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Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Portrait of a Farmers' Market

A farmers' market presents a colourful and pulsating microcosm of life every Saturday, where about we live. The market with which I am going to familiarize you with is held at a place (a spacious plot of land) where it can cater to all three urban estates and other adjoining areas. Men, women and children converge here in great numbers as a part of their Saturday routine. No kidding, it is actually a unique version of a departmental store. Though ostensibly, it is meant to be a weekly vegetable market but it is this and much more. It is somewhat like the fly markets in the West, minus the presence of antiques.
The shopkeepers start opening their sacks and fruit sellers, their card board boxes and spread their wares on the ground and on their handcarts (rehris ) around mid day. The customers slowly begin trickling in. The whole area becomes abuzz with human activity as the day progresses. Here and there people are seen haggling over prices. Women even kneel down to select best pieces. Men follow their women carrying bags overflowing with vegetables.
This place is truly a social and economic leveler. There are no class distinctions here. All classes of people frequent this place. The poorest of the poor rub shoulders with the high and the mighty. The sight of mounds of fresh vegetables that too at competitive rates is too tempting to be resisted. Somebody who visits it once will visit it often. The choice available is immense. It provides a double edged pleasure, shopping as well as an outing. For the shoppers at the lower rung of the economic ladder, it provides a much needed change and opportunity for eating out. Hand held carts are lined on one side dishing out assorted popular snacks like channa bathuras, aloo tiki burgers, chaat masala and gol guppas.
On one side there are improvised open sheds displaying an ample variety of household plastic goods, you name it and they have it. You can pick any and that too at a bargain price. Though I think the quality is suspect. There is galore of cheap ceramic mugs and other stuff and also a plethora of readymade garments for children and men. While taking a round I spy an exclusive corner for ladies apparel too, doing brisk business selling anything from bras to panties, slips, shawls, dupattas and what not. It is a wonderful mini market catering to a particular segment of society in full measure. One can even purchase pulses and condiments. There are also hawkers selling wooden spoons, ladles, churners; iron griddles, sieves with wooden frames, chhapati boards and rolling pins et al. Garden tools made by village carpenters also find their place here.
Apart from these, there are other star attractions also. The pop corn seller places his push cart at a vantage point where he can tempt children accompanying their parents. So many times I give in to the mouth watering pearly white corns and buy some to munch while driving home after grocery shopping. The groundnut seller also vies for your attention with his mound of groundnuts topped with a charcoal burning small earthen pot. The typical smell of roasted groundnut wholes beckon you and you end up buying some. Not to be left behind is the sugarcane juice seller. The business is manned by two people, one squeezes the cane in their old style machine and the other dispenses the juice with alacrity in the narrow long glasses with a squeeze of a lemon wedge and a dash of rock salt. It must be delicious enough to draw many as I always see people thronging the place.
As the day draws to its end the rush multiplies and there is so much buzzing around that it is an effort to be heard in the din of human voices. The hawkers reduce rates of vegetables to wind up before it is dark.
Contrary to the stated purpose of holding these weekly markets i.e. to eliminate the middle man between the actual producer and the customer, we find few genuine farmers present here. Those who do come bring their produce mainly vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, carrots and radishes in their tractor trolleys but most of the sellers buy the vegetables from the main market of the town in large quantities and make good profit because of the heavy sales and zero wastage. And they are able to sell even to the last kilo, as at the late hour, the labour force descend on it and take home the left overs at throw away prices. Everybody goes home satisfied and happy; buyers with loads of vegetables and an entertaining outing, hawkers with pockets stuffed with lucre.
This merry-go-round of motley human landscape gives a peek into the evolving and burgeoning India. It is also a metaphor of the growing socio-economic panorama of emerging India. It sweeps away the cynicism which we often feel these days and gives hope that India would surge ahead in spite of massive road blocks now and then.

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1 comment:

  1. For the first few times i visited the market i was impressed by the vibrancy of this happening place and endorsed the truth that there is economic upturn in India.

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