Gariahat, a quintessential market of Kolkata, at this time of the year attracts shoppers from all around the City. You get to see variety also in the wares that are on sale. With Poila Baisakh (Bengali New Year) being just around the corner, Gariahat is abuzz with the usual shopping activities. Approximately 60 years ago, Gariahat came into being and since then it’s fame has only multiplied. On the Hawkers association of Gariahat, as of date there would be more than 2000 – 3000 registered hawkers! The growing footfall and varieties that find their place of pride at Gariahat, reiterates the popularity of the market. If you happen to visit Gariahat during this time of the year, you simply cannot miss the hoichoi! (Hoichoi is a Bengali word meaning chaos and a place full of many loud noises)
Making my way through the crowd of shoppers, I arrived at Gopal’s stall; a riot of colours and designs brightened up his workplace!
Wallets, purses, coin bags, office bags and more were aplenty! The wares were propped up to entice even the most bored shoppers.
Gopal stood there guarding the authentic Shantiniketan merchandise. Amongst the thousands of stalls on the Gariahat footpaths, there were only few that sold these beautiful collectibles!
In a a striped green shirt with a dark blue trouser to match, Gopal looked quite neat and smart. His moustache added on to his over all well-styled look.
Relatively free, he had time in his hand to speak about his life’s experiences. He told me how he chanced upon the trade of products sourced from Shantiniketan. Years ago, while looking for ways to support his livelihood, he turned to his uncle for advice. A resident of Kolkata; suggested Gopal to try his luck with the business of Shantiniketan products at Gariahat.
It has been more than a decade and Gopal believes that to be one of his best decisions. He along with a helper arrives at his place of business at 9 in the morning and stays up till 9 in the evening, catering to their almost 200 customers per day.
The gorgeous leather purses with batik prints and hand-tooled bags are a rage also on leading ecommerce platforms. Gopal via his humble stall doesn’t only earn his living but is also playing an impressive role to keep a culture alive, to uphold the skills and talents of Bengal’s many artisans.
Visiting his stall was an experience in itself! Of all the Hawkers, I’ve met so far, Gopal wasn’t too comfortable to get his picture clicked, respecting his preferences, I have not been able to include a picture of him.
Amidst the hoichoi of Gariahat, Gopal’s stall was a safe refuge for Kolkata’s culture to find a place of honour in the form of colourful bags and purses! 😊