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  • Suchita Mundhra

Finding Silkworms

Blog Stories - People Called Shillong

It is a strange feeling when I enter a bazaar. Any bazaar! At times even my local vegetable supplies bazaar! The numerous voices that flow in the air - some off course known while most unknown fascinate me. I wanted to discover Shillong through its bazaar. Through all the numerous tastes and smells - the raw Shillong!

My first day in Shillong I entered this bazaar space with no plan in mind. All that I did was look around and see the multitude of activities that the bazaar houses. It assumes different looks at the cross of every few meters. Moving step by step into this space called the ‘Bara Bazaar’ - I kept asking for directions. And everyone signalled in the same direction and that it was just a few steps ahead. Funnily, the bazaars have no visible boundaries, they grow each day and then someone just said "you are in bara bazaar” - what are you really looking for ? I wasn’t looking for anything but a strange visionary imagination of the bazaar that I had formed in my mind- and was actually just looking for my imagination to take the shape of the bazaar.

All the while I passed by food stalls selling all kinds of things. The women calling out, the khwai selling women, the kurmure vendors - they all stood in one line next to one another and cracking jokes. I could not spot too many tourists - as it was the local bazaar. The place where the locals came to shop. Shillong in all its rawness.

As I entered the closed complex of the market, a stroll around brought all senses alive. Upon every few metres the smell changed - and it wasn’t just food that could delight one in such bazaars. Little did I know this about myself - that even the smell of new unfolded clothes could be so alluring at times.

With visually adjusting myself to the overwhelming surrounding - the muddy ground (as it can rain anytime, and water seeps into the closed complex through the multiple holes that the ceiling has developed) also carried it’s smell and added to the crowded picture. On recalling the bazaar, the welcoming smell of fresh vegetables is one of the first thing to enter the nostrils. Every corner I found chillies - red chillies - beautifully put in transparent cellophane bags and arranged to be picked up. The smells quickly changed as I moved in further - and a strange pungent smell filled the air. There were heaps of dried fish displayed in the open. They filled the air and my nostrils too!

There was nothing definite I was looking for and every shop was too busy in its dealings. Every time I tried to go out of the market complex, the exit baffled me. The corners looked alike and so did the shops. I stepped out and saw an old women with a something yellow flower like thing on a cart. This is what I saw from a distance. Thought it to be some kind of local flower or herb I went close to it and was about to lay my hands on the cart. And I saw motion in the flowers. Slow movement. Gradually turning and twisting in a windless day. And yes, they weren’t flowers or herbs. They were worms. That’s all I knew. Suddenly, the women selling them noticed me and yelled. I was almost in my own thoughts trying to disentangle my mind and think what would have possibly happened had I picked a handful of them. Her voice almost jolted me. She asked me to stay away. Which i did, but as the tendency is - I wanted to click those creatures. But the very moment, I took out my phone for a photo, she was quick to deny permission. In her own broken English - she said “give me 10 rs and take as many photos you want.” The excitement to get a video was too much and I did what I asked to do. Out went Rs. 10 and then I got my pictures and a video - she was the only women in the entire bazaar who sold silkworms. What she charged was nominal - Rs. 10 for 6 worms - all fresh , ready to be boiled and eaten !

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