A WEEKLY MARKET DAY
Don’t rush. Drive slow. See the baby crossing the road, cried my sister. The driver slowed down the jeep. We were on the highway from Ranchi to Raigarh. But now at Patratoli the highway was overflowing with human beings of all ages- men, women, old and young –little children running on the road as if it was the courtyard of their house; and little babies trying to jump out of the laps of their mothers. I had seen weekly markets at different places. But the one at Patratoli- about half a kilometer long –as is a big regular market had come down to the roadside to be at the reach of the Vanvasis.
Toys and toys and toys- all indigenous toys of wood, paper machine bamboo and even of stones. A three-wheel walkie for the kid to learn walking-a bird that would whirl in the atmosphere on a string- small wood toys- a whole platoon of soldiers with guns, a complete bands for the occasion of the marriage of your doll. The whole transport system- buses, trains, jeeps, cars, aeroplanes, ships and boats all are there to suit everyone’s pocket. At a little distance you will find an enthusiastic young man exhibiting some mechanized toys too. A three bogie Calcutta Express moves fast on a railway track. All would enjoy the show. But the prices are prohibitive. They would buy the wooden ones only.
Turn to the left in the middle of the roadside market. You have a sub market, but a big one vegetables and vegetables- cheap as well as costly. People buy them for a week- for they’ll have them next Thursday only. What about cooking media. Don’t worry. There’s another small market of about 30 shops- all temporary ones. You’ll have oil, vegetable ghee, and refined oil-no desi ghee. Who will purchase these more than hundred rupees a kilo in this area? But pulses, rice, gram, peas- all are available.
Don’t get disheartened if you are a non-vegetarian. Mutton is there. But the most hankered after is the poultry- a lot of it- a bit prohibitive for the poor. But then they can have fish- most of them are small frying variety brought by the tribal themselves from their village ponds. The trade of mahua too is among the tribal only- some selling- others purchasing.
Snacks! – Of course you can have these too. There is a row of sweet meat sellers. Of course, one can have sophisticated biscuits and toffee for children once in a while. Fruits may be considered a rare thing. But bananas and mangoes are there in small baskets and carts.
You can have rest under a tree where free water is available before going for the ready-made clothes. Three-fourth of the market is occupied by these cloth merchants of all shades. Yes you can have a sari for your mother or sister. See that young man purchasing a fantastic one for his newlywed partner. You can have lunges and underwear of all shades and colors- no, no, no sophistication here- all bright and fast colors.
Require utensils! Available in plenty- brass, copper, stainless steel and many in plastic too. Crockery too is there. But make haste for the evening is approaching. The vendors have already started winding their business- putting the things back in the boxes. Within half an hour the road will be left bare for your jeep to rush to your destination.