Stones & Dust; Yet, a Shopper’s Favourite Zone;
What we Call Streets, He Calls ‘Home’
Bustling with countless shoppers; streets around the infamous New Market are home to more than 2000 hawkers. Having spanned over a century, the market continues to be known as ‘New’ Market. From inexpensive daily wear to branded collections, from common groceries to rare confectionaries, from Chinese toys to high-end electronic goods, one can find it all at New Market and the adjoining streets.
I visited, Bertram Street, adjacent to New Market on Saturday, 30th March 2019. It has been a favourite stop for women to find beautiful jewelry, accessories, footwear, bags and more. I have often have been attracted to the shiny trinkets that are on display at the makeshift stalls on Bertram Street.
Making our way through the crowded street, we arrived at the stall of Mohammed Tayeb. Going about his daily tasks, he had his wares finely displayed. Numerous varieties of bright-coloured hair clips, rubber bands and hairbands were on display. Name a colour and he can find you a matching! I was intrigued to know his story.
I wondered, will he be willing to speak? Will he be comfortable to share anecdotes from his life? With hesitation, we began with the conversation. Thankfully, he was comfortable with Hindi because my Bengali would’ve spurred giggles and laughter! 😀
A little perplexed and curious about the purpose of all the questions, he continued to answer them anyway.
A day of his life is much longer than most of ours! He arrives at his stall everyday at 7am and spends close to an hour and a half to set up his wares on the wooden stall. Staying up till 9pm, he works for more than 12 hrs. everyday, including Sundays!
After this revelation, I’m hopefully not going to complain about Monday mornings again! 😉 Guess how many years he has been around? 15 yrs. of rock-solid experience to deal with customers who haggle to favourite shoppers who keep coming back; he has spent a significant part of his life here. A strategic location that attracts thousands of shoppers everyday, this is his source of livelihood, his life’s 15 yrs. of life and counting, his calm in the chaos.
The New Market area has survived 3 major fire incidents till date and several reformatory actions have often affected the day-to-day operations of the hawkers. But, they have always revived and continues to cater to the masses.
Under the blazing Sun, he works tirelessly everyday to not just increase the sales figures but to survive beyond all odds. Amidst the city chaos, his world exists!
I took leave after a great conversation and as I passed by several other vendors, I pondered upon the headlines of dailies that spoke about hawkers encroaching the streets of Kolkata. What’s your verdict? Should hawkers be allowed to operate or not?
Which is the most popular hawker market in your city? Do share your experiences in the comments. I’d love to collate all!