Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sights from the market

Yesterday Esther and I went to the market in the evening around 5 just past the intense heat. I had intended to buy a ready-made top, long or short, traditional or untraditional style as long as it fit me.... but, nothing did.... I am a medium in the US, but here I am "Free Size" aka, "Too large for our charts".... I had a similar problem with bangles too.... my hand was too large for the sizes that they have! Women are so petite here and I feel embarrassed of how large I look!

Just as I was stepping out of the third store with nothing in my hands, I heard loud firecrackers and the usual drums and whistles, signaling a funeral procession of course.... I felt nervous and decided to stay right at the entry door of the store that offered a bit of refuge until the group passed me. Since the store was a few feet off the street and higher, I had rather a good view and this procession was different from the usual group that carried the diseased in an organic mat laden with hundreds of flowers (usually marigold) with four men carrying the mat by the poles sticking out on corners... this procession had an ambulance (about a third of the size of the US ambulances) laden with flower garlands and the trunk of the vehicle was open with the poles sticking out, and a man was sitting crouched with the body..... may be a relative? Because the bodies are burnt, and not buried, there are no fancy boxes .... but the whole mat is probably laid on the funeral pyre... and since the mat is made with natural fibers like matted coconut leaves, and the poles seems to be thin bamboo, it is highly combustible and well, I don't know the details yet, but when I have the misfortune to run into that place, I will keep you posted. Speaking of which, there has to be a public 'burning place' close by, because I hear this racket almost every evening!!

After I gingerly stepped out of the store, within 10 steps I see this young man 30-35 years old, "sleeping" on the ground with his knees folded and right arm under his head.... right there on the mud ground, among the vegetable / fruit carts, with hundreds of pedestrians passing by.... his peach colored shirt was covered with flies, and people did not seem very disturbed! As I intently stared at him to see if he was breathing, Esther informed me that he was drunk and was probably just sleeping it off! Oh, okay, obviously everybody else was aware of this man's alcoholic problems too? He did not look like a bum to me... his shirt and trousers were clean, but he had no sandals on .... but that may have been stolen after he collapsed.... Well, an hour later, on my return, he was still in the same place 'sleeping'.....

The market place is vibrant and much cooler and bearable than the morning trips...... the carts are laden with fresh produce including just-blooming, extremely fragrant jasmine flowers that are expertly strung together in long threads made from banana tree barks and sold usually by women ..... I have made it a habit to buy a couple of feet of these flowers and tuck them in my hair....... I see mostly adults bustling about buying fresh fruits and vegetables on their way home from work, cows and dogs having their dinner by rubbish piles that are just about everywhere... the only drawback is that when the lights are turned on in the tiny stores, I see creepy lizards on every wall..... so I stand outside and tell Esther what to buy within.... some get offended wondering why I refuse to go in, and then I have to let them know that there are lizards, and it makes me uncomfortable.... most smile and nod their heads relieved that it has nothing to do with their store...... because most of these stores are manned by the owners themselves with many of them having no other employees.... so it is all very personal indeed!

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