A Journey through the Bazaar

by Kritika Mishra

My heart was vacant and my mind occupied, and all that my senses felt can be summed up in two words – colossal sombre. As far as my soul was concerned, I didn’t know that it existed in me until my serendipity with magic earlier today. Before you begin to make any guesses on my whereabouts and what I did, let me take you to the time which led to the making of the preamble of this serendipity.

I am a twenty one year old girl who lives in one of the most vividly ethnic cities existing in my country India. I live in the capital city – New Delhi – the city with most of its dwellers having a peculiar kind of craziness in them (definitely a good sort of a way) and it is due to them that the city gets the Diwani Dilli i.e. crazy Delhi label. It has got Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Parsees, people who claim to not to belong to any religion; people who are theists, atheists and antagonists; people who are optimistic, people who are pessimistic and people who change sides depending on circumstances, both for good and bad; people who have educated from the finest institutions of the world and people who can’t even sign their names; people who eat and talk of different cuisines and people who can’t even manage for two meals a day; people who see Mark Zuckerberg and Eminem as their inspiration and people who consider the khaki man – Mahatma Gandhi as their hero; people who walk the path of evil thus labelling the city as the crime capital of the country and people who protest on the streets and work against all odds to restore humanity……….. I can write on the contrast that the city has for the entire day and still miss something, such is Delhi. Well, apart from the city, there is something that the contrasting people of this city share and that is – a dream: a dream of being something or someone, a dream of loving and being loved and a dream of happiness. The divergent population of various religions, castes, creeds, cultures, occupations, social status, talents, abilities, intelligence, levels of cruelty ……. each and everyone shares this dream, this dream that seems so innocent and inspirational, but at the same time is also the driving force behind the most evil and cruel.

And so how, I being one of them could have been away from this characteristic attribute of this Diwani Dilli (crazy Delhi). I am in the third year that is the final year my bachelor’s degree. I had been preparing for chartered accountancy and the result of the exam, which marks one as eligible to take chartered accountancy as a carrier, had been declared. And of course, it is not difficult for anyone who has reached till here to deduce that I could not clear the entrance exam. Here it was, when my first dream of being something or someone got shattered into pieces. However, these broken pieces were not able to bleed enough out of me and gave only itching, irritating and not that painful mark of cuts. But since God, destiny or whatsoever and whosoever (for I have just starting to know God and am still to meet my destiny) has the power and wisdom (I am mentioning these two things, for it is after what happened today that I am able to believe that everything, at the end, is for a reason that has a higher cause and meaning) to change the direction of our lives had already decided that I had to meet my soul, and hence there was another blow. My boyfriend and me – we were in a relationship for the last three years but we broke up. Actually it was not that we broke up with each other, rather it was he who dumped me giving me the reason that I was not giving him enough space and hence, our relationship was not just the thing that it should to be. I repeatedly tried very hard to mend things between us but it wasn’t working. And so, another dream – the dream of loving and being loved broke. It wasn’t that he was the only person in this world who loved me, but somehow I had developed a habit of him being around me and for me every time. For every little thing ranging from a smile to sorrow, from disappointments to achievements, and from day to night, I was dependent on him and only him. Nothing in this world could make me feel better except him. I don’t know that how and when I restricted my entire life around him. And then, when he was gone I didn’t feel alive. When one isn’t feeling alive, the question of being happy is not even in the picture. And it was how my dream of happiness broke. Though it sounds really absurd that how could these little stupid failures, strictly speaking – failures so pettish that they do not even qualify to be called as one, should be a problem at all but in reality when they happen and that too together, it seems that your entire world has come crashing down.

All that I wanted from life was the fulfilment of those three innocent dreams but none of them were any close to what I had expected them to be. The sound that shattering of a dream makes, is so loud and high pitched that it blocks all the other voices, even the voice of your conscience. First in pain with a vacant heart and an occupied mind, and then no sense at all – it was the order in which I lost myself. I remained in this state for quite a long time until that serendipity happened.

Tired and fatigued I was, that too as a result of doing nothing. Isn’t it strange that how the most divergent things meet up together in odd situations. This life, oxymoron, it is a moment and a mixture of sad metaphors the other in such a way that even time finds it difficult to be  able to define itself due to the obverse dispositions that life gives it.

And eventually, there came a day when I wanted to get out of the bed, whose sides even I had not changed since I completely broke, despite of the fact that I was lying on it continuously. Getting out just didn’t mean getting out of the bed, it meant putting all my energy, whatever little was left in me, in breaking the invisible chains of sorrow that had entwined me to it. So the next big question was to step in where after getting out? A restaurant, a movie or….. I craved to be with someone, to talk my heart out to someone….. Someone who could listen but not judge, someone who was new to me and who I was new to, someone…….. But then, there was no one like that.

I yearned for some sort of satisfaction out of anything; it didn’t really matter out of what. There was only one thing that struck my mind then – shopping. Hence, final it was, to shop, to shop at any such place that could offer me some sort of accomplishment. And I exactly knew where I had to go. Chandni Chowk. The bazaar of the bazaars. Well, what was it that made it the place to go, that too at that crucial time? Actually there are a lot of things that made it the right place but being precise what I must tell is that if one plays right, it is the place where he/she can………….. Now this is a fill in the blank question and every person who, as I mentioned earlier, plays it right would be able to find a unique answer for that blank. And this answer is the answer of the most questioned question – life.

Chandni Chowk is an open air market situated in old Delhi. The two words in English mean the Moonlit Square. It was established during the reign of the Mughal emperor Shahjahan. The market, rather the bazaar was designed by the emperor’s favourite daughter Jahanara. The bazaar originally had canals running through it. The waters of those canals reflected the moon light at night and hence the name Chandni Chowk or the Moonlit Square was given to it.

Currently, it is one of the most famous open air markets in India and one can almost find everything here. And the best part about it is that one can Bargain here.

So, there I was to observe, to find the right thing, to analyse its minimum selling price, to play the seller, to bargain and to purchase. In fact, if put simply and directly, then I was there to assure myself that I was not being a complete fiasco at everything, to give myself a proof of it and to regain my confidence – to feel better. Strange it is, right, a market offering such ‘getting better’ sort of stuff. To mend the dilapidation that I had done to myself, one talks to someone who is really trustworthy or may be reads a self-help book or in extreme case sees a therapist. All these that I mentioned above offer a theory to act upon, and then by acting accordingly one may redeem themselves, whereas I chose to be in a bazaar, a bazaar where bargain was possible. I believe that it is one of those practical laboratories where one does not needs to have read someone else’s theory before performing, rather it caters the idea of first the experiment and then devising their own theory. This is because a bazaar believes in each person’s individuality, and therefore it offers its service to each individual differently, rather uniquely I should say. It is much better as it helps one to explore their extents based on what they think of themselves. What I mean to imply is that when in a bazaar, it is on us to decide how much better do we want to feel, what level of accomplishment would be a triumph for us or how much further do we want to go in order to know who do we really want to be; and all these parameters are calculated by what all we can purchase and how much better we can purchase in the given amount of money that we have.

The narrow lanes of the bazaar were laid in patches, with concrete and bricks which had turned greyish-green as a result of film of water and dust layered over it for a long time. Several pink, yellow, green pamphlets displaying the advertisements of tutorial classes and new shops etc. were stuck to the roads along with the wrappers of chips and biscuits, ice-cream sticks, newspapers, scrap papers etc. After every fifteen-twenty steps, there was a diversion – a lane breaking into two or more – creating a mesh of roads in the area. All the shops dedicated to a particular kind of stuff appeared to be culture celebrating the joy of the festivity that they catered. As I walked down the lanes, one festivity arrived and one departed. From the hoardings to the showrooms to the corner shops under awning, all glowed in lights of different colours even in that hot-humid afternoon. Besides the shops, all that I saw were people. Everyone immensely occupied in their business, from shopkeepers to the purchasers to the whole stock sellers, busy in making calculations, estimations and manipulations. All the people seemed so happy and joyous as if everything was perfectly okay in their lives, as if all the things were turning out the same way they had desired them to be, and as if the festivity and joy catered by the shops were for them only. It was for them in a way but the rapture and dazzle on their faces said that each one them felt that the celebration in the market was exclusively for them. Their disposition reflected that in their minds there was no home for the idea that the market was a shared place – all that each one of them showed was that it was for them, only and only for them. And I thought to myself that was everybody living a myth or was there something that I lacked due to which I could not feel myself as the part of the razzmatazz they were enjoying. The scene of happiness on everyone’s face except me was drilling a hole of vacuum inside me and as I saw more faces, the hole got bigger and bigger. I felt deficient of oxygen and the stroke of the pang of pain hurt my heart so hard that my eyes got weighed with tears. The thought of me as the most unlucky, unprivileged and undeserved human rang repeatedly in my head. I wanted scream out my lungs and ask God, in whom my faith had always been shaky, that why I was the one. But, once again, justifying its queerness, life (I don’t know what to call such sudden help from something about which I didn’t know then) dropped a piece of good advice into my head. It said that you can always let unknown people know that how happy and contented you are, for then they will either be jealous of you or fear you or aspire to be like you but would not do anything to you, but you can not reveal to them that how weak, alone and detrimentally damaged you are, for then they will try to crush you even more.

I gathered myself and walked further into the bazaar for two reasons basically, one that I have just mentioned above and the other was that, I knew it  was one of those places that was meant to talk, to unravel in front of you things…… things that were so easily visible but hardly observed, understood and learnt from. It was the Moonlit Square with canals running through its gullies, and therefore it was meant to tell one that to see the reflection of moon light: a vista beyond beauty so ethereal and so surreal that it silences the voice of the universe and helps one to listen to their voice that though being in them remains unheard, one not only needed a dark sky but also darkness on the earth. It was because if there was even one more source of light somewhere near, it would interfere with the brightness of the moon and as a result of it one would not be able to see what they were meant to see. Though the bazaar has not got canals any more but I firmly believe that the place is not bereaved of its original essence. And I knew that the darkness that gloom had casted over my life was meant for me to see and realise something, something that was always there with me but I had never cared to know it.

I walked past lanes and lanes decorated with shops of clothing, shoes, hats, bracelets and anklets, gold and diamond jewellery, plastic articles, watches, stationary….. But I didn’t give a gaze of more than ten seconds to any one of them for I was not able to connect to the pomp and show they were offering. And when standing alone, frigid and stricken, with everyone else being in a dance with their lives made me feel as if all the non living things were rotating around me to watch me and pity me. This thought weighed my entire body.

And weight, by far of all the things that I have known, is the most difficult thing to bear; no matter what I am doing – sitting, lying down, walking, running or even free falling, I find it non detachable, and when it is the weight of broken dreams, and uneasiness and grief which come as a by product when dreams shatter, it seems as if this weight has blended into my soul (till then the only meaning that I inferred from soul was that it was something that left the body after death). And I occurred to me that even death could not provide me freedom from it.

Though I had discovered a thing or few about, I don’t know what to call it, life or wisdom or……..the weight was still not off my shoulders. Heavy and crushed, I walked there, and to relieve myself of the pain I rotated my neck, and there what I saw marked the beginning of my serendipity with magic. I came to fix my sight at a grand shop of utensils which were made of stainless steel and brass only. And from outside the shop, the first thing that I remember seeing in it was – myself. Yes, all that I saw in the shop was my face, dull and devoid of sheen. I saw myself on large twenty kilogram containers, on pots and pans, on plates and bowls, on ladles and servers, on spoons and forks, even on gas stoves and non stick vessels. The walls of the shop were fixed with mirrors to falsify the eyes for the view of spaciousness. And I was in that falsified view as well. The same face reflecting the same dullness and lack of sheen from everywhere. “Oh dear God! This one dejected-wretched face of mine, all that its giving me is hundreds of dejected and wretched faces making me even more melancholic and sick. I can’t see happiness or joy because all that I am able to see is my own reflection in every other thing around me. What have I done to myself?” this thought struck me immediately as soon as I first looked into the shop. For the first time in past so many days, along with tears in my eyes, there was a smile on my lips. And definitely, what I got then was hundreds of faces of mine smiling back at me with the same innocence and relief. From here on I knew that the magic was in me, my eyes and my perception. I cannot describe in words how I was then. It was as if for so long I had been lost in the middle of an ocean with sun over my head, withering and scorching my skin and draining out all moisture from me, and though there was water all around me but neither I could relief my skin with it nor I could drink it; and then one day, all the pain and the thirst gets answered in the form of rainfall – the drops falling on my lips and my eyes and gradually in a few seconds inundating my body. In that vast ocean, the realization of what and how water felt like are inexplicable, and similar was my experience in that shop.

I closed my eyes and released my breath from my mouth, exhaling out all the preposterous thoughts. I opened my eyes and promised myself to see the world with a perception that would be prolific as well as tranquil, idealistic as well as practical, and crazy as well as rational. So, with my reincarnated and resurrected eyes, I saw that there were utensils, from large containers that could store more than fifty kilograms to wide plates of diameter of more than one metre to some typical Indian utensils and plates and spoons and glasses and ladles and what not. Each and every item was shining with confidence. This confidence was the result of the fact that they knew about their indispensability and importance. I was beginning to realise all these little pieces of wisdom that this universe offers are omnipresent in its vast expanse, and that we hardly tend to notice them. Now, I too, could feel that the bazaar and all its pomp and show were laid exclusively for me. The realisation that I was a part of that festivity made me feel like I was a celebration, a joy myself. Many a time in life, we tend to feel that we are not a part of this and that, or someone does not respect or love us enough but the truth behind this thought of ours is that we are unable to feel that we are a part of ourselves, and that we have lost the respect or love for ourselves somewhere somehow. We don’t trust anyone because we do not trust ourselves, we find everyone fake because we are somewhere pretending something to ourselves, and we find joy only we are joyous about ourselves. All that we tend to see in this world, is merely a reflection of what we think we are, like the one I had just seen in the utensil shop. And then, I also knew that I should not expect myself to be sane always, to always come clean and crisp out of everything, I must mess up in order to realise what is the beauty of being clean because everything in this world has come from the state of relativity – a thing is dark in comparison to something, a thing is large in comparison to something.

 I took a step further to explore my extents and find the answer to my fill in the blank question, and so I decided that I was going to purchase only one thing from the bazaar. I would search thoroughly for it and I would not stop until I found it. I had no idea what was that one thing in there that I wanted, a thing such that after buying it no matter how much I roamed about in the bazaar, I would not get tempted to buy something else and be completely satisfied. This search of mine, somewhat resembled life – like a search for a dream after which we wouldn’t stop until it turns into reality, or search for a person whom we would not mind living with despite a thousand wrongs in him/her. Usually most of the times, whatever we come across first, we end up choosing it because we are in such a hurry to make ourselves happy that we don’t prefer to know it better, and this desire to achieve happiness as fast as possible, later proves out to be deleterious for us.

 As I moved further the next shop was a shop of bags. The variety of fabric they were made from – ranging from jute to coarsely textured cotton to canvas cloth to leather and rack sin to polyester to georgette etcetera. All in different colours and shapes and sizes showcasing different styles but still serving the same purpose of carrying stuff. Then was a shop of decorative articles made up from wood: clocks, , key ring holders, coasters, diminutions of chairs, canons, bicycles, chariots and weaver birds’ nests – all in different colours of wood from ochre to burgundy to dark brown to auburn. So was each shop that I passed through. A vivid variety of the stuff they all show cased, and everyone who came to purchase was so involved in making speculations about what to choose and what to leave, moving from shop to shop, asking their family and friends with whomsoever they had come, to not only help them pick up something but also to assure that whatever they picked up was the best of all. Also there were people who were stuck in choices; they liked two or more than two things but it wasn’t possible for them to buy all that they liked, and eventually they were to make a choice. This reminded me isn’t it exactly how life is – we cannot have everything we like and we want, we get a few things and we do not get a few, and there will always be something that we desire but we are not able to have. It is a sour truth but then it is as true as the sun and the earth, and hence we must accept it. There would always come a point when we would have to make choices and then learn to live with them. But then again, this does not means that if we have made a choice once, and somehow if we are not able to live with it, then we have to succumb ourselves in living with it. Life is just like this bazaar; we can always visit it and find ourselves something that soothes us. There is always a scope for redemption. But every time we would visit the bazaar – the unseen but yet present bazaar of life, we would have to make a choice in what we want from it on the basis of knowledge of why we want it and what it would make us, and then pay the price of our choices.

Prussian blue, scarlet, vermillion, maroon, mauve – all such different colours – were woven together, side to side against a turquoise background in a chunari (a larger form of scarf) which was of typical Kutch style. It fluttered with pride carrying a certain sense of audacity, like the flag of a state which had won a long battle after facing the deadliest last few days; and I, like the widowed queen of that state who saw her young prince being enthroned with a sweet-sad fear in her heart that held in it the promises as well as the challenges of future, saw it swaying along the manoeuvres of the gust of wind.

All the colours of that large scarf represented different phases of life, each distinct as well as odd, but yet what made their view beautiful was their togetherness. Then it was there that that I understood that it is actually the totally different shades of life that make it beautiful and worthwhile to travel the journey that it offers us. And in the end, no matter how odd the colours of life might have been, when put together on a piece, it all makes sense and it is all beautiful. I purchased it and wound it around my neck and yes, all the stars and the moon were there, imbibed in that scarf walking along with me.

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