Going to a market isn’t among my favourite things. However, at the insistence of a friend I was staying with, we headed to Iewduh, the local market in Shillong one early morning. We needed to buy grocery supplies to feed over 100 guests at his residence that evening.
Turns out Iewduh (pronounced yyoh-dohh), or Bara Bazar as it is popularly known as, is one of the oldest and biggest markets in the Northeast in India. It’s also one of the most cramped markets I’ve been too. Too bad if you’re claustrophobic. Even worse if you get lost. Finding your way to that exact same spot will take you a couple of hours.
This market, mostly run by women, sells everything. From the day’s vegetables and fruits and freshly cut meat, to regular stationery items and kitchen appliances, or even traditional garments and handicrafts from the local tribespeople, chances are you will find it in one of the shops in this market or with any of the street vendors. Like all markets, each alley specialised in something or the other. While one alley had all the butchers selling a variety of cuts, another only dealt with spices.
Having explored the length and breadth of the market, getting lost a couple of times, looking for others who were lost, or just taking stock of what had been purchased, and what remained, a couple of us decided to take a break on one of the lanes, which thankfully specialised in fresh fruits and vegetables.
Turns out that was the smartest thing I could do. So long as I didn’t get swept away by the mass of people that would push, shove, or simply, through brute force, weave in and out of the crowd. It is also the best time to people watch, one of my favourite pastimes.
And that is when my eyes gazed upon this woman selling her fresh produce. After that, it just didn’t matter where I was, or for how long. With a beautiful smile like that, I’d have happily bought the full sack of lemons she was selling, if she’d have only told me too.