Legs of weary shoppers beg for a squat at least. Multi storeyed malls, hi-fi duplex franchise outlets and hypermarkets, all these modern day shopping luxuries will not quell the humble, yet satisfying experiences of shopping in a flea market. With make shift arrangements and humble displays how is the flea vendor capable of inviting an ever buzzing crowd always? The so called flea vendors are the same all over the planet! Crying, inviting, rattling, yelling, luring and on and on…..
All this for his bread….. For the few wads of stained and stinky currency he carries for his puny wife who waits all in awe at the end of the day…….. For his fragile father who slumbers to the dilapidated hand pump to wash himself and for his malnourished children. He remembers them. Their eager eyes that wait awake until he plods home well after midnight, craving for the roadside stuff he brings home in crumpled newspapers. Sometimes they were oily objects smelling of age old spices, sometimes of white flour tinned in rusty baby food cans. Whatever they may be, they spoke volumes of his so called paternal duty or could be his love even.
One could see myriads of them, thronging the narrow streets spreading their ware on cobbled floors. I’ve always wondered how these smart heads manage tiny areas for an array of merchandise. A line to hang ready-mades, a mat down with a heap of hosiery, stacks and stacks on low benches. He mostly is on his feet all the while scanning the search on customer’s faces.
Ready-mades, hosiery, toys, pickles, beaded jewellery, chinaware, trinkets, spices, canisters; used magazines and antiques are a few to be seen. Sister, brother, amma, aunty, bhaiyya, beti what not? His call and ‘as if bonded forever’ closeness in explaining the plusses of his articles, DOES definitely stop the shoppers at least for a wink.
Buyers on the other hand mercilessly bargain. Sometimes even 1/3 of the price he quotes first works and not giving time for the buyer’s second thought, the items are perfectly rolled in primitive papers and tucked into the domestic baskets we carry. Our vendors go to the extent of even offering ‘chaai’ to his customer. Most often helps them into an auto or the car if it is a pretty big purchase. Flea vendors are thought to be seasonal, but, there are ones who handle this trade for generations. Usual complains like third rate quality, second items, and duplicate pieces all may be heard, but just spare a minute to ponder over their service (!)
Thanks to the flea market, every ‘soon to be’ prosperous mother can confidently march home on festival eves. Weighed with crumpled clothes, carefully tied artificial scented flowers and eateries drenched in fat and gaudy hues, ‘The have not’s’ are blessed with temporary smiles as they carry home their weary purchase after a long trail of shopping hunt.
In the canopy of century old trees, over the planked street gutters, under the scattered light of the high sodium vapours the flea vendors embrace the lower middle class with solace and offer them a relishing shopping spree. Why not? We can’t deny that even the well-to-do’s visit here for unexpected merchandise at throw away offers!
Sure, there is always a magic here. Shop after shop – they are Hidden Treasures.
Dig deep, Sense life, Sense reality; Sense the joy of humble shopping!!!!