School-goers Javed (15) and Mohit (12) happily admit to the digital mania. “We cannot live without them,” they say. Javed is the son of a low-ranking railway employee. Mohit is the son of a rich businessman. The love for gizmos is one of the few things in common between them. But they bind.
Once famous as the prime maker of wooden toys, Varanasi is now inundated with digital gadget shops. Visit the serpentine alleys of the grey electronic market of Dalmandi and you’ll run into children checking out the latest digital gadgets to buy. From iPods to multi-utility Chinese cell-phones — schoolgoers of the temple city no longer play with clay soldiers.
Varanasi’s parents are ready to shell out anything between Rs 1,500 and Rs 5,000 for their digitally smart kids. Z Zaidi, a young trader says housewives and children are the ones “who help us maintain our bottomlines in this fiercely competitive grey market”. Aiman Fatima who takes care of her family shop in the same area says the demand for Chinese gadgets make her stock cheap but attractive digital gadgets for “students of the city’s English medium schools”. School over, both boys and girls are said to make their way to Dalmandi to download the latest audio-visual clips for their iPods at anything between Rs 25 to Rs 100.
Chinese cell-phones are popular as they offer a host of options in one set and are a hit even with students from rural areas who routinely frequent the market.