Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Sunday Morning Bazaars

There’s really something charming about the Sunday mornings from our childhood, isn’t it? As adults, we keep reminiscing about those alluring Sunday mornings which were filled with watching cartoon and other TV shows, gorging on some delightful snacks prepared by our mothers and playing our favourite games. All of these hold true for me as well. However, there was one particular aspect of those Sunday mornings from our childhood that I feel we don’t discuss enough: the visit to the bazaar. Now I don’t know if all of you had similar experiences but the visits to the neighbourhood bazaar certainly played a significant part of my childhood Sunday mornings.   

Usually, around 8 in the morning, my father would dutifully note down the list of items to be brought from the bazaar from my mother in a small piece of paper. Sometimes, even I would be assigned the task of jotting down the list. This would generally lead to me getting impatient as my mother, while coolly going about her tasks in the kitchen, would drone on recounting the endless items on the list. My impatience stemmed from the fact that I needed to return in time to catch the early morning cartoon shows and hence always wanted this chore to be done with promptly.

My impatience, though, would soon fizzle out as holding my father’s hands and clutching a green-colored nylon ‘jhola’ in one of my own, I would walk towards the bazaar nearby. Sovabazar, the quaint north Kolkata neighbourhood where I stayed at during my formative years, was a busy and simple hub teeming with all kinds of people. On Sunday mornings, especially, it would be abuzz with myriad activities. The local modi ka dukaan, the multiple mithai shops, the ration shop, the hair salons and even the medicine shops would have long queues outside them.

My father would stop ever so often as most in the neighbourhood would exchange greetings with him and chat for a few minutes, usually passing a “Chele ta khub lomba hoye jacche (Your son is growing too tall)” comment. I would give them a weary smile and observe the people bathing jovially on the street from the uninterrupted and brownish ‘Ganga’ water coming in from the taps located at various junctures throughout our locality while some old Bengali songs being played from a radio somewhere nearby added a distinct flavor to the scene.

An artist's impression of a typical Indian bazaar

After walking a little further we would come to the Hathkola area which was famed for its delightful snacks. My hungry Sunday morning tummy would gurgle as my nose would take in the varied kinds of aroma of tasty snacks coming in from different shops. I especially loved gorging on the piping hot puri subzi from a little shop there. The puris would be small in size and the hot alu subzi with it would have little cubes of potatoes swimming in spicy gravy and topped with roasted jeera. I found the puri subzi from this particular shop incredibly mouthwatering and would merrily gorge on them to my heart’s content. The swarm of people ravenously gulping down the delicacy outside the shop surely agreed with me.

Also, if I was lucky, I was treated to a plate of bread- omelet sometimes from a busy shop there (being a vegetarian this was an activity that my mother was strictly against but something which I couldn’t resist). For some reason, I never liked the bread and always enjoyed eating the omelet on its own. My guilt at eating a non-vegetarian snack would evaporate as soon as the silky, smooth skin of the omelet would touch my tongue. Suffice to say, I never really got to taste an omelet like that ever again.

The best bit – in fact, my greatest fillip – of visiting the bazaar on Sunday mornings was the magazine stall just outside the subzi mandi. In those days, I was absolutely in love with a Hindi children’s weekly magazine ‘Champak’ and could never have enough of it. The Sunday morning visits to the bazaar gave me the opportunity to grab my ‘Champak’ from that magazine stall outside the subzi mandi. As soon as I would near the stall, my heart would race and my eyes would scan the stand to spot my magazine. With every new ‘Champak’ cover my heart would leap in joy and I would stand there exploring its contents and smelling its pages. My father would then tug at my hands and drag me away from the stand, requesting me to read the magazine at home. In fact, gawking at magazine stalls – a habit I had acquired from my ‘Champak’ reading days – is something which has stayed on with me and today, it is my friends, usually, who drag me away as I strain to scan these stalls.

My ‘Champak’ firmly held in one hand, we would then progress to the subzi mandi – the actual point of these visits. While I don’t remember the precise name of the bazaar, what I do remember is that it was huge and was divided into countless sections; each serving a different purpose. The first one on entering the mandi was the meat section having fish, chicken, and some other meat products. The unpleasant smell of the meat and the culling of the chickens right in front my eyes would make me nauseated and averting my eyes from them I would sprint ahead.

A little ahead of that, right at the center of the mandi, was a giant shed and was the main section of the market. It was divided into various small stone cubicles, with lanes crisscrossing them for customers to walk and surf the items with ease. This was the place where potatoes, onions, lemons, green chilli, dhaniya patta and an assortment of other eatables were sold. The din that was created here by all the vendors desperately crying “Ashun! Ashun! (Come! Come!)” in an attempt to lure the customers to their cubicle was just immense.

An artist's impression of a typical Indian subzi mandi 

I also had a rather peculiar habit then. As my father would be busy collecting the items from his list, I would start imagining how it would be if I was left alone in this shed. I would visualize myself living in one of the stone cubicles of the shed, right at the deep end of the middle lane, with everyone else gone. Just me, quietly sleeping in the corner cubicle, in the company of the comfortable darkness and solitude and without the pressure of any mathematics test the next day. Strangely, I found this idea really comforting and would envision this picture on my every Sunday morning visit to the shed.

After coming out of the shed, we would be greeted by a small lane filled in a straight line with countless grocery shops mainly selling various kinds of daal, rajma, chole and similar stuff. Here my weirdness would come into effect again. Standing outside those grocery shops and looking at the various daal neatly placed to the brim on jute bags, I would itch to put my hands inside them. Soon as I would get a chance, I would completely immerse my right hand inside one of the daal bags, preferably something small and soft like ‘moong daal’, and then wrap my fist around them. For some reason, the feeling of the soft daal caressing the skin of my palm made me feel very good; like having a soothing massage of my hands. My father, on noticing my absurd behaviour, would repeatedly tell me “Haath hatao (remove your hand)” but I would always find a way to do it again in the adjoining shops.  

By now, almost all the items on the checklist would be ticked and we would then progress towards our exit of the mandi which would generally entail us passing through the pottery section. Now this was another part of the mandi which really had me captivated. Unlike the rest of the market, this section would be extremely quiet and had little shops selling an assortment of pottery items; it had a distinct cozy feel to it. I loved watching the owners of these shops – some quietly relaxing as their own pot-like bellies moved up and down while some busy in catching their customer’s attention by drumming their fingers on the pots like a tabla to show them their various features. A nice, earthy smell, along with the resonating sounds of various pots in all the quietness made this section quite the charming place for me and even as I would exit the mandi, the smell of the pots would remain in with me.

Even though the cartoon shows and reading my ‘Champak’ would be on my mind, leaving the bazaar would leave me feeling gratified and I would already, in some part of my heart, look forward to come back there the next Sunday morning. As I grew older, though, the visits to the bazaars with my father slowly began diminishing. My love for ‘Champak’ too withered away and I slowly began finding excuses to avoid those Sunday morning bazaar visits.  It is something which I regret doing.

Today, I stay in a completely different area of the city and the bazaars here, although quite similar in structure, just don’t have the same magic. Perhaps certain things are just very different to the eyes of a child. For me, as a kid, that bazaar near my old home was a whole new world filled with endless wondrous happenings. In fact, in its own little way, the Sunday morning visits to the bazaar have helped mold the person I have become today. It opened me up to some very different and pure emotions and feelings that still bubble somewhere in my heart. I also believe that the myriad things that I saw on those visits and the way I observed and perceived them so deeply have helped me as a writer as well.

As an adult, however, a bazaar has just become a place where I buy my everyday stuff. I do wish, though, that for once I could borrow the eyes of my younger self when I visit my neighbourhood bazaar one of these days. Perhaps I can then find a way to somehow immerse my hands in a sackful of ‘daal’ without feeling stupid and also rekindle my love for ‘Champak’ along the way.


  1. "Chele ta khub lomba hoye jacche" u knw it feels great when someone compliments u...n tht also on ur way u hav described champak n its beauty is just flawless....i m so lucky to hav u as my brother... <3

  2. u knw i also used to go for marketing....but was not at all interested in it...ya i was facinated by de superheroes n de tiny royal enfield bikes...i m still i just went back 2 de past...

  3. Sunday bazaar experiences were truly marvellous. The Poori bhaji or Singara, jalebi as dad would decide, for Sunday special breakfast, ah the taste! The nauseated feeling when I'd pass the meat, chicken or fish sections, it's still the same. Oh and the daal thing. I'd do that too. It was something I guess we all kids loved.
    Beautifully written!!😃

  4. yaar seriously whenever i read ur blog,i go back to my childhood.however , i don't have this kind of memories with bazar but still i could feel ur emotions and that's the magic of ur writing. i loved the way u described the maths test wala experience on sundays... i think many of us had the same feeling and the daal wala prtion, well explaind...GOOD ONE... carry on... aise hi kuch aur child hood se jure incident pe likhte raho... achcha lagta hai.

  5. Kolkata always fascinates me. Thanks for sharing an interesting view Bhavesh. A small tip- adding Headers would add more value to your articles.

    1. Hi Upasna. Thank you for the comment. I appreciate you taking out time to read this post. And as for the headers, I am not actually aware of them. It would be great if you can perhaps be kind enough to let me know how they work. Thanks again. :)