One of the best parts of India is wandering through a local market and sending your senses into overdrive. In India, no matter the time of day, you will find people selling, bartering, and cooking. The smells in the air are constantly changing and drawing you down alleyways or into little shops. Guys try and convince you to eat at their stalls or buy their products. The best markets get into full swing in the morning, but that doesn’t mean the night-time is a boring affair. The market area just comes to life as a different creature. Late into the night, you can find all types of tasty foods. Young guys energetically serve up momos and everything else imaginable.
If you’d like a mouth full of betel nut, it won’t be a tough search. Middle aged men have stands all over the place quickly rolling out the finished product. They don’t have a minute to rest as orders come in one after another. They brush the slaked lime onto the betel leaf, place a few areca nuts, and fold it up with a big smile across the face. This cool guy loved having me take a picture of his booth and was very proud of it. He hooked me up with a big fat one to chew on as I wandered the streets.
At night the market isn’t as big or bustling, but there’s still plenty of entertaining action going on. This is the time to meet many of the characters and get a good laugh. The fish market was still in full swing and full stink.
And don’t forget some veggies to go with all that smelly sea life.
No matter what time of day, if you’re out on the streets, you’ll be joined by cows. In India the majority of people are Hindi, and in their faith the cow is more or less a taboo animal. They’re revered as a symbol of life and source of food and not to be killed. Many people confuse this and think that Hindus worship the cow, but this isn’t true. People visit India and see photos of cows everywhere unfenced living in public places and this leads them to believe the Hindus worship cows.
In ancient India oxen and bulls were sacrificed to the gods and their meet was eaten, but the slaughter of milk-producing cows was prohibited. Meat eating was allowed, but the Vedic scriptures encouraged vegetarianism. When Jainism and Buddhism took hold Indians stopped eating beef. It was for practical reasons too and not just spiritual. Many important products came from the cows, like milk, browned butter for lamps, and fuel from dried dung. Some people think the tradition came from the strict Jainism vegetarian ways. In the beginning centuries AD, cows became the gift for Brahmans (high-caste priests) and it became that to kill a cow was like killing a Brahman. The Krishna stories solidified the importance of the cow in Hinduism. It continues to this day and curds, milk, ghee butter, dung, and urine are all used in worshiping. Despite this, they don’t seem to get much love on the streets of India. They more resemble a neglected homeless person living off of garbage. They spend a lot of their time eating through garbage piles, which are sometimes smoldering. I’ll never get used to being in large cities that are full of cows just wandering everywhere and will always bring a smile to my face.
They lay and walk in the middle of the street, and have no intention of moving quickly, or even moving at all, for any dumb humans.
In the morning, as soon as you walk out of your hotel, it’s a guarantee to have people selling things right on the street. Chances are some fresh fish will be involved.
As you make your way to the market, you won’t be the only one. Peoples lives buzz all around in a frenzy. Guys rush to get their produce to and from the market to make their slice of the pie for the day. They carry impressive loads shuffling quickly towards their goal.
Some guys take the easier way of transporting goods and people. The rickshaw drivers battle for customers and work their skinny legs to support the family.
A lot of India seems to never sleep and that includes the sea food section of the market. It was still going strong early in the morning. Make sure to smell the fish before you buy it.
After navigating the slimy creatures, it’s likely you’ll find yourself in the chicken “department”. You won’t find perfect looking manicured pieces in shiny colorful wrapping and fancy marketing here. Just a bunch of live chickens that are waiting their turn to be carried away to someones home either alive dangling from their feet or chopped up in a bag.
Then comes the best part. The brightly colored rainbow of fresh vegetables and fruit. Some guys have their specialty, like chilis.
Or onions and potatoes…….
And some guys just sell everything.
There’s nothing in the world like an local Indian market.
One of the best parts is all the great people you meet who are perspiring positive energy. Groups gather around me to see what I’ll take a picture of next. Many people ask for their picture to be taken. I’m an alien to them.
Some all-star beards…….
I had a very strange encounter in a dark corner of the market where a man was selling onions, potatoes, and garlic. I felt like I was walking into an old biblical scene. This man was definitely not Indian and looked like a European. He had the face of a homeless man in San Francisco, but his eyes poured out wisdom. They were saying something to me, but I couldn’t tell what it was. The vibe was so strange. I tried to talk to him, but he gave me a look of not-understanding and some Indians told me he didn’t speak English. In spite of this, I could have swore he almost said something back or wanted to tell me something. His eyes were filled with kindness and an overwhelming sense of something that I couldn’t put a finger on.
I walked away with a strange feeling inside. Was he trying to tell me something? Did he put an evil hex on me? Did he know more than he let on? Who was this strange man? Where was he from? What is his story? A couple of hours later I would be lying in the road bloody after being hit by a truck.