This phenomenon called an Indian market

There is nothing even half as spectacular as an Indian market (call me biased, but with only 6 countries I’ve seen, I found the Indian markets most interesting). And no, I’m not talking about the malls that have mushroomed of late. I’m talking about a typical Indian market where most shops are owned not by multinational brands but by small merchants, where the buildings are not centrally air-conditioned but so rickety that they seem to be leaning on each other for survival.

A typical Indian market is a teeming place, with people milling around, goods being sold and purchased, and if you’re not in luck, a couple of stray cows too. To add to the mayhem, there may be some dogs around, and of course, the omnipresent rats! The range of things available in such markets is so wide that it’s almost as if it is a self-sustained world. You can find anything ranging from crockery, vegetables, clothes, house fixtures, electronics………the list is near endless. And all this, within less than a square kilometre.

Just to make the picture clear, I will describe one such trip to a typical Indian marketplace I went to yesterday. The place has a cinema-hall (I forget the name, but all I know is I’ve never been inside it) and the Government Hospital is almost next to it. I hadn’t seen the Government Hospital for years, not because it’s small but because the (already narrow) entrance is so flanked by shops and shop-goers that it is hard for anyone to guess that there is ANYTHING beyond those shops. These “shops” (which are more like shacks made of blue tarpaulin) sell all popular “brands”, just name it and you have it here. There were Woodland shoes (starting at a paltry 110 rupees a pair!!!!!), Gucci bags (once again, the price range starts from 100 rupees which on negotiation can come down to 40 also), Titan watches (starting at 150 rupees, once again), Xike shoes (and the logo looks eerily similar to Nike!), Adibas shoes (from a distance, you can easily confuse it for Adidas!!!)…….and so on.

As I jostled for space to walk (just like so many other pedestrians), there were wars raging around me. Two rickshaw pullers were haggling for space in front of the cart of a pear seller, who in turn wanted both to disappear as they were “blocking” the ‘customers’ (there were none in sight really)! Once in a while, two people crossed each other, recognized and a conversation started. It’s amazing as to how oblivious people become to where they are once they start talking. So, as cars honked away to glory, pedestrians stared angrily and cycle-riders maneuvered themselves around, the two friends chatted about children, their schooling, financial status at home, how “Bhabhiji” was doing, whether the run down fan was fixed, how hot the weather was, how the neighbour’s daughter had run away with someone of another caste etc. Please don’t assume that I was eavesdropping!!!! The conversation was being telecast with volume levels high enough to have everyone within 10 metres radius hearing, most of the times much to their amusement.

We had to go to this place called Nainital Road (the road didn’t look like it could go to Nainital though!!!!). The shop was full of pipes of various radii, water pumps (our domestic water pump had broken down and hence, the trip to the shop) etc. The shop owner screamed an incomprehensible name and out of nowhere, appeared a rickety man who claimed to be a mechanic. We were (very amiably) assured that the mechanic will come to our house and fix the pump at around 10 am. As I walked back, more than once, wares were thrust right under my nose at prices that appalled me (after Bangalore, things seem to be dirt cheap to me all over in North India). There were “tops” for 40 rupees, “fancy bangles” for 5 rupees each (and the glare from the sequins on those almost drove me blind), aaaaaaam for 16 rupees a kg (aaaaaaaam = mango, just in case)…………and so on and so forth.

To add to this confusion were the rickshaw pullers and auto-drivers who were so confident that you’ll avail their services that they claimed that we’d “always” gone home in their autos and rickshaws!!!!! Well, as for me, I’ve never come home by an auto from that part of the city (considering I’ve been to that part of the city only countable number of times, I’m not likely to forget)…….

And the clincher was the purse-seller. My mother wanted to buy a purse and I was a spectator to the bargaining. Just then, I received a call from a friend who doesn’t speak Hindi, so I spoke to her in English. After I hung up, the guy decided to talk to me (probably thinking that I’d make my mother buy that purse at the price he quoted). He said something I didn’t understand. So, I uttered a “I beg your pardon” and he repeated for my benefit…..”Madam, I saying 325 rupees, your Mummy saying 200”. So, I said, you talk to her only, I’ve no interest. So he said rather enthusiastically, “Madam, I offering myself for 280 rupees, your Mummy is not taking”!!!!! I couldn’t suppress a smile………….the great Indian market, you see!!!!

– Pritesh (written on July 26, 2008)


1 Comment

  1. vikram said,

    September 5, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    Nice read that…….nearly same scene i witnessed in Diera, Dubai….though it was created by our Indian and Pakistani people.

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