DIWALI-BONANZA A. SHRIKUMAR goes hopping on jammed city streets and returns with brimming bags for the big festive day

‘C hase your purchase' seems to be the buzz this Diwali. The Centuries-old city lanes are so typically crowded, choc-a-bloc with people clamouring for space. Little doubt that the ubiquitous festive air has rung in loudly.

The city's population appears to have descended on the streets – individually, in pairs or with families, dragging the ailing infants, nagging oldies and grudging spouses alike. All in the hope of striking a perfect deal during their street-cruise!

Pacing with them, one really can't miss the teeming gusto sandwiched between the streets that withstand numerous rounds of shopping. Even rains could not play the dampener this time round.

On any of these jam-packed evenings, one has to go racing -- or rather shopping -- to grab the right pick. The long stretch on South Masi Street, where days seem endless and the street seamless, is the textile hub for street-smart shoppers.

Grab your choice

Tucking oneself under the skimpy canopy, rubbing shoulders with a swarm of co-shoppers, stretching the hands an extra meter, when one happily pulls out a T-shirt from the pile, it is only to realise that the other end is held by someone else!

Well, successful shopping on the city's spastic streets requires a flexible body to surpass all slow moving shoppers to not only lay your hands but also finally grab the piece of your choice. It is no less than a session in fitness. Long and fast strides have another advantage; they save you from pestering auto-rickshaws honking behind and yells from the dutiful policemen.

When you recede from Vilakkuthoon towards Navabatkhana Street, a whole stretch of hawkers, faithfully display their wares- colourful beads, sparkly crystal pendants, jingling metal bangles, shiny baby frocks, charming chappals, beckoning belts, hip hop jeans and scintillating shirts – all for dead cheap prices. The myriad of hues, multitude of fabrics and accessories test your greed indeed and on most occasions majority give in begging for bargains and bagging more bounties.

Of course, bargaining is boon that you may just get to tuck in big take. All you need to do is to sharpen your bargaining skills and instincts.

For instance, white placards screaming ‘T-shirt Rs.99' at a makeshift stall compel you for a ‘dekho'. And you cleverly start with tested and tried ‘aadha daam' technique. But the sales guy confined in his hovel enthusiastically engages you with ‘idhu rare item' and successfully persuades you. Blessed with good selling skills and good at wooing hordes of shoppers by trickily quoting prices, these hawkers are pretty witty as local marketers.

“Diwali and Navaratri are the best season for us and we spend a month here. Our goods are sourced from street markets of Mumbai and Kolkata,” says Shakeel, a hawker from Allahabad, who has arrived in the city with hundreds of his friends from UP.

“I have had my shop here for last two years, ever since we shifted base from Rajasthan. We regularly source Kota cottons with zari, chamki and bead work from Jaipur. Diwali sales are a hit this year with average walk-ins touching 800 and the sales more than Rs.100,000 per day” shares a thrilled Pawan, who owns a small stall called ‘Manmandir fashions' by the platform.

With hands full of plastic bags stuffed with loots, you may next choose to walk to the adjacent precariously perched makeshift stand selling colorful wrist bands and bandanas.

Try peeping through sweaty shoulder gaps, and you will find a flock of young guys and college goers picking red and black bands with an upside down ‘Nike' tick on them… ‘‘Brands for less'' shouts, Sudhanshu, a hawker from Delhi.

As the number and weight of bags keep increasing, you can stop by a cart of ‘cane juice' to recharge. Next come the sweets. On the ‘10 pillars street' is a thatched stall next to a big textile showroom, which just can't escape your interest or attraction. ‘Murukku machines' and ‘Idiyappam drawers' are sold here by a vendor from Kerala. As he pipes out patterns with murukku flour, the women battle for their pieces and in no time he runs out of stock.

“Though exotic sweet varieties can be bought from sweet shops, people still stick to traditional recipes at home. The ‘murukkus' and ‘Idiyappams' are inevitable during Diwali,” points out Praju. Of course, the typical Maduraiite's fancy for Diwali delights like ‘Idli Karikozhambu' will never fade even for the best of ‘soan papdis' and ‘rasgullas'.

With your final round of sneak-peaks, in all probability you will run short of fingers for seven ‘katta pais' and albeit reluctantly declare yourself ‘satisfied'.

After hours of freaking in festive-air, the rustic roads, tinny jingle of carts, the template-talking of salesmen -- the wholesome experience lingers. With all the eclectic elements, Diwali purchase is a potpourri that paints an old world charm to the fun of shopping!