What do you sell, 0 ye merchants?
Richly your wares are displayed,
Turbans of crimson and silver,
Tunics of purple brocade,
Mirrors with panels of amber,
Daggers with handles of jade.
What do you weigh, 0 ye vendors?
Saffron and lentil and rice.
What do you grind, 0 ye maidens?
Sandalwood, henna and spice.
What do you call, 0 ye pedlars?
Chessmen and ivory dice.
What do you make, 0 ye goldsmiths?
Wristlet and anklet and ring,
Bells for the feet of blue pigeons,
Frail as a dragon-fly's wing,
Girdles of gold for the dancers,
Scabbards of gold for the king.
What do you cry, 0 ye fruitmen?
Citron, pomegranate and plum.
What do you play, 0 musicians?
Cithar, sarangi and drum.
What do you chant, 0 magicians?
Spells for the aeons to come.
What do you weave, 0 ye flower-girls?
With tassels of azure and red?
Crowns for the brow of a bridegroom,
Chaplets to garland his bed,
Sheets of white blossoms new-gathered
To perfume the sleep of the dead.
It is not the bazaars of Calcutta, Delhi, Patna, not the bazaars of Kanchipuram, Benares, Puri, Dwaraka, but of Hyderabad Sarojini talks of, the Indian bazaars and melas, markets. After having gone shopping or buying for, we mean it marketing, let us see what she purchases or brings from. Or, has she gone to just for poetical sketches to paint? While in the bazaar, her poetic heart keeps asking the fellows about their things and business they have come to do with. She also keeps marking the people and their items. When we read the poem, the images of our traditional bazaars flash upon the mind’s eyes. How were our bazaars when the lands were countried and agrarian, when the bullock carts used to tread over the soiled and raw roads? How were our melas, fairs? How did the townships develop it over the years? It is but a study of marketing. How was our market? Where did the things come from? How was our costume? The photographs of the olden times will say that.
First, she encounters the merchants selling the turbans of crimson and silver, tunics of purple brocade, mirrors with the panels of amber and daggers with the jade. How were our pagadi makers and how our love for pagadis? What did the pagadis mean to? Were these for the marriage purpose or a matter of prestige, clan and royalty too? During the marriages, we too used to sport it. An Indian maharajah as a replica of Air India too can be seen welcoming the guests with the pagadi around his head and the moustache. The tunics of purple brocade mean it the loose kurtas of purple colour made from silk. The mirrors with the panels of amber tell of life-style, fashion and designing.
A little away from she comes across the vendors selling the food grains, cereals and other grocery stuffs for our daily use and application. She also meets some making a paste of sandalwood and henna. Spices, Indian spices for which the Portuguese merchants rallied it over the ages too are sold in the market. The poetess just mentions spices which may be turmeric, cumin, coriander, clove, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, fenugreek, pungent leaf, asafoetida, black salt, carom seeds, saffron and so on. On seeing them, we get reminded of our aromatic, tasty and hot recipes. We do not know what she thinks about the Indian chilly and how did the Europeans take to it? She also finds that lentils and rice verities are sold in the market.
Again when she moves a little ahead, she finds the goldsmiths displaying their stuffs, gold handiworks and beauty stuffs. What to say about their artistry and craftsmanship? The gold artisans, they too have an art and skill of their own as they can make or embroider any design in gold or metallic stuffs. How do they design and make wristlets? The anklets and the rings too vary in designs and forms. They also make the girdles to be tied around the waist of the dancers and the scabbards for the swords to cover in. The goldsmiths also used to make the bells for the message-carrier blue pigeons so that masters could recognize them in the past.
Again she meets the fruit men selling citron, pomegranate and plum. She goes and sees and exchanges the words poetically. The musicians are on the sitar, sarangi and the drum and are playing music. Indian sitar, how the music of it? How the tradition kept? What the history of royal patronage and musical gharanas? The sarangi-players? Have we forgotten them? Are these of durbars and gharanas? The art of the sarangi and how the exponents of it? How the makers of the sarangi? The chess men and the dice men too are there with the gait and play and attraction of their own. The pedlars and hawkers are having their hectic activity. The magicians, Indian magicians too have the turns of their own, a day split with magic and spectacle, awe and splendour. As a child we too get remembered of the magicians showing magic during our boyhood days and we sitting before used to see them playing with Chhu mantar Kali, Kali hain Calcuttawalli and the things happening as a sleight of hand. He rubbing dust on a skull and it turning into red vermillion and the magician giving a tikka of it on the forehead. Bhartriharis with the sarangi have always eluded the Indian villages and villagers, the saffron renouncers singing the nirguna songs.
The pedlars with the chess boards and the dice made of ivory tell of the love for the games. The chessmen have the antics of their own to charm and captivate. Some may attract with the plays and the challenge to be taken. This is but a glimpse of the common Indian gamer. While Sarojini Naidu discusses the chessmen and their gaming Munshi Premchand keeps telling of Shataranj Ke Khiladi in his short story of the same title. But we fear sometimes it turns into an addiction of some sort and inaction and people start gaming for money.
The talk of plums hints towards our taste, our seasonal fruits and their utility. The sour and sweet taste is strange reminding us of tamarind sauce and chutney, dahi bara and lassi, idli dosha. The use of the henna brings to our memory the picture of the girls engaged in their make-up, dress-up with the mirror and other cosmetic stuffs taking far to drama girls and their operas, our girls thinking of going to their in-laws’s house.
What are the flower-girls doing? They are making for a crown of the bridegroom and are also trying to decorate the bedroom. Here floral art, bridal decoration and designing can be taken into consideration. The aesthetic art has taken time in developing. But at the same time they also do make the flower beds so full of white blooms for the dead to lie on. Flowers please us, flowers are used as greetings, exchange of love and good wishes. Bouquets of flowers are also given during the farewells. Tassels of azure and red blooms add beauty and depth to the poem. How are the podiums and pandals decorated, the courtyards with leaves and flowers, with banana trunks and mango leaves? During our wedding ceremonies, how the brides are decorated, it dances before our eyes. With the sandalwood paste her face is dotted on the sideways and the rajanigandha blooms are stuck into the braid of the hair and the hands are embroidered with floral motifs and designs and patterns embossed with the myrtle leaf paste. In south, the maidens can be seen sporting gandharajas and rajanigandha sticks, belli and champa blooms. The tribal maidens can be seen sporting the palash blooms.
An Indian maharajah and his pagadi, the pagadi as a symbol of prestige and grandeur, the maharajah in the pagadi welcoming the visitors with the folded hands, bidding namaskaram, Air India replica, the maharajah now-a-days in the management of hotels, the Indian wedding, gala Indian wedding, but sell you not your properties for giving dowry to, mortgaging for the grand Indian feast for your relatives, kith and kin, near and dear ones, friends, as it is in vogue in the country and in our society, as you have a future, who will see you in your old age, in your bad days which it to befall every man? All these flash upon the mind’s eyes.