That blue ripple in the tarpaulin

pulled taut in the cool breeze

the first farmer pulls up his sleeves,

two bamboo poles and a few jute strings

hold his shop, his business, his offerings;

one morning among many centuries.

The tilted-goats, the hunched-dogs, the burly-bulls

the dupatta-women, the dyed-men, their mouthfuls

I stand in the distance, watching this timeless commotion

watching dealers deal, buyers buy – those customs.

The shirtless boy bringing chai on naked feet

the eyeless hand touching the paper cup to lips

eyes caught up with money stashed ‘neath the feet.

A bajār treasury is capped by the light,

that taut blue tarpaulin

that dust settling upon the skin.

I watch with attention at this ancient system

in this timeless happening, I see one figurine

exhaling tobacco clouds, ballerina of the crowds

he moves to the center, that corner, then back again

he heeds the serenades, the auctioneers, the marketmen

his handfuls multiplying in plastic greens, yellows, purples

past the blue tarpaulin

past the first farmer

past the last butcher

past the liquor line.


That blue fold in the tarpaulin

pulled loose in the evening

the last farmer embraces the wind;

four empty baskets, bamboo and folded strings,

his coin purse, his livelihood, his earnings,

his earthen feet, as old as forgotten centuries.

The goats, the dogs, the bulls, contently munching

the scarf-clad women, the paan-chewing men, leaving

I stand still, stuck in a sequential moment

Watching fruits start to ferment, carts in movement.

The sinew boy with a broom twice his length

feet with tensile strength, a face I cannot place

eyes gazing into space beyond this marketplace.

A bajār of the night is as feral as the wild,

as cold as the old shoeless feet

as dusty as the stampeding hoof-beat.

I watch with attention at this recurring vision

In this timeless, sequential happening, that figurine

has forgotten jalebi and pakoda for his children

has replaced barbatti with baingan, chicken with mutton

has stepped in cow dung, scraped it on a border stone

has gulped three pegs before he returns

past the barren stalls

past the sounder of swine,

past where he stood that morning

watching that blue ripple in the tarpaulin.


Weekly markets, locally known as bajār (pronounced bajaar; from bazaar), are a place of many wonders. Every cluster of villages, in one of the larger villages, hold a weekly market where farmers, middlemen, commodity traders, barterers, customers, come to sell and purchase anything from jewelry to meat to vegetables to limestone; sometimes in the shade they sell ice blocks, too. I’ve been fascinated ever since I visited a Budhwar Bajar (Wednesday market) in central India in 2013; I continue to visit every time I get opportunity. I’ve always wanted to write about it. This piece captures one moving frame of the countless many, of the buyer (the figurine) and the seller (the farmer) and the people (the customers) and the ambiance (the market itself) and the faculties (the chai-wala and the sweeper).

You may not identify a weekly market as this, but do visit the village bajār once, whether you purchase anything or not, you will see a country, with all its incoherent narratives such as this, that have been repeating cyclically for centuries.

This may yet be the most different piece to appear on Sahyadrica, if you still consider the last few pieces sane, but this is a part of a culture I’m integrating into my writing alongside the wilderness. I’m afraid you will also see some of my explorations this year that don’t exactly speak of nature (but are a part of it) in the truest sense.


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