The Charm of Old Markets- The New Indian Express

Lifestyle Fashion

Express News Service

I visit one of the markets in the posh Delhi neighbourhood of Vasant Vihar where I have lived for over 20 years. In the last few years, I have spent more and more time outside the country. But since neighbourhood markets are an umbilical cord thing, I still have serpentine checklists for these visits. There was a pharmacist in the market whom I had forced to double up as my doctor for everything from an allergy to my ‘Delhi belly.’

When my trusted long-suffering pharmacist friend died an untimely death, and his young son took over, I insisted he play multiple roles in true hereditary style. Like his father, this young man is very patient but has a slightly lower threshold. He tolerates long discussions on multivitamins and sunscreens. Last winter, I went to discuss treatment for an ‘almost’ pimple. It didn’t exist but I had an intuition around an emergence of one. He showed some signs of fatigue with this conversation. However, there were other women customers in the pharmacy who totally ‘understood’ and more than made up for his less-than-engaged style and pharmaceutical advice.

So on this day, I am urgently in need of some sharpeners for my eyeliner pencils. And since I am mall-phobic I try a small stationery shop in this old-fashioned market. I love the charm of a neighbourhood market that is a cluster of shops that has grown organically and you can buy your groceries as the cobbler hand mends the broken strap of your sandal and you bully the tailor to increase the length of your kitchen curtain for the third time! Anyway, so I go to buy a pencil sharpener.

This shop seems utterly stuck in a time warp and has a wonderful Sardar shop owner with a gravity-defying twirled moustache. He smiles at me and shows me half a dozen little sharpeners. I choose two in pretty colours. My favourite green and a sunny yellow. When I ask the price, he says five rupees each. I feel I have heard incorrectly. Is there anything in the world that can cost so little, I exclaim.

He grins again and produces a little ruler and other fun instruments that take me back to my childhood geometry box. He continues to chatter as he neatly packs my little purchases. He throws on me a few stories about the neighbourhood. As I leave I think about this lopsided transaction. On how he has enriched me with his smiles, his humour and the elegant service.

So many beautiful experiences and even products don’t cost much. As media and peer pressure push
us into bottomless pits of want and insatiability, let’s overcome with the joyous ability to see. Really see… the vibrancy of life’s bustling bazaar.

Anupamaa Dayal
This fashion designer is about happy clothes and happy homes for happy women

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