Our wonderful weekly market

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 14 Dec 2017 10:29:41



Fifty-seven years ago when we shifted to Gokulpeth from Sitabuldi when parents built a new home, one impression we carried from our old locality to the new one was of the
weekly market. In both the places, the weekly markets were more or less replicas of each other. And what a serene feeling those places gave us! It was sheer joy to go to the weekly market to buy weekly stocks of vegetables and also get grocery from the shops lining the place. Most unfortunately, such experience is going missing in today’s Nagpur! Alas!

In Sitabuldi, there used to be two weekly markets -- one behind the Rajaram Library on Main Road (the Monday and Thursday market), and the other near Dhanwatey Chambers (the Monday Market, which also has ‘Phul’ - flower -- Market at the place).

A very similar market existed in Gokulpeth as well.
Similar markets existed in almost every locality of the city of Nagpur, and the Nagpur Municipal Corporation had a separate Market Department to manage the show in an organised manner.

In all these markets, there were neat rows of raised platforms on which sat the vegetable vendors selling their stuff. It was a special treat to see those lush green vegetables, interspersed with some yellow and red and white ones. Those neatly arranged mounds showed not just Nature’s bounty but also the artistic sense of the vendors. Every now and then, the vendors would splash water on the mounds to keep the stocks wet and fresh and make those look appealing. The water also fell on the ground around sending out a terrific aroma of the wet soil, giving impression of fresh rainfall.

The sprinkling of water in proper intervals kept the atmosphere fresh and cool, which every visitor to the market loved. The overall atmosphere in the weekly markets was one of great gusto and happiness. People haggled for lower prices. The vendors fought for higher returns. And when the whole population was busy in traditional commerce, a cow or a buffalo or a little herd of goats would invade the place, send everybody helter skelter and then have its pick from the vegetable mounds. Vendors would then pick up their sticks and beat the invaders out of the battle-field and return triumphantly to their seats behind the scales.

For us kids, the Gokulpeth Market was a happy reminder that we had not been uprooted from our dear old environs. Accompanying Mother or Father to the weekly market to get weekly stocks of vegetables, therefore, formed a special occasion every now and then.
Now also, it is my favourite weekly pastime to spend a little part of an evening at the Gokulpeth Market to buy vegetables. I breathe in that freshness and return home with a renewed vigour to eat better, to live better. These weekly markets are very good for our health. For, most of the produce is from the nearby villages, and are believed
strongly to be good for our health.

Here, we remember what the country’s leading nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar calls “agricultural footprint”. She says, in effect, the smaller the agricultural footprint, the better is for human health. In other words, she advocates strongly consumption of only that farm output that is produced in and around your place of birth or living. She rejects the idea of exotic foods produced across the globe as a regular diet. The food produced in your own region is the best for you biologically, she asserts quite convincingly.

But now, this is changing for the worse. Some smart-alec politicians whose vision does not travel farther than the tips of their stubbed noses have started talking of multi-storied, air-conditioned markets to replace the our very own weekly markets. There, these terribly short-sighted and
commercially-minded leaders are going to sell vegetables and other items, their inspiration possibly coming from the fat finances that would be needed to build those so-called modern markets where natural atmosphere would be converted to controlled temperatures and air-flows.

In a slow and purposeful manner, the city has been losing its institution of weekly markets. Many decades ago, some thoughtless leader thought of building Sitabuldi’s Super Market and killed the weekly market. Now, the traditional weekly market somehow persisted in narrow stretches of roads on the southern and northern sides of the ugly and ungainly building that has served no purpose all these decades.

On similar lines and spending much more money, political leaders now dream of building more such markets and destroy the simple, environment-friendly traditional weekly market.
For example, in Gokulpeth, we hear from time-to-time some stupid plans of building a sky-scraping air-conditioned market that would cost something around Rs 300 crore. There could never be bigger nonsense than this.
When the Gokulpeth Market, for example, in its traditional form, can be re-designed more efficiently on space or light or air-and-wind, and energy quotients for just a few crore rupees, the dreams are being sold to have a multi-storied market with air-conditioners.

For a simple person like me who has travelled around the world, such ideas are idiotic. Talk to any architect with no commercial strings attached and he will produce a wonderful design for a weekly market on traditional lines.
In fact, the local authorities or the State Government must undertake a big projects to refurbish traditional weekly markets without disturbing their design-benefits. These markets will be far cheaper, far more environmentally-friendly and far more useful to the community than those monsters that some political leaders are planning. We really do not require the new markets. In our very own city, a famous developer who constructed a monster of a commercial-cum-housing complex in central Nagpur, subsequently grieved that the shopping-mall experiment has failed in Nagpur for logically explicable reasons. ‘The Hitavada’ readers had felt shocked when we ran that article years ago. That developer later left Nagpur for good.
This makes a good case for redesigning of the traditional markets by removing their current flaws. The city deserves such an innovation and not those new monsters that would
eventually prove to be unfriendly to people.

If this can be done, then why chase pipe-dreams? Why think of those multi-storied buildings that would serve no purpose other than filling a few pockets?
To this question, there may not be any scientific response because those who should answer the question have their eyes -- and mouths -- shut by god-knows-what!