Around the time when the Capital’s hardcore party-goers are returning to their homes, over 10,000 sellers flock towards west Delhi. Unbeknownst to shoppers, they reach Raghubir Nagar market around 3am everyday to buy their wares for the day. Funky tees, used mobiles, leather belts, shoes — everything under the sun are sold here at throwaway prices. The catch? It’s all second-hand!
When we reached the market at 5.15am, trade was already at its peak. Men and women, mostly from Gujarat, were busy bargaining. We even spotted a man haggling for a washing machine. As the sun rises, bhajans begin to blare from the loudspeakers of the adjacent temple.
No one knows when the market came into existence. Some say it’s more than 40 years old, whereas others believe that even their great grandfathers used to sell goods here. “I have been accompanying my parents to this place ever since I was a kid,” says Vicky, 22.
From designers of showrooms to buyers from export houses to sellers from Janpath, Sarojini Nagar and weekly markets — the market is visited by a huge number of people. “They mostly buy second-hand clothes. As far as I know, they resell it at the Sunday flea market outside Lal Quila,” says Taaj, 28, a seller, who has been coming to his market for the last 10 years.
Tea and snacks
Giving the sellers their first tea of the day for more than 20 years now, is Subhash Chand Shukla. Offering tea for Rs 5 a cup, Shukla has been a witness to the changes in the flea market. He tells us that the peak season of the market is October and November. “During these
two months, there are a lot of festivals, such as Navratri, Durga Puja and Diwali. It’s at this time that people clean their houses and give away all the junk,” he says. Shukla sells about 100 cups of tea a day and earns up to Rs 500. “The sellers are very good at their work. There are times when they even change the labels of the shirts and trousers, to attract the buyers,” he informs.
“Putting up such a full-fledged market in the wee hours of the day is not an easy task,” says Sohan Pal, who has been selling bread pakodas and mixed pakodas for the past two years. Pal roams around the busy lanes of the market complex, selling the hot munchies with green chutney for Rs5. “I earn about Rs 150 daily. Since it’s summer time now, people prefer eating fruits. My sales go down in this season,” he adds.
Water packed in plastic packets were being sold here for Rs 1. When the morning sun shines bright, you can quench your thirst with nimboo soda (lemonade), available at Rs 7 for a glass.
Language no bar!
Don’t be amused if you hear these wayside vendors uttering an “excuse me” or a “thank you” every now and then. We did hear English phrases mouthed by many of the vendors. “Kya bataye madam, angrezi to bohot jaruri ho gayi hai, (What should I say, English has become very important today)” says Salim, 26, a vendor who lives in the Raghubir Nagar slums, opposite the market complex.
Admin Block, really?
We were surprised to find that every seller needed a ticket before he or she could to be here. And price of the ticket? It’s Rs 2! There was even an Administrative Block nearby, with a board that announce the market. Curious to see how such a vast market was managed, we entered the dimly-lit room — only to find few locked doors. Quite an effective management it is, we should say!
The recycle chain
1 Get the sari
How often have you exchanged an old tattered sari for shiny new utensils? Guess where did your sari end up — more often than not, in Janpath, as a cushion cover! “We prefer Benarasi saris as they are sought after by traders. The zari and gota can be reused in cushion covers,” says Aarti, 18, who collects saris from homes
2 Trade again
The goods are sold at very low prices. The prices start at Rs 10 for a shirt or a sari and goes up to Rs 500 and depends on the scope of reselling or reusing it. “There are many buyers who look the Rs 10-stuff. It usually includes light bordered saris, and trousers,” says Sundari Ben, 42, who has been selling goods here for the last 20 years.
Back on sale
The saris sold here are usually used for making patches of the borders; the gotta and heavy embroidery are used for making handloom items, such as cushion covers and rugs. “I buy only the Benarasi saris from here and use the patches for cushion covers,” says Savita Ben, who sells cushion covers and bags at Janpath market.