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
dupatta-women, the dyed-men, their mouthfuls
in the distance, watching this timeless commotion
dealers deal, buyers buy – those customs.
shirtless boy bringing chai on naked feet
eyeless hand touching the paper cup to lips
caught up with money stashed ‘neath the feet.
treasury is capped by the light,
dust settling upon the skin.
with attention at this ancient system
timeless happening, I see one figurine
tobacco clouds, ballerina of the crowds
to the center, that corner, then back again
the serenades, the auctioneers, the marketmen
handfuls multiplying in plastic greens, yellows, purples
past the liquor line.
blue fold in the tarpaulin
loose in the evening
farmer embraces the wind;
empty baskets, bamboo and folded strings,
purse, his livelihood, his earnings,
earthen feet, as old as forgotten centuries.
goats, the dogs, the bulls, contently munching
scarf-clad women, the paan-chewing men, leaving
still, stuck in a sequential moment
fruits start to ferment, carts in movement.
sinew boy with a broom twice his length
with tensile strength, a face I cannot place
gazing into space beyond this marketplace.
of the night is as feral as the wild,
as the old shoeless feet
as the stampeding hoof-beat.
with attention at this recurring vision
timeless, sequential happening, that figurine
forgotten jalebi and pakoda for his children
replaced barbatti with baingan, chicken with mutton
stepped in cow dung, scraped it on a border stone
three pegs before he returns
sounder of swine,
where he stood that morning
watching that blue ripple in the tarpaulin.
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.