Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Market Day

A long, dirty street with tarps suspended from ropes over our heads. Colorful tarps, as is only fitting in this technicolor country. The market is splashed with pink, blue, yellow, and green light as it filters through the torn tarps and potato sacks. The men sit behind their wares, onions, bananas, carrots, peas, fruit that definitely didn't come from this planet. Every once in a while we pass by a stall selling what we have dubbed alien fruit, which comes in watermelon sized pods but is actually more like soft sweet smelling seeds the size of large strawberries, but looking like peeled bananas. This fruit has a strong, sweet, mouthwatering taste. One day we will buy one and try it out, then we'll have a coke to kill all the weird bacteria that comes with it. Shouts from the vendors in loud, monotone, quickly repeating the name of their product in Tamil. Mangoes, orange and yellow and green and smelling divine. Thirty ruppess "kaygee"? No, more like fifteen. Twenty? Hmm...they look too ripe...twenty for a kaygee...two kaygees then. No, we don't have a rice bag, just put it in with the garlic. Women pass in their second best saris, hair slicked back with coconut oil, bangles and earrings sparkling. This is market day.
Down a side alley, with dusty brown tarps. Bags of brown woven fabric sit open mouthed with mounds of spices piled inside. Red, green, yellow, all colors. The smell is overwhelming; it smells like everything and nothing. "Madam, Madam! (rapid Tamil words)" I answer no thank you, and I don't make eye contact. They already think I'm a loose woman, no need to encourage the idea. "Which country, which country???" America (I pronounce it A mare eee kah! so they can understand me). Ah, yes, that would explain the height...or something else in Tamil. "My name is? My name is?" I fight the urge to tell them I don't know there name and instead answer the question they mean to ask, "Cathlin." "Latkin?" "Whatever." A breeze has smuggled its way into the covered alley of the bazaar, it touches my skin like a long lost friend and I welcome it just as lovingly. "Madam, Madam banana! bannana!" No, thank you Mr. Goiter man, that's a lovely skin disease you have. This is market day.
Winding out into the open street again, the blare of horns incessantly in my ears. Buses pass within an inch of my elbow and I have learned not to flinch. Rickshaw drivers call out to me, motion to their motor-rickshaws. No, thank you, I'll take the bus. The light is red, but no one stops yet. I guess it isn't really red until it has been that way for a minute. Whistles and bells and "Hello! Hi HI HIII! Which country? My name is?" Hello, Amayreeekah! Cathlin. A head bobble. "Sari, madam, sari?" No thank you. "Come in, just come into shop!" No, I don't need gold jewelry or what looks like used sandals. My feet ache, they are not feet colored anymore. They are India colored. The bus stop, a crowd of people waiting. younger girls in salwar kamiza, like me. Mature women in saris, wrapped to show a pudge of dark brown belly. Old women in saris without blouses, a glimpse of wrinkled flesh sagging down. The bus is loud, honking at everyone and no one. Standing sandwiched between two Indian women I am glad the men sit in the back of the bus, and I am grateful for my height (I think the air is cleaner up here). A long, bumpy ride on dusty roads with my hand above my hand grasping the rail like a lifeline and the blessed wind drying dirt and sweat onto my skin. Head bobble to the conductor along with my five rupees. Walking home along poo-road where so many have left their fetid mark (I don't want to look down, but I don't want to step in it either). The village, the veranda, a smiling Jeeva, and finally bare feet on the warm (but not hot) cement of my floor/bed.
This is market day.


Anonymous said...

Definitely would enjoy some pictures -- if nothing else, of the strange fruits and vegetables. Some of the other things ... no, that's fine - the description is enough.

Nancy said...

Jen, I love the way you write. It's a lot like the way you speak, but let me just say that you could make a lot of money by selling your blog entries! ...More so in an un-politically correct society. ;)