When we speak of Bengalis, the first few things that we connect them to are Fish, Tea, Rabindra Nath Tagore, Music and Afternoon Slumbers. While all of that is true and will remain that way in for eternity, there is a single love that sometimes exceeds the love of all things mentioned above in Kolkata.
I am talking about Bengal and its love for Bajar. Bajar simply means the market. No, not the mall, not the local kirane wala market either, we are talking of spread out, huge marketplaces, with dirty watery floors and fishy smells and roaring vendor-calls floating in from all directions. These are the markets where Bengal shops for their daily veggies, fish, and poultry and mind you, it is no simple affair.
The Art of Bajar Around India v/s in West Bengal:
Marketing at your local market might be a tedious and frustrating affair for you, especially with all the commotion encompassing the surroundings. You hate all the funny smells, the humidity, the accidental steps in the puddles and the constant honking nearby. A Bengali breathes that in and takes it as a challenge. More the people, the higher the decibel and the toughest the bargains.
For all those people who think Bengalis are soft, can see us unleash our most instinctive and hidden avatars at a marketplace. If you do have a Bengali friend and you love how literary, musical and easy going they are, do not ever make the mistake of accompanying them to a market, you will never see them in the same light again, NEVER.
For a Bengali, Bajar is an almost daily affair. We do not believe in stocking our refrigerators for the whole week. Your parents will question the upbringing they gave you, if you suggest such a criminal thought to them, ever. You are not the perfect BANGALI SHANTAN (child) if you cannot tell Bhetki from Katla. Though most of our fathers religiously visit the market every morning, we still have special Bajars to look forward to.
The Robi Barer Bajar (the Sunday Market) is a customary visit, before the splendid Sunday breakfast and post the morning tea. The number of vendors in the market on a Sunday is overwhelming and so are their offerings.
The Shonde Belar Bajar (the evening market) is something that the moms are more acquainted with. After finishing their daily chores and enjoying their evening laal cha (liqueur tea), the ladies will pick up their Bajaar er tholi (market bag) and go marketing. These women don’t need any kitty parties to freshen things up inside their head. What they need is a good bargain and a hefty supply of fresh produce.
The Macher Bajar (the Fish Market) is the where the wildness in a Bengali escapes from every single pore in their skin. We do not bargain over free Mirchi, Dhaniya and Nimbu. We are elitists that way. The art lies in picking the classiest fish and the tenderest of meats at the best cost.
A day when the market is closed is nothing less than a curfew for a Bengali. We are not always enthusiastic enough to look forward to a happening night out after a tedious day at the office, but, if we do not find the best produce in the morning, we will travel lengths of distance just to get the right ingredients and right cuts.
Bajars a boiling pot of comradeship:
Unlike the common belief that Mothers are the more reachable parent, Bengali Fathers make it a point that they establish a unique comradeship with their kids from the very beginning. Our parents always made sure that we accompanied them to these Bajars every single weekend, if not every day. It soon became that “looked forward to time” of the week, where we would wake up early, even on the weekends, to pick up the smaller Bajar er Tholi, hold our parent’s hand and step into the market, a place we secretly call PASSION.
While you might have memories of weekend picnics and cricket practice on Sundays. Bengali kids have childhood memories that drip with the essence of Bajar, the sound of pride in their father’s voice after bringing the biggest fish and freshest meat home and the satisfied smile on their mother’s face when she treats the whole family to the most lip-smacking spread ever.
Bajars in Kolkata:
There are so many markets in Kolkata and all of us have one that is close to our hearts. If you do want to feel and cherish this under-glorified Bengali Passion first hand, do visit at least one of them. Some of the best bajars in Kolkata are, Gariahat Bajar, Lake Market Bajar, Jadavpur Bajar, Sreemani Bajar, Jodu Babur Bajar, Maniktala Bajar and the best market is the one in your locality.
If you really want to understand what all this fuss is about a market, come visit Kolkata and ask a Bengali to accompany you to one of these places and you will know what I have been talking about all this while.
Amra Machey, Bhatey aar Bajarey Bangali.