Saturday, February 06, 2010

Haat e Bajar e -- to the Market (I)

The early morning ritual on most days were very similar for middle class Bengali Men in the late 70's and 80's. A cup of tea, a quick browse through crackling pages of the Statesman or the limp ones of AnandaBazar and then a stroll to the nearby bajar for the fresh vegetables and fish of the day. Since we were not in Bengal at that time, it was a little different in our home. If I rewind to a morning back long long back, I see my Baba or Kaku or my Grandpa walking us to the school bus stop and then strolling on to the haat, see I said haat and not bajar, with two cloth bags and a reusable plastic bag for fish.


The haat, if defined in words, is a weekly marketplace where producers and vendors bring in their produce or products, either directly or through intermediaries to sell to the customers. But that is just words. That is fancy enough to describe Dilli Haat. But there was a much more intense social aspect to haat which can not be defined and you need to go to one of the smaller towns and scour around for a real haat to understand.

Garlic and Dry Red Chili

The haat in my home town was not a weekly thing, it was an every day semi permanent affair. Most of the fish, fresh fruit and vegetable vendors would wrap up and go home when the sun went higher up and the customers were few. The more permanent ones like the potato seller or the one with garlic and mounds of dry red chilis lingered on till the late afternoon. They would take a quick nap on a jute bag laid out on concrete, play a round of cards if the heat hung heavy and humid for sleep, chat and wait, wait for people to come by.

Dusty Potatoes

My Baba would occasionally take me to the haat, on weekends. I wouldn't say I enjoyed it a lot, it wasn't an open air haat and it was a bit dingy. Smells hung in cloisters. The sharp acidic smell of green lemon, the raw smell of squished tomatoes, smoky musty smell of dried turmeric and dry red chili mingled with the sweat and dust. It wasn't very clean either, with rotting leaves under the feet and squashed tomatoes on the pathway, you had to be careful about your step.

Brinjal Corner

Baba had his own choice set of sellers and he would proceed towards them, neglecting the cries of others, touting better cheaper produce. He had a relation set up with his potato seller and he wouldn't break the tie for such trifles.

Green Lemon

The haat was zonal, divided into zones according to the produce. The fresh vegetables were on the fringes, the fish sellers were all together, the dusty potatoes and onions were towards the center. It was hard competition since you were selling lemons as green and juicy as your rival sitting right there at your elbow. I still do not know how they survived and maintained a friendly relationship sitting close together and selling exactly similar products.

As we went around picking things, talking, discussing the days news with the sellers, the cloth bags would get fuller. Depending on the season, there would be tender drumsticks peeping out or fresh bunches of coriander. And then we would go home, not worrying about whether the vegetables had pesticide or their genes were modified by science but whether Ma would appreciate the days pick or scorn at our choices.

If you have a local Food Market, a bazaar or a haat near where you live, send me a pic or post on your own blog and leave a comment.

Pic Courtesy my Dad from the haat of my childhood hometown. All theses photos were taken by him



  1. Ki shundor snaps Sandeepa! Ekhon haater mormo bujhchi ... there used to be chicken fights in the haats of Orissa ... so we were never taken there. And the sellers calling out at the top of their voices ... that rings in my ears even now. :-)
    Khub shundor post.

  2. You deserve a pat on your back for your great efforts...simply love your blog!

  3. A lovely lovely post- I could almost hear the hustle and hum of the bazaar.

  4. I think you can't match the lively markets back home. Here it is so proper and polite. When ever we are in India i make sure i got to the market with my sis to feel the buzz.
    Like you wrote going to the market in my childhood i also didn't enjoy as i always complained it was stinking there. But then i guess kids are like that.

  5. Aww!! So nice of your papa to send to take pics and send these for you. Yeah! Great memories of our childhood, aren't they? Great post. Simple pleasure for old guys there, coffee, newspaper and a stroll. Sounds like bliss.
    Mine is beautiful Mysore veg market and I used to run to this book store in the corner to buy Chandamama, a cartoon story monthly mag. I think I have a few pics from Mysore market, try and post a collage next week for you.
    Our kids only remember super market or Farmer's market here, more interested in eating homemade country pies there! :P
    Well.Spring is here for us, sunny, snow almost melted and birds chirping this morning, trees are budding too, here comes Allergy season for me! :D
    Have a great Superbowl Sunday. Go Saints, New Orleans folks deserve happiness and a BIG win.

  6. Ki daarun chhobi Sandeepa .Chhotobelaaye Kolkataar bairey thaktham and the markets there were wonderful places especially in winter . In Kolkata I used to take a tram with Baba to Gariahat market where he used to buy fish wrapped in paper and put in a jute tholey . There's nothing to beat an open air market anyday. Khub shundor post likhechho

  7. Lovely post Sandeepa. amader barir kache kono bazar chilo na age. 4 km dure Bolepur er bazar jete hoto amader seo saptahe akdin baba sab kine anto. amar bhalo lagto na jete karon takhan akdom macher gandho sojjhyo korte partam na, ekhane Madiwala haat akhon weekly jai. bhalo lage khub. cheleo khub enjoy kare.

  8. Nice, like the progression from b&w to colour. Will you accept pix from a a wholesale market I saw a few months ago in another city, not my own?

  9. Fantastic pictures Sandeepa. Thank your Baba for us.

  10. Hey those pics are so depicting and I dint know men got anda!!! but a rewind and those picture made me feel I was almost there looking at this straight infornt!!! Wonderful write up, a must read!!!

  11. Beautiful snaps Sandeepa!!!! A very lovely post:)

  12. I love the way this post is written-the pics are lovely and so poetic.

  13. Thanks for those lovely pics ! and the memories your brought up - would love to share mine too - hope to do that this week!

  14. Wow, what beautiful pictures! I used to hate going to the market when I was young, Kerala fish market smells were unbearable! But now finding local markets is a favorite passtime on our travels. BTW, when I miss the Kerala markets I just walk down to the Pike Place Market here.

  15. I appreciate these markets only now, never found them interesting as a kid!

  16. Your pictures speak a thousand words. But your writing is good too. :-)

    Your post reminds me of the "tarkari" bajaar I used to go with my Mum in Patna. I have come out of it many times with a "squishy" tomato sticking to my shoes.

    I have always liked "haats". Even in Delhi we had the Friday/ Thursday haat which though had its more modern/commercial charms still maintained that earthiness of the haat.

    Thanks for sharing! I am almost tempted to go to a Farmers' Market this weekend. :-) But darn this winter!!

  17. Sra, Miri & Asha

    Please, please post your local market pics. Would love to see them. Sra, you can send that to me too


    Thanks for the kind words :-) Come on post a pic of your local market where ever you are

  18. I love ur haat! Gosh that reminds my hometown! But we have a great affair of fish market, which is crowed,bargain,woman yelling:not to touch the fish, smell invinting you to buy some fresh catch :)
    Last year, i visited the place, only fish market changed, they have a tile platform (washing and cleaning is more easy), but everything (veggie market) will look like your hometown. Didn't have any pic....

  19. interesting article. I would love to follow you on twitter. By the way, did you guys hear that some chinese hacker had hacked twitter yesterday again.

  20. Lovely photos. Bari jethey ichhey korechey...

  21. for a minute i thought you are in India, when I scrolled down saab kuch samajah me aayya hai. Great pics by you papa.

    I use to go with my mom early morning on weekends to farmers market aka ritu baazar. Now she goes alone sometimes with my sis or with her kid.

  22. My grandpa like yours had some regulars. He would take one of us when were there. Many years after he passed and we were in Chennai for vacation, my mom took me along with her, the vendor recognized my mom and spoke to us how about generous my grandpa was :)

  23. oh dear, you revived in me some of the precious memories of my childhood thrrough this post...thank you so much!!!

    even if it might smell a little damp or unagreeable, I loved to go with my grandma to the "peria kada" as we call it literally 'big market" and you know, whenever we go, she used to take me around the fish stalls too, which was one of my favorite (inspite of that fragrance :):) ) because i was so excited to see all kinds of big and small fishes , all spectacular to see at that small age...
    hummm, lovely souvenirs that I cherish.....

    have a nice day !!

  24. As I'm sure you know, Sandeepa, we don't have these teaming-with-life community marketplaces in the U.S. A lovely piece - thanks for sharing.

    Ready for the snow, the real snow? Unless the meteorologists mess up again, we're not going to escape tomorrow's blizzard. : O

  25. Posted today, not local (have to wait for Spring for Farmer's market here) but from Mysore.

  26. Lovely post. Brought back lot of memories - structure of marklet. section, regular alu ala, etc. We had a regular market. Smaller than that of your haat. Loved the pictures. Please thank your dad.

    Read about Haats in stories in Bangla Lit in school

    Market pictures? Don't know if this qualifies. A post on my fish market in a town called Mumbai

    I loved the markets that I saw in Switzerland or the ones they showed in Julie and Julia

  27. A very well thought and well pictured blog! Thanks to your baba for so much effort! I went to India last month and inspite of getting many chances to go to supermarkets I deliberately went to our town haat and loved it allover again, the colors, noise, freshness and the sellers. Supermarkets can never have the same charm. Hopefully in the run to be a developed country India will retain its colorfull Haats and sabjimandis at least like the Farmer's market of the west!

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  29. Hi Sandipa,

    I'm a blog virgin..just started blogging a week ego. But I have been an ardent follower of your and Asha's blog...lovely blogs both of them i must say.

    The pics of the haats are wonderful...missing my childhood days when i used to despise going to the local fishmarkets. Kintu ekhon bujhtey pari haat na thakar mormo :(...

    keep up the good work :)


  30. hello i think seen this market.. the market area look like Thakurnagar Haat,(famous place of Bengal)

  31. i think I seen this place, the place look like Thakurnagar Haat (famous place of West Bengal)


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