Sometimes I wish that there was a rooftop cafe with a view of the main market in Small City. I would have gone there everyday to relax and watch people shop. The main market area of the city, which is basically a road with shops on both sides, is the most lively place here in Small City. And it gets livelier during the festivals. Be it Eid, Holi or Diwali, the market gets decorated with flowers, ribbons and colorful people.
We walked along this road, passing people shopping for idols, bargaining hard to buy their favourite God or Goddess at the best possible price. If you stand in front of the shop long enough, you might hear someone say things like, “Does Krishna come in any other colour?” or “If I buy Shiv, will you give me Ganesha for free?” Hilarious.
We passed shops selling all sorts of delicacies like jalebis and pakoras. People stood outside the shop, eating dahi samosas and rasgullas while the owner tried his best to keep away the flies and the beggars. Everyone had shopping bags in their hands and the kids were either happily holding a new toy or crying their eyes out to make their parents buy them one.
I walked along this road with my driver to buy Diwali gifts for my friends back in Delhi. The driver, who is a local, was a natural when it came to walking in this busy road filled with two wheelers and cycle rickshaws, while I lagged far behind, watching every step, eavesdropping on interesting conversations and taking pictures. The constant honking of two wheelers, mixed with the excited buzz of the shoppers filled the place with festive energy.
People tried to sell us decoratives that ranged from artificial flowers, to floating candles. While looking at the colorful showpieces, I accidentally stepped on the feet of a middle aged guy who was out shopping with his family. On any other day, he would have given me an angry stare or we would have had a heated exchange of insults. Today, however, he smiled and nodded, signalling everything is fine.
My driver stopped in front of a roadside bakery stall, and said “Sir, you have to try this!”
We had a few sweet biscuits, fresh out of the oven. It was delicious. I would have bought a kilo of those biscuits but I reminded myself that “I hate this city and I cannot wait to get out of here!”. I cursed myself for actually liking the biscuit. “How can I like something that is made here?”
I surfed the internet on my phone while the driver chose gifts for my friends, a job that I was supposed to do.
A news article read, “Fresh Reports of Violence. Four People Dead. Uttar Pradesh Tense.”
I looked out of the shop, at the beautifully decorated market, excited people, sweets, crackers, toys, clothes, candles. I wondered if this is the same city where I saw communal riots and heard gun shots.
No one seemed tense. They all seemed happy.