Rows after rows of frocks with frills and motifs; colourful salwar suits and saris; shawls and sweaters displayed on hangers; bangles of various hues, designs made of glass or metal; bedcovers, bed sheets, curtains, table cloth and other tapestries; shoes and chappals ; goods made of plastic, kitchenware and loads of fresh green vegetables and fruits. From a hairpin to a quilt — you name a thing of daily use and it is there for you to buy from the makeshift shops at the bustling neighbourhood weekly bazaars that seem to stretch for miles.

Weekly bazaars or ‘Tae Bazaars’ in Municipal Corporation of Delhi’s parlance have been there as long as one can think of, much before the idea of building structures for shops and markets or townships came up. Almost every area in Delhi, including the posh residential areas, has these weekly bazaars on the appointed day of the week; they are even named after the day of the week.

These bazaars are not just about buying and selling. The liveliness of the place — like a mela (fair) — lifts your spirits as excited children, men, women, young and old haggling for price or enjoying the crisp, mouth watering jalebis or other sweetmeats.

The ‘moving or migrating vendors’ sell their goods on almost all the seven days at different places on different days starting early in the evening till about 10 p.m. and even beyond. While some have reportedly made fortunes from these markets, some earn enough to run the house, they say. Bhagat Singh, who gets sweaters and pullovers from Ludhiana to sell at these shifting bazaars, says: “Not everyone can afford to buy or pay sky-rocketing rents for shops in Delhi.”

Rajan, who sells foot mats and chattais of various hues and designs, says it is not easy transporting their goods on a daily basis but then selling wares at different locations fetches them more money. Rahul, who brings jewellery from Rajkot to sell at these weekly bazaars, agrees with Rajan that the profit he makes would be much less if he had to take a shop on rent.

“But on many days, we don’t earn a rupee when we are unable to hold markets because of rains and several other reasons,” the vendors say.

Each of these bazaars has a supervisor or ‘pradhan’ who ensures that everything goes on peacefully and no one is able to occupy ‘the allotted space’. Although the pradhans in the authorised markets are not supposed to collect money from the vendors, in reality, each vendor have to pay between Rs 20 to 30 or even more depending upon the area in which the weekly bazaar is held and the wares he sells.

Bunty, a pradhan at one of the oldest weekly bazaars in south west Delhi, claims that the money is not for themselves but for making arrangements. However, none minds shelling out the amount because it stops harassment. As one of the vendors, who does not want to be identified, says: “At least, we do not have to pay a hefty hafta to the police that we had to earlier.”

The vendors also have to pay Rs. 10 to the MCD, for what is called ‘tae bazaari’.

The MCD has identified over 250 such bazaars and a survey is still under way in this connection. The unauthorized ones are being closed. The MCD officials say that the survey’s purpose is to regulate the markets, decide on the length of the stretch of the markets and fix the timings and the number of vendors and size of their makeshift shops. Identification cards will soon be given to the existing site-holders. The idea of the whole process, as one MCD official puts it, is to lend ‘respectability’ to the hawkers and vendors.

As far as the buyers are concerned, they get whatever they want in these markets at cheaper rates. Sangeeta, a homemaker says, “Not everyone can afford to buy branded goods and moreover the vegetables and fruits one gets here are not only cheap but fresh as well.”

Whether they obstruct traffic or not, these weekly bazaars are as much a part of metropolitan cities like Delhi as the huge swanky shopping malls.

Delhi’s neighbourhood markets can any day compete with the vibrancy of fancy shopping malls