That evening after a sublime sunset at Jaswant Thada, I had enough time on my hands to pay Sardar Market a customary visit. The famous market had kept up to its expectations of being the Great Indian Bazaar and I had drowned in colours, noises and smells. Oriented around the clock tower, it had been right in the heart of Brahmapuri and all around the crumbling, ancient blue city had meandered. Thus, huge old carved gates opening into common cobbled courtyards, had popped up at nearly every turn and and exquisite stone houses had overlooked tangle of sooty electrical wires. The winding blue lanes too had narrowed and broadened at intersections and scooters, motor cycles, cycles, cars and people had been packed inside like sardines inside those grand mansions. Most of those houses, themselves had been bottles of history and souls as generations of entire Indian families had continued to live within them for centuries. During my wanderings in the blue city, I had shamelessly peeped inside some of them and the stone courtyards had seemed like oases of peaceful quiet in the midst of a cacophonous kaleidoscope.
Outside the homely squares, blue lanes had buzzed with honking traffic, aggressive touts, travel agencies, cafes and temples and street food shops had been overfilled with jostling people. It had been evening time, when I had wandered around Sardar Market area and melodious hymns of praying priests had emanated from the temples. Somewhere in the vicinity, an Imam had called out to the faithful from a mosque and his calls had mingled with the jingling bells of the Hindu temples. With the sunset, the blazing heat which had blanketed Jodhpur during the day, had muted and the soft twilight had clashed with strings of naked bulb swaying in a mild desert breeze. In that checkered play of bulbs and twilight, Sardar Market had hummed with life and the bustling bazaar had attracted shoppers, gawkers, tourists, beggars and stubborn cows.
With sections dedicated to nearly every kind of ware, soon the little space had been jam packed and traffic too had increased in noise and volume. Footfall had also risen as vegetables, spices, tea, handicrafts and tangle of Bandhej Saris had spilled out from every corner and fiery red of the chilies had clashed with yellow of the turmeric. The green of the vegetables had popped against the neon colours of the buyers’ sarees and Rajputi Bes and groovy fluorescent rings of turbans had blazed with eye catching shades. Such had been the explosion of colours against the timeless backdrop of deep royal blue coloured ancient stones houses and life had indeed followed a timeless pace in those winding lanes. Children had played cricket as seamstresses had embroidered nimbly in tiny shops and rainbow tangle of fabric had been sold from bed sheets spread on the road. Mirrored mojris/jootis (flat ballet slippers) had twinkled in strings next to trays of freshly hammered camel nose pins and heady aroma of incense had wafted out from every other shop. Those, along with customary lemon chili string had been for bringing in good luck and every possible variety of incense had been for sale in the market.
Thus fragrant tuberose, jasmine, lotus, musk, sandalwood and other flowers had created an imaginary garden amidst open sewers, piles of garbage and cow dung and thick strings of yellow and orange marigolds had lent a festive air to the bustling market. In the midst of all the photogenic chaos, only the intricately carved stone mansions had remained sedate and slowly with the deepening evening, they too had shut their massive wooden gates. Jodhpur’s Sardar Market had reminded me of Sarojini Naidu’s poem “In the bazaars of Hyderabad”. Written in 1879, the poetess had captured the charm of Indian markets beautifully and surprisingly the same spirit had continued to exist even into the 21st century. The market had once again given me a sharp reminder of the spirit of quintessential India and what draws people from all over the world to have a love hate relationship with this grand civilization. Despite its much hyped gloss and IT scramble, the core of India’s beauty and bustle remains unchanged and the tug of war chaos between old and new, although very much unsettling, is its real exotic charm.
What do you sell O ye merchants ?
Richly your wares are displayed.
Turbans of crimson and silver,
Tunics of purple brocade,
Mirrors with panels of amber,
Daggers with handles of jade.
What do you weigh, O ye vendors?
Saffron and lentil and rice.
What do you grind, O ye maidens?
Sandalwood, henna, and spice.
What do you call , O ye pedlars?
Chessmen and ivory dice.
What do you make,O ye goldsmiths?
Wristlet and anklet and ring,
Bells for the feet of blue pigeons
Frail as a dragon-fly’s wing,
Girdles of gold for dancers,
Scabbards of gold for the king.
What do you cry,O ye fruitmen?
Citron, pomegranate, and plum
What do you play ,O musicians?
Cithar, sarangi and drum.
what do you chant, O magicians?
Spells for aeons to come.
What do you weave, O ye flower-girls
With tassels of azure and red?
Crowns for the brow of a bridegroom,
Chaplets to garland his bed.
Sheets of white blossoms new-garnered
To perfume the sleep of the dead.
– Sarojini Naidu
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE