Mangal Bazar (Delhi, December 2018)

In Minnesota, in Montreal, in London, in Hong Kong I’ve taken pictures of green markets and posted them in slideshows on the blog. But though I’d been back home to Delhi three times between starting the blog and my most recent trip in December, I had not done the same from there. In some places you’re a traveler and in some places you’re just at home. Going to the market when I’m back home is no more remarkable an affair than going to Cub Foods here. But on this trip, perhaps because I’d made two market reports from Hong Kong, I took my camera with me on a visit to the weekly haat (or open-air market) by my parents’ neighbourhood of Sector 25, NOIDA (a suburb of Delhi). Here are most of the photos I took.

I’m not sure if Mangal Bazar is the official name of this market or if it even has one. That’s just the name by which most locals refer to it: mangal=Tuesday and the market sits every Tuesday evening and well into the night. When I still lived in NOIDA it would block the road leading to the neighbourhood. As of some years ago it now sits between one side of Sector 25 and the major road that’s been built alongside it. Traffic is no longer blocked but the market is still jammed.

I should also note a couple of other things. First, NOIDA is not technically a part of Delhi, it’s not even in the same state. But it’s part of the National Capital Region and closer to central Delhi than many actual parts of Delhi. Back when I was living there in the late 1980s and early 1990s (in my college and then advertising agency days), NOIDA was barely developed. There were a a number of colonies (as we Indians refer to neighbourhoods—a strange colonial hangover), yes, but the general feel of the (massive) place was decidedly rural. These days NOIDA has been built up like crazy and there are huge, shiny malls at seemingly every intersection, and there’s no longer any reason to go to Delhi to eat or watch movies or have any other kind of good time. But rural pockets still persist (right next to Sector 25, for example, is a village named Nithari) and the Mangal Bazar is one of the signs of their persistence.

And lest you think markets like these are all over Delhi, that is not the case. Most neighbourhoods have markets that include vegetable and fruit sellers but regular neighbourhood markets are not on this scale. The market itself is not a true farmers’ market, I don’t think—I’d guess the vendors purchase from middlemen and sell on. But the produce is all extremely fresh. My parents, like many other people in the area, buy almost all their vegetables and fruit from this market. Their housekeeper usually sets out after dinner (i.e after 9 pm) as the market is even more crowded before then—and in the summer it’s also oppressively hot. And whenever I’m home I accompany him. (Lest you think my parents are plutocrats for employing a housekeeper, I should also tell you that you don’t have to be very wealthy in India to be able to have household help; my parents are solidly middle class.)

The market itself is more than just fruit and veg. There’s a whole large section for non-produce items but we don’t go to that part. The pictures below are not only therefore not representative of the entire market, they’re also not representative of the entire produce market. I only took pictures at the stalls we shopped at (or stopped to ask prices at). Given how crowded the market is I took pictures on the run—framing and focus are not always very good; I did not want to be in the way of sellers or shoppers and nor did I want to slow down our housekeeper’s flow or mess with his ability to get good prices. I do enjoy being in these kinds of spaces—there’s a kind of energy here I’ve not found in any green market in the US. And I do very much enjoy the fact that markets like these continue to exist in the shadows of the shiny malls and the broad new flyovers and highways; not only because they serve many people who you won’t see in those shiny malls or in shiny cars on the new highways but because they remain some of the few spaces in cities like Delhi that people from very different class backgrounds traverse as peers.

Take a look at the slideshow below to get a feel of the place and to see what’s available. Scroll down to see what’s coming next.

This’ll be the only report of this kind from my Delhi trip; all my other reports will be from restaurants. Up next: a Kashmiri restaurant in another Delhi suburb.

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