The Dusty Track Saga Of The Village Haat Bazaar In Bihar

The lines of Mahatama Gandhi pings in my head when I sit and contemplate in front of my laptop how to initiate my another abundant travelling experience of Darbhanga this year :

India’s way is not Europe’s; India is not Calcutta and Bombay. India lives in her seven hundred thousand villages.” – M.K. Gandhi

And India still breaths in it’s villages. While speeding up on the road from Darbhanga, back to Patna, as soon as we stepped out of the district and entered in another county, I spotted a gathering in between the lonesome green fields stretched on the road sides and checked with my husband if we can just stop by for some time and see closely what are the perky hues all about. We got off our car and as my steps got closer to that gathering I knew what it was. I excitedly exclaimed to my husband and to 2 and half years old daughter – wow, it’s a village Haat Bazaar.

The waves of childhood memoirs just flew of my vision. I went all nostalgic and recalled the days of my childhood trips to my grandparent’s village; how the group of family kids (me and my cousins who stayed in the village) used to hop to the weekly Haat Bazaar of the village, which was fixed on every Tuesday of the week and so was termed “Mangal Haat Bazaar”. Each kid having Rs. 10 to Rs. 20 in the pocket and which we used to lavishly spend on the snacks and sweets, cheap toys, colourful bangles, religious neckpieces with the images of Lord Shiva, Lord Hanuman, Goddess Durga and etc. (which, as kids my cousins believed would keep us away from the village witches). How incredible, when I think now that maximum Rs. 20 was more than enough for sooooo many shoppings from the Haat or rather was plenty for soooo much of happiness, laughter, companionship and fairy tales.

However, if you google the whereabouts of Haat Bazaar, it will say – It is an open air market, that serves as a trading venue for local people in rural areas and are conducted on weekly basis, may be one’s, twice or three times a week.  You can find variety of stuff at the Haat, seasonal vegetables and fruits, cereals, grains, spices raw and powdered, apparels, accessories, footwear, utensils sold from stainless steels to raw iron and mud pots as well. You get lots of local snacks and sweet to savour as well, like samosas, kachri, badi, jalebis, jhilli, pakodas, tea and what I discovered on my this visit in this suddenly spotted Haat that now chow mien and coffee are also available if you are little westernized and Chinese in taste and are not rigid to the authentic Indian snack or drink.  Me and my husband giggled out that may be next year we visit a haat in the village and we might spot some hawker selling burger, pizza & pasta. Well business perspectives has no frontiers, you see, be it a metropolitan city or an unknown village, people create their market by creating tastes and other needs and also a big thanks to television and Bollywood.

The most startling moment for us was when we bought shimmering hot samosa INR 1.50 paise per piece, 500 gms jhilli in INR 5/- and 250 gms of jalebi in INR 10/-. Well not sure of the pureness of the ingredients used to prepare these savouries but was quite a treat to mouth. While waiting for our stuffs to be packed, we chit chatted with the hawker about his daily being. The hawker with his wife and two kids lives a life of a nomad. Moving around to the various Haats in several villages since last three to four years, now he has a perfect idea of which day, which village or locality would be having Haat and in all the villages and locations he has a self-allocated area to set up his stuff. Before working as a snacks and sweet hawker in the village haat bazaar he used to work along with his wife in Gurgaon near Dilli (Delhi) as construction labourer earning wages per hour, but the supervisor was very corrupt and did not pay him and his wife the exact labour wages. A

s it was very difficult to sustain livelihood in Gurgaon with a wife and one baby, he chose to come back to village. But than his late father had so many debts which he as a responsible son was supposed to varnish, so he started selling the snacks which his wife makes in the village haat. The business is running quite well and in three years after starting this venture he has already bought a paddling lorry for transportation of stuff from one place to another.  On enquiring about, if he has his own house?? He loosely replied – “Haan hai behenji, Raaje gaon mein mitti ka du tho room ka ghar hai . Meri vidhva bahin hai, sasural wala nikaal dia pati ke marne ke baad, wo hi rahti hai aur ghar ko dekhti hai. Jaate hain ghar hum parab tyohaar mein. Kya karein aab paisa to kamana hai, nahi to bachcha log ko bhaat kahan se khilaenge (Yes sister, in village Raaje I have a mud house of two rooms. My widow sister, who was asked to leave by her in laws after her husband’s death, takes care of my house. We go home in festivals. What to do, have to earn livelihood, otherwise how will I feed my kids).”

But not all the hawkers have the same story as the snacks and sweet hawker. Few hawkers were the local vendors who have their permanent shops in the village market and put up their stall every week in the village Haat as well to sell off their extra piled up stuff on cheaper rates, than their shops, just like we have end of season sale in the cities with various brands in the shopping malls and stores.

A woman who was selling colourful glass bangles and other cosmetics like lipsticks, nail paints, vermilion, alta, bindi, etc. told us, she was doing it just for her pocket money and to pursue her little independence financially. In a day at Haat she is able to earn INR 1500/- to INR 2500/- and during festival and wedding seasons the earning also sometimes hikes up to INR 3000/- to INR 4000/-. And out of her earning every week in the Haat she invests INR 500/- to INR 800/- , depending upon the sale of the day after deducting the profit, in buying bangles and other cosmetic products  from the whole sale shops in Madhubani , where her husband travels to work daily. As per the woman, her husband earns enough to run the house, but by her extra earning she has been able to provide her three kids tuition master at home to specially teach them English, so that they can later go to big colleges and may be become engineers and doctors and because of her earnings they have been able to buy a colour TV with cable connection and she really enjoys the daily soup Sasural Simar Ka on Color TV Channel. Moreover, its quite comfortable for her, as she only has to stay in the market for one day and other days she is all the time at home and as her husband gets stuff from Madhubani, so she is able to save the transportation cost as well. Now, she has also started to sell the bangles and cosmetic products to neighbourhood woman, if they want. I saw a budding woman entrepreneur in her, I checked about her education. She never went to school as in her childhood, women were not allowed to go out of the house. But her kids have taught her calculation, which she understands is very useful and important for her business and now she reads and writes Hindi as well. Infact, she has made it sure that her daughter along with her two sons goes to school and gets the required education. I appreciated her husband and family to allow her and encourage her initiative to earn and become a financial support to the family, but then she smirked and said, it was not at all easy for her. Her husband was completely against it and he warned her dare not do this. But she started selling her unused bangles and cosmetics to the neighbourhood woman secretly and one day she helped her husband by providing him some amount to buy a mobile phone, than her secret business was exposed and her husband realised that her earning will not only make her financially independent but also will be a financial support to the family. She sighed with satisfaction –“ Didi, ghar mein du go pai aae to kisko badhiyan nai lagega (Sister , who would not want to grow financially).”

I am sure if I would have walked to few more hawkers, I could have come across with other stories and details of the other hawkers sitting and selling stuff in the Haat. Indeed a village Haat is a souk of needs to survive, propagate, dream, expand and dispose other than the materialistic stuff.

Everyone has a story, and how spot-on I ponder of the words of Ibn Battuta, the greatest medieval scholar & traveler of his time, that traveling leaves you amazed, then turns you into a storyteller.


Au Revoir until we meet again in the next Sagas