It's that time of the year when everyone wants to play with fire… or rather firecrackers. Masjid Bunder and Bhendi Bazaar in South Mumbai are reputed for their wholesale dealers, who sell everything from fruits to sweetmeats, and of course, firecrackers.
The demand for crackers increases manifold during Diwali. Take Bhendi Bazaar for instance. It's a Muslim-dominated area, but come Diwali, and the streets facing the JJ Flyover buzz with sounds of festive shoppers from every community.
It's 7 pm and the area resembles its avatar during Ramazan. One of the biggest wholesale dealers in the area is Eesabhai. It's the only shop in the area that sells firecrackers throughout the year and has been doing so since 1938.
There are anywhere from 200 to 500 people waiting for their orders to be taken. Says owner Ziabhai, "Everybody likes firecrackers. We even have Muslim, Christian and Parsi customers who come year after year."
The shop sells crackers in the price range from Rs 5 to Rs 5,000. The Lavangee (string of firecrackers) comes in sizes of 5, 10, and 30 feet and is in huge demand. The longest costs Rs 3,000.
This year, 'aerial' crackers costing Rs 5000 are a big hit. These rockets burst in different colours 250 times. "Though it's expensive, the Rs 5000 aerial cracker is selling like hot cakes," reveals Ziabhai.
Looking at the crowd, one does feel that the recession days are over. "But business hasn't increased compared to last year. May be it will in the coming days," says Ziabhai. He adds that another trend this time around is that people are avoiding noisy crackers.
Another product that is equally popular this year is the new 'aerial' Blackberry.
It spreads its different colours 275 times, but doesn't cost as much as the Rs 5000 version because it spreads in a smaller area. The Anar and Flowerpot are also doing well.
At another shop, Lala Patani has been selling firecrackers for 15 years. He says, "Though my shop doesn't have a name, it's popular in the area because of our competitive prices." Lala's shop sells crackers at 30 per cent discount.
The shots version of firecrackers that cost between Rs 600 to Rs 4000 is most popular here. The Chatri or Anar costs between Rs 50 and Rs 250 while the children's cartoons crackers cost Rs 200 each. Almost all shops here import firecrackers from Jalgaon and are open till 11 pm.