R. Narayanan, 50, sacrifices his weekends for work. He hardly spends time with his wife and children. A resident of Poonamallee, a western suburb, he travels as far as Vellore and Villupuram to pick up iron tools — nuts, bolts, knives, pickaxes, shovels and the like.

Every Friday morning, he comes to Old Trunk Road in Pallavaram, where he sells his wares collected during the past week at the vaara sandhai or weekly market, more popularly known as the Friday shandy (a corruption of sandhai). It has been a ritual for Narayanan for the past two decades to arrive early on Friday morning to the shandy, but the shandy itself has been in existence for 177 years now.

Started in 1836 during the Mughal era, the Friday shandy attracts farmers, sellers of old clothes, used home appliances and horticulturists from near and far, as much as buyers from all over the city and suburbs.

“I have been visiting the shandy for more than five years. Even if I do not get the flower saplings of my choice this week, the vendors make sure that I get it next week,” said T. Bhami, an architect. The range of goods on sale is mind boggling. From nails that come nearly free of cost to refrigerators, music amplifiers and even dentures — the shandy has something for everybody.

G. Selvam (30) and his wife Poongodi (25) sell catapults and ‘disco mani maalais’. While the maalais — or necklaces — come for Rs. 20 a piece, the catapults are priced between Rs. 30 and Rs. 40. The shandy attracts many members from the ‘narikuravar’ (gypsy) community, who sell bead necklaces and hair oil.

A huge hit among visitors is the large variety of ornamental and flowering plants. The horticulturists mostly come from Padappai, about 15 km from Tambaram. Used cycles in running condition can be bought for Rs. 800. Used cloth merchants are the first to come but wind up by 10 a.m. as migrant workers buy shirts and trousers at throwaway prices.

“The shandy originated during the Mughal Era when goat and cattle rearers came here to sell the animals to cater to the needs of the soldiers. Over the years, it diversified and now, a host of products are sold,” says S.P. Gandhi of Pallavaram Small Merchants’ Association.

The weekly shandy was functioning earlier along the Shandy Road near Cantonment Pallavaram High School. Owing to traffic regulations and other developments, the merchants were forced to shift to Old Trunk Road running parallel to the railway lines between Tirusulam and Pallavaram railway stations.

The merchants pay a paltry sum to contractors engaged by St. Thomas-cum-Pallavaram Cantonment Board for their shops, each of which occupies not more than 100 sq. ft. The atmosphere has to be experienced: if you have not visited the Friday shandy yet, you are missing something.

Keywords: Friday shandy

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