It’s not a spelling error. Feri-wallahs or street hawkers are the talk of today’s post.
Gopalpura Colony, where employees from Eastern Coalfields Limited were housed, was about an hour from the nearest market place. Until a few shops opened outside the colony, the feri-wallahs were the prime suppliers for everything, from grocery to clothes to cosmetics to small electronic items.
The residents of this colony were affluent, thanks to the regular and generous flow of cash from the coal company. And while the markets were far, it were the hawkers who were making gold. At least a few deserve mention here.
How can I forget that Mihidana wala? He would come twice or thrice a week. Mihidana is a bengali sweet that resembles bundi or bundiya with the only difference being that it is relatively small, thereby getting its name (Mihi means small or fine in bengali). With a small aluminium vessel atop his head and brimming with yellowish-orange mihidana, he moved like a pied piper throughout the colony. Children followed him as he moved from from one locality to another, shouting at the highest pitch. Fifty paise was all you needed to devour on the sweet dish; yet it was not a very easy task to get even that small amount from mother.
Shanichra didn’t have to be so ill-omened to be named thus. Because he visited the colony on Saturdays that the ladies named this hawker of sarees as Shanichra. Thanks to him that the ladies didn’t miss out on any new fashion that hit this small town. Also he was willing to extend credit – thus many ladies who couldn’t have purchased one because their husbands had not yet received their salaries got a way out. Somesh’s mother would buy her favourite sarees and show it to her husband only on the salary day – he would believe that she purchased it only after his salary.
Once Somesh’s mother offended a hawker selling cosmetics. A teenager, he sported a goatee; but was mistaken for a Mohammedan instead. They were Ramzan days and she enquired if he too was observing Roza. He turned out to be a Hindu and the analogy to a Muslim angered him. But the other ladies soon came to the rescue of Somesh’s mother. “Hey, what’s the problem with being a Muslim?” And certainly the people in the colony didn’t feel otherwise. We would join the Muslims in their festivities. I still love the different types of halwas prepared for their festival Shab-e-Barat. Okay no deviation from the main topic, i.e. feri wallahs or hawkers.
As I said once in some post, my window was where most hawkers laid down there wares. A sabji wali used to visit from the nearby village. Thanks to her, our vocabulary was strengthened with a lot many vegetable names in Bengali. Kacha Kola (green banana), Lonka (green chillies), Begun (this one was not very different from our baingan or brinjal) and many more.
With winters came the Kashmiris with hundreds of wool patterns loaded onto their bicycles. Woolmark was unheard of; and so were readymade sweaters. Besides it kept women engaged. And when the Kashmiris returned to their homes at the end of February, their wallets were bulging with the profits they had earned during the season.
There were many more. The bioscope wallah caame once in a blue moon. Snake charmers were quite frequent though. There were also magicians. Can’t forget how they hooked their audience, especially small children. “If anyone of you will leave this place before the show comes to an end, your skulls will burst”. And even if it was unbearable to continue seeing, the children were not able to leave.
I think this is all I have for today on my nostalgic journey. Will talk about some more of these feri wallahs later.
Also read this tragic tale of a girl from the very same colony: