With Diwali just a day away, Monday marked the beginning of festivities with Dhanteras which saw enthusiastic shoppers thronging marketplaces in the Capital to buy everything from crackers to household items and even gold and silver.

Old Delhi's wholesale market Sadar Bazar saw a huge rush of people braving the extremely busy and crowded market for festival shopping. “I come here every year to buy crackers. The rates have gone up a bit from last year, but the downside is that there is nothing much in terms of innovation. There was much more variety last year,” said Ashok Vihar resident Kailash Singh.

To cater to all kinds of buyers, shops have stocked up on various varieties of crackers and simple items such as chakris, sparklers and flower pots. “There are customers who ask for the better known brands like Kalisawari fireworks (Cock brand) and Standard Fireworks. And there are others who want the cheaper stuff,” said a shopkeeper at H. K. Traders.

On an average, the cost of sparklers, chakris and flower pots varied between Rs. 5 and Rs. 250, Rs. 30 and Rs. 150 and Rs. 50 to Rs. 350 respectively for a pack of ten, depending upon their size and brand. The wholesale shops are offering a discount of around 40 per cent on the maximum retail price. The only innovation is limited to the bigger firecrackers like a pack of two big rockets priced at Rs. 1,050, which has a “life of 25 minutes in the sky”.

Chinese items are limited to smaller crackers like small “bombs” that emit a whistle when lit. “We do not get the bigger Chinese items now because of the ban on their sale,” said another shopkeeper.

A series of temporary small “shops” have come up all along the middle of the road near Sadar Bazar railway station, selling everything from earthen diyas, candles, figurines of gods and goddesses and household decoration items.

There are also a number of independent vendors selling simple crackers by the roadside at slightly inflated prices, with not many takers.

Those not willing to brave the crowds at Sadar Bazar turned to wholesale shops selling crackers in nearby localities. “I buy crackers from a wholesale shop in Laxmi Nagar that offers 30 to 40 per cent discount on the MRP,” said Noida resident Dilip Fernandes.

INA Market and R. K. Puram markets also stock up on crackers, offering 30 to 40 per cent discounts. “The discounts are usually brand-specific: the bigger brands have lesser discounts. But a day before Diwali and on the day of festival, the crackers are sometimes sold above the MRP at these shops. So it is a good idea to go to these shops a week or so before Diwali,” said MNC executive Alok Sharma, who bought crackers worth Rs. 3,000 from an R. K. Puram retailer.

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