteen-building

The canteen building

The canteen offers subsidised Telugu /Andhra meals and tiffins. Large trucks heavy with vegetables in jute sacks stood parked one behind another. The central courtyard was surrounded with raised platforms housing trading shops that were storage and distribution points.

This morning, around 10 am I sensed an air of uneasy calm, instead of the usual hustle bustle. Over morning cups of chai loaders and traders were discussing cash and sale issues.

  • How do we buy our daily bread?
  • What do we do with the old Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 currency notes?
  • What will be the impact on vegetable sales? A dip in profits? Rotten unsold vegetables?
  • Will the real ‘black money’ marketers be caught?
  • What is the motive of the government is stopping the use of these notes?

loaders-sittign-idle

I crossed my way through the maze of smaller pick up trucks, heaps of pumpkins and white gourds, jute sacks and idle loaders who posed for photos. Some were wondering what a well dressed woman is doing in the midst of all the market trade. Nagamma, a local vendor said ‘ le lo Amma..sasta bikta hai’ which translates as ‘buy cheaply Madam, vegetables are soon rotting so selling cheap.’

Lingaiah and Ramaih two brothers who are part-timeloaders went out of job for past two days, as sale of vegetables slumped. Others shook out Rs.1,000 note folding it into a paper cone to fill peanuts, and laughed jokingly! A thousand Rupees and no takers! Paper money! Even in the canteen and adjoining rest rooms no one accepted the demonetised money and village traders suddenly were cash strapped – no money in smaller denomination to buy food or pay for rest rooms. Another young vendor showed me 25 kilo tendli or gherkins in sacks that sold at Rs. 1,000 now had no buyers. A whopping loss of trade in a minute of announcement!

jute-sacks-awating-loading-into-lorry

 

loaders-loading-trucks

Tomatoes that were selling at Rs. 20 per kilo were down to Rs. 8-10 per kilo, so also fresh french beans, lady fingers and broad beans. One vendor smiled jokingly and asked ‘Madam free chai if you ONLY show me the new 2,000 currency note the banks are issuing.’A restaurant owner who regularly buys vegetables in bulk here moaned ‘We have been affected in the past three days as the vegetable markets are not accepting 1,000 and 500 notes. We have few new 2,000 notes and we are finding it difficult to buy vegetables in the wholesale market.’

500-and-1000-notes-what-to-do

Picking up my 5 kilos of juicy red tomatoes (and conjuring up  recipes) I walked to the car. The plight of the cash strapped vendors and reminders of long queues outside banks and ATM’s was a small price to pay for the bold move by the government in a bid to track down black money. India will now witness a huge surge in restructuring payments, transparent economy and educating the poor towards a cashless society with new bank accounts. Demonetisation will have its say in the markets and streets of India for some time now.

Enter plastic cards! Welcome to digital age for one and all!

All content and images copyright Veena S. (2013 -2016) http://www.walktomarket.wordpress.com. Please see copyright disclaimer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Retracing the Nawabi steps at Muzzam Jahi Market, Hyderabad

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Imagine baskets brimming with Persian fruit, women in black burqhas clutching shopping bags, children running between corridors of the stone building housing the market, vendors and errand boys carrying baskets for the Nawab’s family and friends. And above this all stood the clock tower of the Muzzam Jahi market in quiet aristocracy!

Sadly, it’s all gone now. The splendid market is just a piece of history and architecture.

But don’t lose heart. In spite to the distance from my part of the city (the market is located in Koti, Hyderabad) braving the chaotic traffic of honking cars, buses and cyclists, I was determined to visit and relive a piece of history. In fact, to take delight in the ‘Famous Ice Cream’ and buy some Dilkhush biscuits at the nearby Karachi Bakery were important too.

Majestic Muzzam Jahi market building and tower

Majestic Muzzam Jahi market building and tower

m-jahi-right-arcade

 

The Nizams did everything in grandeur, this market too was built with utmost care. It was constructed during the reign of the last Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan in 1935, and was named after his second son Moazzam Jah. Originally meant to be a fruit market, it soon turned out to be a place where one could find just about anything — fruits, vegetables, flowers, groceries, earthen pots, arms and ammunitions….yes that’s true! And paan, ice-cream, dry fruits, hookahs and ittar.

The fruit vendors, have been moved to Kothapet market and Monda market, others had stalls on the adjoining roads. Mounds of seasonal juicy oranges and soft. green custard apples lay scattered on the street floors.

street shop selling custard apple fruit

street shop selling custard apple fruit

As I walked into the central circular area, there was a round building lined with shops. From here, the semi- circular stone corridor was almost breath taking! What precision and calculation of exact height and width of the stone columns and the arches made this an architectural masterpiece! At both ends of the corridor a helix staircase lead to an upper open floor. The market building was made of brown stone brought from central Deccan plateau. The main tall clock tower at the entrance faced outwards. Pigeons seem to co exist with humans and vegetables in the central courtyard. Shopkeepers regularly scattered grains for the fluttering birds. Well, spot them here if you can.

central-courtyard-round-shops

Retracing the steps of Nawabs, their women folk and dozen children, I softly stepped up the stone corridor, peeking in and out of the numerous arches. Maybe a love story opened here? Romance,  demure fleeting glances, giggling girls hiding behind the columns, young men darting a glance? Imagine.

market-corridor

Today the wooden shop doors, looked vintage. Some were painted in a myriad of bright colours. Blue, brown, green, yellow and white – some shut, some half open, some begging for renovation. The interior space was deep, dark and air stone cooled. Out of the seventy odd shops, only a few remain functional today as grain stores, vegetable shops, oil traders and a few hookah and ittar shops. Chatting with a few Muslim fruit sellers they remembered how everyone lived here in harmony since past 50-70 years.

shop-door-painted

Exotic fruit. That was what the market was initially famous for. Hyderabad being in central India made it an important trade route. The Nawabs had elaborate kitchens and matching Khandaani cuisines that were renowned in the Arabic and European aristocracy. Figs and Narangi from Iran and Persia, Dates from the Arabic region, apples from Afghanistan and Kashmir, dry fruit of badam, pista, poonji, kishmish. Olives and olive oil from Iran and Spain. A well catered market.

Lastly, it was time to find THAT Famous Ice Cream shop…yes that’s it’s name!

Located on the outer corridor facing the noisy road, it was well tucked in. Red plastic chairs and tables lay out in the open courtyard in front. One corner had stainless steel ice cream churns and large vessels to boil milk. The other side displayed an old tempting menu board. The old man and his younger son have owned this shop for over 70 years, scooping out delicious, fruity soft ice cream, to young and old, and many a romantic pair. Spoilt for choice I was. I ordered one scoop of malai anjeer (cream and figs) and another of sitaphal (custard apple) and enjoyed those melting moments of cream in the mouth. For a recipe on sitaphal see here.

Famous Ice cream menu

Famous Ice cream menu

Now won’t you follow my footsteps to this grand Hyderabad market? Tell me about your experiences, maybe at other ice cream, hookah or candy shops that still open doors to customers. Till then,  Khuda Hafiz…Bye.

All content and images copyright Veena S. (2013 -2016) http://www.walktomarket.wordpress.com. Please see copyright disclaimer

 

 

 

Dazzling Bangles of Lad Baazar, Hyderabad

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Dazzling Bangles of Lad Baazar, Hyderabad

The tradition of wearing bangles or churi or bangri in India is an ancient custom, with deep significant meanings. Its humble evolvement from terracotta, stone, shell to ivory, lac, glass, metal and to modern-day plastic shows its cultural importance. Bangles are primarily worn to adorn the woman’s delicate wrists, but the deeper significance to protect her from evil eye, to ignite the Shakti and the gunas within hold equal improtance. Bangles are traditionally part of the solah shringar for the bride. How else can she call her beloved demurely other than with the soft tinkling ‘chan chan’ ?

Metal and studded stone bangle sets

Metal and studded stone bangle sets

My visit to Hyderabad’s popular Lad Bazaar or bangles bazaar set next to the magnificent Charminar was the place for study. Behind the modern-day cacophony, the old world charm and nostalgia of the Begums and bangle shops is one to be feasted upon visually!

Street shops near Charminar

Street shops near Charminar

Established during the Qutb Shahi rule in 1500’s the bazaar became famous for its glittering bangles, especially made by Kasars from glass or lac.  Hyderabad was first ruled by Kakatiya kings and later the Qutb Shahi rulers who were great patrons of Persian and Indo -Islamic cultures and languages making the city an epitome of Hindu -Muslim architecture and grace. architectural. It became famous for its diamonds, pearls and rubies too. The Nawabi era saw sprawling palaces, rich cuisine, bazaars and parks and lakes. The locals were Deccani Hindus – creating a harmonious society borrowing from each others cultures and traditions.

Indian traditions around the significance of bangles ceremonies abound with celebration of festivals, seasons and events in woman’s life. At  wedding, birth ceremony, nuptial, Teej season and prayer times  women would head to Lad bazaar: henna for the hands, bangles for wrists, bindis and jhoomar for face uplifts, gotta patti or shimmering gold borders for dresses and dainty anklets for the feet.

A young bride with henna colouration

A young bride with henna colouration

Women apply Henna during Ramzan festival

Women apply Henna during Ramzan festival

 

Faux zari borders, lace and gotta patti

Faux zari borders, lace and gotta patti

The market is a scene of cultural blend. Muslim women in black Abeyyas covered from head to toe contrasted with Hindu women in sarees. Men in ethnic tunics, Lungis or casual trousers walked by. Tourists of all ages, focussed their cameras on the Charminar, unperturbed by the bangles dazzling in the sunlight and shop lights.

Women in burqha looking at bangles

Women in burqha looking at bangles

 

Woman in burqha admiring lace and trinkets in street bazaar

Woman in burqha admiring lace and trinkets in street bazaar

Street vendors with carts stuffed with beaded slippers, fake watches, cheap bangles and hair clips jostled for space. Speaking in Hindi, Urdu or local Telugu they knew the character of the place. Errand boys with shoulder baskets zig zagged through the crowds selling souvenirs.

Street cart selling plastic bangles

Street cart selling plastic bangles

Laughter, whispers, excited children, screaming vendors shouting ‘Chudi le lo…, Bindi le lo…’ lent an air of drama and vibrancy to this bustling market.

Built in 1591, rectangular Charminar, the edifice with four minarets is the focal point of the market area. Its pale yellow walls show chipped construction and a veil of neglect. Its towering minarets rise twenty metres from the roof. There is a mosque and impressive prayer hall on the upper floors. On the outer perimeter of the central chowk, are the four arches or Char Kamans in four directions namely: Machli Kaman, Kali Kaman, Kaman Sher-e-Batil and Mewawala Kaman. Names of the arches show many an interesting story of bravery, traditional beliefs and fortunes.

Magnificient Charminar with symmetrical arches

Magnificient Charminar with symmetrical arches

 

Charminar terrace, arches and clock

Charminar terrace, arches and clock

 The street leading west from Charminar, from under the Kaman Sher-e –Batil leads to the Lad bazaar. At once, you are greeted with endless row of shops, competing with their colourful display. Colour coded bangles wrapped around circular moulds stand tall behind glass panes in tight cupboards.

Rows of bangles on display

Rows of bangles on display

One needs time, patience and colour sense to choose from the myriad options of bangles: family set, wedding set, single kangan, glass bangle, lac bangle, pearl bangles, stone studded, plastic bangles and many more…

Vendor packaging bangles in plastic wraps

Vendor packaging bangles in plastic wraps

Here is the significance of colour:

  • Red and gold are prefered bridal colours.
  • Green is for fertility or peace
  • Yellow and orange auspicious.
  • Black, dark green is prefered at henna parties or to match the seasonal monsoon clouds.
  • Gold is reserved for weddings, prayer ceremonies and royal fanfare. They are always coupled with other multi colours.
  • Violet and blue were the fashion statements of the day
  • In Bengal, married women wear ivory and red coral bangle
  • In Karnataka and Maharashtra the bride wears green glass bangles
  • The Punjabi shaadi choora is an elaborate set of red, white and design

Have you ever seen the churiwala or bangle man at an Indian wedding, especially at the bride’s house? Amidst the laughter, music, garlands of flower and henna, the churiwala is man is important. Sitting traditionally on a soft, floor mattress, surrounded by the household women and bride’s friends, he proves his skill, patience and ability to choose bangles colours and delicately push them on the wrists. Aha!

Multi coloured fancy bangles

Multi coloured fancy bangles

Bollywood cinema, western fashion, modern office etiquette, lack of time and disinterest in olden traditions has its impact on the wear of bangles and its business.

Faux pearl bangle set

Faux pearl bangle set

A visit to Hyderabad is regarded incomplete without buying the pearl bangles.

The Lad bazaar holds a special place in the heart of every woman, especially in Hyderabad. Here history merges with grace and beauty, the bangles continue to dazzle one and all.

Do you wear bangles as jewellery? Why?

I really hope my Indian readers will share some stories and significance about bangles. I’ve spent much time and patience here. Readers interactions only give more positivity and pleasure.

 All content and images copyright Veena S. (2013 -2015) http://www.walktomarket.wordpress.com. Please see copyright disclaimer

 

Postcards: Focus on Women in Rythu Bazaar, Hyderabad

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Rythu or Raitha bazaar are farmer’s markets , started by Telengana government (Andhra Pradesh, India) in 1999. This model was begun to provide adequate, correct and proper facilities to the small-scale farmer’s. And to enable sale of vegetables and fruits on a fresh, daily basis at fixed rates. In turn, this would help cut the middle men, who often exploited the farmers for personal profits. The market model would be beneficial to both farmer’s and consumers, alike.

A number of Rythu bazaars are set up around Hyderabad, after considering factor’s such as site, farmer’s land, types of growth, procurement and transport facilities, neighbourhood businesses, hospitals, schools that will buy wholesale fresh produce, proper roads, lighting, sewage and toilet facilities in the constructed bazaar site,  and above all identification and proper information of the farmer’s that will benefit from these markets.

But not all is rosy and cheerful, even today. There are many problems that still persist in many of these bazaars, said the farmer’s and other vendors.

On my visit to the Shamsabad Rythu bazaar, I tried to engage and see the women folk and their activities in the market.

Here are some questions that rushed to my mind.

  • What is the role of the woman in this bazaar or business?
  • What skills /expertise does she need to survive here?
  • What facilities are provided by her family or the government?
  • Is she a primary or secondary bread winner? Why?

Hope these snapshots give some clues, or provoke other thoughts?

1. Many women folk working here rise as early as 4am to complete their morning chores.They then walk to the nearby Rythu bazaar, carrying fresh greens or vegetables they have collected the previous evening from their small farms and piling it on their rented stall. A joint effort by family members to layout produce and sell. But, age and back problems will soon be their friends, they moan!

Women balancing loads on their heads on way to market

Women balancing loads on their heads on way to market

2. Nagamma, the middle-aged lady assists her daughter daily. Her family members gather, sort and make bundles of the popular leafy Gongura or Amaranth, from their land from morning to dusk. Next morning piling it into large plastic bags, one member delivers it to the bazaar. Today’s selling price: Rs. 10 for 5 bundles.What could be her daily price? What is her profit? She does not pay platform rental.

Her daughter comes to collect the total sum at mid day after selling her own seasonal vegetables separately in wholesale on the constructed platform nearby. Nagamma is happy to sell her small bag full  and collect her daily wages and live with respect in her daughter’s house.

Woman vendor selling green leafy vegetables at fixed price

Woman vendor selling green leafy vegetables at fixed price

3. This elderly couple smiled when I asked them to pose. They thought I was a newspaper reporter who could write about their complaints and problems to the government 🙂

Today’s price for mangoes: Rupees 30 per kilo. But they knew middle men posed as consumers and bought 20- 30 kilos and sold it elsewhere in the city at a higher price of Rupees 50 -80 a kilo, making large profits.

The woman was employed by an orchard owner as seasonal contract labour. They need to find other work after the season, or help in tending to the gardens and plant growth.

Couple selling seasonal Banganpalli mangoes, fresh on a cart

Couple selling seasonal Banganpalli mangoes, fresh on a cart

4. The Banjara woman, in traditional ethnic tribal clothes is a ‘coolie’ or helper. Once her job of lifting bags and delivering them is over, she cashes her pay, then visits various stalls to find a bargain , before heading off to other construction sites for labour work. As she has no farms, or ability in farming, nor good language and communication she earns a living doing physical labour.

The vendor lady, in contrast, was a successful, quick business woman, with not much patience for loose talk or photos. She sold raw mangoes in wholesale. Here regular customers were nearby restaurants and hotels that confirmed a week’s supply and payment, even if daily prices differed. The mango in the picture is not a ‘free bargain’ for the Banjara lady, but I had to promise to buy it later.

2 women pose. One a vendor , other a buyer

2 women pose. One a vendor , other a buyer

5. What happens if you are not from the farming community? As an outsider, its unlikely you are welcomed  by the community. Nevertheless, seasonal rains provided the answer. This lady sets up her road side shop and awaits the occasional customer. As she has not paid any rent for the place, she needs to keep an eye for the policeman or governing body and shut shop briskly. Till then…sip tea and wait!

Woman selling seasonal products like umbrellas

Woman selling seasonal products like umbrellas

6. Government bodies fix the market price of the produce for the day, making announcements on the loudspeaker. This woman manages her stall all alone. She needs to juggle between selling, carting and counting cash. A minute’s hesitation and slack can cost her hundreds of rupees, as her immediate neighbours sell tomatoes too. Quality vs. quality.

But regular buyers need to be looked after, as well as the odd middleman. There was no chance of buying a meagre 2 kilo here, one had to buy bulk from 10 kilo- upwards. The mathematics learned on the street was faster than in a classroom, experience and need being the immediate teachers. No computers and calculators here!

Counting cash and striking bargains with the customer

Counting cash and striking bargains with the customer

7. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

The Banjara woman belongs to a robust, nomadic tribe that is found all over the Deccan plateau region and neighbouring states. They are believed to be descendants of the Roma gypsies of Europe. Known for their folklores, colourful costumes of Ghagra -cholis or long skirt and blouse and elaborate jewellery the women are strong and tall. They wear heavy silver or brass anklets, often weighing them down. As a nomadic community, they live off labour work. They are experts in basket weaving, embroidery and selling jewellery or articles made from natural products such as shells, metals, rice and grass.

Banjara woman (coolie)

Banjara woman (coolie)

Shy, at first, her fellow people told her to pose, citing it as an honour to the community. She quickly rearranged her head cover, as is customary. She is the group’s singer and rendered a small couplet when prodded. Tribals bond together around winter fires with folklores, singing, dancing, a vibrant and healthy pastime.

So, what are your thoughts on the subject ? How are women’s roles different in the markets in your country ?

For another post on market vendors at Al Mina market, Abu Dhabi,  see here.

All content and images copyright Veena S. (2013 -2015) http://www.walktomarket.wordpress.com. Please see copyright disclaimer

Hyderabad Two Cups of Chai at Monda Market

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Hyderabad

Two Cups of Chai at Monda Market

I met Anwar Habib at the tea shop inside Monda market in Hyderabad. Hesitantly, I stood at a distance observing him. I had risen early and by 7 am I was at the market, ready to capture the market scenes and maybe engage the vendors in conversations. Established more than 100 years ago, Monda market is the biggest fresh produce market in twin cities of Secunderabad and Hyderabad. The rail and bus stations are in proximity, providing transport.

Anwar was busy boiling large amounts of milky tea or chai using an aluminium kettle. With deft manipulation of his hands, the kettle rose off the gas stove, into the swing of his arms to pour frothy cups of tea or chai into plastic cups. The chai would provide instant energy to the waiting vendors.

Aapko chai hona?’ Do you want tea? Habib asked me in typical Hyderabadi Hindi admonishing an awkward smile at me. ‘Jaroor, yes’ I replied, though unsure of the quality and hygiene here. ‘Doo cup ka kitna ? I said handing him Rs.20. ‘One for me and the other for the cauliflower vendor’. That conversation was enough to break the ice and Anwar began telling me his story. In return, I told him my intentions of buying vegetables and capturing photos. Its trading time. Two cups chai for photos.

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The wooden bench created a perfect spot. Seventeen years ago, as a young boy, every morning, Anwar accompanied his father to this market. He would sit alongside friendly vendors and watch the human interactions. His father, a coolie, carried jute sacks on his back from arriving trucks to sorting bays. The family survived on meagre wages, and he hardly attended school, remarked Anwar. Few years later, he began running as an errand boy earning his own pocket-money. Today, he beams with pride and enthusiasm, as a stall owner! ‘It’s a dream come true – to serve the market community and be near his old uncle vendors.’ A better life than a coolie!

Taking the other cup of tea I approached the woman vendor who sat nearby chopping off leaves from fresh white cauliflowers. Clad in purple sari and colourful bangles on her wrists, this Telugu Hindu vendor sported the traditional bright red bottu mark on her forehead.

Amma selling caulifower at Monda market

Amma selling caulifower at Monda market

Both Hindus and Muslims make up the population of Hyderabad. The city was once ruled by Nizams and later the British set up their cantonment here.

Shyly, Amma sipped the tea I offered and smiled at my camera. ‘This vegetable no Hyderabad Amma, special Dili’ she spoke practising her limited English. That explained the unusal price at Rs. 80 /per kilo! Local favourites I know are lady fingers, brinjals, flat beans and gourds raw bananas and chillies.

Next stop was at the variety of cucumbers, in all colours and sizes. Long green ones are called kira, shorter are dondakaya, the ever popular, round -yellow are dosakaya, and the snake length ones are called potlakaya. Andhra food is hot and spicy, laced with plenty of poppu, a tempering of mustard seeds, curry leaf, asatoefida and turmeric. Most of the kira are chopped finely and curried into tangy, spicy chutneys that accompany mounds of hot rice. Ym..mm. I muttered at the thought of chutney!

Yellow Cucumbers and snake gourd

The main market building has low rise covered platforms. It has weathered many years of trade amidst surging crowds. The market was created to cater to the British and Indian army staff over 50 years ago. Today, it lacks basic amenities and insufficient parking for transport. The narrow lanes between the main building and landing bays now teem with haphazard growth of the vendors. Colourful plastic flower decorations that hang from some pillars, cleverly camouflage loose hanging electricity wires. But life goes on….from 5 am to 2 pm. People have little time to waste as they get busy buying, sorting, cleaning and rearranging their tiny spot with the fresh vegetables. They then await their ‘first boni’ or ‘lucky’ customer.

Trudging delicately between shoddy stalls, upside down cartons of vegetables, wet slippery floors and human traffic, I squeezed my way to the other end. A large gold –gilded statue, probably a political leader, stood on the pavement, staring down at the people, as if a constant reminder of empty promises for cleaner, better facilities.

Mounds of green vegetables, curry leaves, raw green bananas and seasonal raw mangoes fill the space. Curry leaves or Karvepakulu are great source of vitamins and minerals and bring out an aromatic flavour when crushed. Today I want to cook my favourite Andhra leafy vegetable –Gongura or red sorrel leaves. ‘Amma, take 6 bunches for Rs.20, said the lady speaking local Telugu. ‘You will not get cheap price near your house’. Trading time again – buy bunches of greens in exchange

for few photos. Amma, pointed to her grand children busy playing with stones in the other  corner, they came only on weekends to help. On other days they attend school, striving for a better slice of life. Wash and dry the Gongura leaves and then fry in spoon of oil. Add lot of garlic and red chillies to the Gongura.’ That, she said was her recipe to cure any mild cold and fever. Such simple, no fuss, instant recipe sharing.

Green and red chillies are a vital part of Andhra cooking. The central plateau of Andhra is reputed for pungent red chillies, a visual treat as they dry out on roofs and verandahs during summer.

Sieving chilles with traditional bamboo seive

Sorting and sieving  chilli with woven bamboo sieve

I took a minute to capture these two women in action – one negotiating the price and the other sorting freshly arrived chilli using a woven, traditional bamboo sieve. When tossed in the air lightly, the  chillies are separated from the fragments and dirt. It’s also used effectively to clean rice paddy, grains and nuts. Today  traditional sieves are woven and coloured in contemporary style to adorn kitchens.

Traditional bamboo seive

Traditional bamboo sieve

Returning to the chai wallah or tea man to say goodbye, his friendly nature points me to the flower wallah at the entrance of the market, beyond the fruit vendors and spice shops, that have their own history.

As the festive season of Dussera puja arrives, price of flowers shoot up. A basket of bright orange marigolds that usually sell for Rupees. 400 will now cost the vendor Rs. 600 or Rs. 700. Flowers arrive from neighbouring states of Coorg and Mysore, from the cool hill stations.

Mounds of fresh marigolds sitting in bamboo baskets

‘Beautiful garlands for your hair, Miss, and you can offer them at puja’ shouts Yelliah, the flower wallah. Holding up fragrant, white jasmine malai, neatly plaited strands, he beckons me. These flowers arrive from neighbouring states tied in tender green banana leaves to retain freshness. Once the leafy packets are opened,  fragrance bursts and fills the morning air, purifying it of all the staleness and pollution present on the streets. Surely, the pretty white garlands dotted with red rose buds would make a perfect decor at the puja altar.

Dainty white Jasmine garlands

Dainty white Jasmine garlands

Time, language, caste and creed of people is no barrier for trade and business at this market. Just buying 2 cups of chai, opened up conversations with the vendors, and I became wiser about their life and work, their woes and miseries of long, hard-working hours and their dreams for a better life for their next generation. Photo taking turned them into instant ‘ heroes’ this morning, providing brief respite from their mundane work, bringing smiles on their dry faces.

What can I say about learning from  interactions at this market ? Work hard, be dedicated to your profession, create better opportunities and transform yourself . Just like Anwar, from a back-breaking coolie to Tea stall holder. And his next generation will pour cups of chai …next time at the office desk ?

Service with a smile !

Service with a smile !   Pouring frothy tea