Reminiscences and Anticipations in Ason Bazaar

Features Issue 91 Jul, 2010
Text by Amar B. Shrestha / Photo: Alex Teh & Hari maharjan/ECS MEDIA

One can see from the demure dropping from her thick eye lashes that the honeymoon could have just begun. Perhaps she is shy to expose the sparkle in her eyes, the  reminiscences from the night before. It is all too apparent from the way she is dressed in a bright red sari and the bold slash of blood red sindoor (vermillion) worn proudly on the neat parting of her lustrous black hair. One can see it in the multicolored pote (beadwork necklace) worn around her graceful neck.  Oh yes, the honeymoon is still far from over.

Such thoughts run through the mind of the bearded pote shop owner at Indrachowk in the center of the city, as he lets his gaze linger on the damsel who has just given a good start to his day by buying half a dozen of his fine creations. The lady in question has thoughts of her own as she makes her way gingerly through the swarming crowds, towards colorful Ason Bazar, the heart of old Kathmandu. Her thoughts are intermittently and intimately reminiscent and eagerly anticipatory as well. Because of this, her face reflects a glow as only a newlywed bride’s can. She draws admiring glances from many of the shoppers, both men and women, thronging along the narrow road lined on both sides by rows of small shops selling everything from  brass ware to aluminum and plastic utensils; from spice and condiments to grocery supplies; from pote and bangles to gold and silver jewelry; from readymade garments to saris and fabric rolls; from shiny leather shoes to gaudily hued rubber slippers; from ice cream and milkshakes to thon (local beer) and egg pancakes; from sweetmeats and samosas to hot tea and cold lassi; from fruits and flowers to vegetables and spinach; from chicken, mutton and buffalo meat to fish and egg and curd and from pastries and puffs to chocolate and fruit cakes.

One can sense the vibrancy of this market, one that has been as lively throughout centuries gone by. One can feel the fervor in this bazaar, as effervescent as one will find anywhere in the world.  The intoxicating scent of ancient history still smells fresh in the Ason Bazaar. Caught up in the mood of the moment, the new bride ambles on, her eyes flitting from one display window to the other, resting a bit longer on the vivid wooden masks and ethnic puppet dolls. A middle aged shopper in front of a grocery store wearing a grey half pullover and a dhaka cap looks her way and is immediately captivated by the pleasing sight. A sight that brings back fond memories of his own bride of some twenty years ago, as youthful, as glowing, as exuberant as the one in his sight. He smiles to himself, and yes, grimaces too - his wife is not what she used to be.

Further ahead, the new bride, or at least that’s what we have presumed her to be, wanders into a small eatery and sits down on a stool. The place is crowded, but her passage here has been inexorably drawn by the exhilarating aroma of freshly beaten egg pancakes being cooked on a huge flat saucepan over a large fireplace. Sometime later, reinvigorated, she wanders out into the throbbing marketplace once again and espies a man sitting on his haunches at a corner selling white radishes. It seems his business is going slow and so our kindhearted lass makes her way towards him and purchases a few bundles.  Her young husband likes radish pickles and so does her mother in law. Nearby is a tiny shop (actually all the shops are tiny here) with white, red and green candles and beside it is another selling various kinds of lentils, grams and beans in plastic packets.

A half dozen large sized candles and a couple of the plastic packets make their way into her shopping bag to join the radish. Next, she walks over to a shop with a big scale in the front, one side of which is lightly laden with a small bale of snow-white cotton. Although winter is still some months away, she knows that the imminent monsoons will make the nights substantially cooler and so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to order a quilt right now. The one she and her husband are using right now is not large enough. After choosing the cotton and the fabric, she pays an advance and walks away with the receipt in her purse, congratulating herself on having done her duty as a good housewife. As a good newly wedded bride, she corrects herself, the eager anticipatory gleam back in her eyes.