Amidst the City of Chaos, His World Exists

Hawkers of Kolkata
Mohammed Tayeb, Bertram Street

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! πŸ˜€

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! πŸ˜‰ 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!

Kolkata Hawkers - Jewelry - New Market
The trinkets that allure me!

24 thoughts on “Amidst the City of Chaos, His World Exists

Add yours

  1. I couldn’t take my eyes off the earrings on display, and began picking out the ones I would like, till I realised I can’t. Till I visit Mohammed Tayeb’s stall in Kolkata! Love your first post, and your theme too. It’s a wonderful thought, to highlight the lives of people we never think about.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha… 😊 Thank you Mayuri! Have you been to Kolkata before? I’m quite excited about this theme. Hoping to complete the challenge successfully.


  2. If city decides not to allow hawkers to operate, it should provide separate space for them. In a densely populated country, where job opportunities are scarce, people that are making their ends meet by selling wares where will they go? I know in Kolkata and in rest of India, hawkers occupy footpath causing impediment to movement of pedestrians. But question remains, where will they go?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is a very crucial and valid thought! Especially in a densely populated country like ours. It’s quite difficult to find a solution that would meet the overall requirements. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Akanksha! 😊 Yes new hawker story everyday! I’ve spent the weekend speaking with them and it has been such a nice experience. I’m looking forward to more! 😊


  3. At the outset a big thumbs-up to you for taking the effort to ‘report from ground zero’ if I may call that. Your conversation with Mohammed Tayeb at his stall makes the story so very personal to the readers. Hawkers are an integral part of the Kolkata crowd and can never be ignored. Hence, despite many political lashes they have survived and have come back strong on the streets of the city.

    Whilst as customers we haggle with them for a mere few rupees or an extra piece of item to be added gratis, we seldom think about the hardships they go through every day for their survival. The story of Tayeb is yet another testimony to that fact. To that effect, your theme is also doing a social favour by bringing these stories to light.

    Reading your post about New Market, Bertram Street and the adjoining areas transported me back to the place and almost got me homesick, but I loved your detailed description and the crisp narrative. Adding pictures to complement your story is a great idea to help us to visualize as we read along.

    Kudos on a great start and look forward to your next post. You are bringing a facade of Kolkata alive which many may not know of!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Firstly, I’m glad I to have come across your blogs…the one I read yesterday was a literary treat. Coming to this, as rightly mentioned by you the life that they lead is tough! Having spoken with 6 hawkers, I’ve learnt of many lesser known details from the hawkers themselves as well as the shoppers. The revelations are enlightening.
      Do you not stay in Kolkata?

      Thank you for joining along this journey of re-exploring the City of Joy, Kolkata! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a lovely post. Here it’s Colaba causeway. The funniest is the change in prices for foreigners and Indians! And then they sheepishly explain, arey madam apka price alag hai and unka alag πŸ˜‚

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Once this guys tried to sell a silk scarf for 500 bucks. I said bhaiya kise ullu bana rahe ho. He actually told me to buy from somewhere else – touchy they are!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Haha…they exhibit a sense of pride and are the Baadshahs of the Street with ‘Fixed price’ becoming quite a norm with a large number of hawkers.

        Liked by 1 person

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