From junk food to bicycles : all on one tabletop
DHAKA NEW Market has been unanimously accepted as the haven of all necessary as well as unnecessary items and products. Lining the two sides of the market are shops of all kinds selling most of the items people require. However, the alleyways of New Market are lined with stalls of various types and sizes. Often adorned with nothing but a bench laden with goods, these “informal shops” sell many essential goods as well as seemingly unimportant 'junk' at very cheap prices.
The central circular area of New Market is packed with wooden benches (choukis) and tables, which are crammed to the edge with goods. Other places have coat-hangers or ropes from which they can hang their products. Sometimes, even a single show-case or cabinet can be spotted displaying a wide array of products. These are a few examples of the décor of these “informal” alleyway stores.
Most of these alleyway stalls sell clothes. Some sell yards of various materials like cotton, silk, taant, georgette etc. while others sell unstitched salwar kameez pieces. Hung on coat racks or on rope lines, these colourful displays never fail to attract customers.
T-shirts are commonly obtainable at most of the “rope-line shops”. They have t-shirts of different sizes with interesting comments inscribed on them. The most common types are the ones with Bangladesh written on them, or the ones with the popular character of Fido Dido drawn on them.
Towels, hand towels, cleaning rugs, tablecloths, table mats, cushion covers, napkins, small carpets, hearth rugs and door-mats are among the huge variety of fabric products available here.
Plastic products such as buckets, mugs, containers of all shapes and sizes, water-jugs and many other domestic requirements are available. Home cleaning products like mops, brushes, dusters, dustpans and all other plastic equipments you can think of are available as well. Plastic combs, hand-fans and even small chairs and tables can be found.
Kitchen utensils can also be bought from here. Aluminium pots and pans of all sizes are on display in many places. Cutlery and other cooking accessories are also widely available. The locally popular harri, korrai and khunti as well as the modern non-stick frying pans and barbecue grill stands are equally available.
New Market has probably one of the largest collections of caps and hats. The huge display of caps on the landing of the second floor catches the eye from quite a distance. These caps have the logos and names (sometimes misspelled!) of international cricket teams or renowned NBA league teams, or famous football county clubs. Some even have the names or logos of two rival teams inscribed on the front and the back of the same cap! Quite a unique find!
Jewellery and accessories can be easily found in these alleyway stalls. Trendy necklaces with dangling earrings, bracelets, anklets, rings, toe-rings, trinkets and other stylish ornaments are commonly available here. Dazzling golden and silver imitation jewellery and stone-studded jewellery can be obtained from these places. Bangles both metal as well as glass can be found in some of these stores too. Funky chains and other cool ornaments for necks and wrists are also available. And of course the highly popular rubber wristbands, which are now available in all unthinkable shades with the most hilarious and unimaginable things written on them!
Watches are also displayed in some of these “showcase stalls”. They are usually very flashy and trendy but some of them may not give a long-term guarantee as their prices may suggest. However, high-quality and fashionable brand named pens are found in some rare stalls. A brief search and a good bargain may result in the purchasing of a quite worthwhile gift for a dear one. Leather wallets and belts are also displayed in these shops.
A few stalls near the mosque display an array of tupis for men. For women there are coat-racks filled with a colourful display of scarves. Usually an Eid special commodity, the aator or fragrance can also be found here.
A Bengali's shopping haven would definitely be incomplete without food! Well, not to worry, because there are many stalls selling Bengali junk food almost all over the place. Local junkies include batasha, mowa, goja, aam shotto etc. are a welcome treat for the shoppers. Hot and spicy pickles and chutney and warm crispy crunchy khoi (popcorn) are the more popular types. Fresh desi cheese or panir can also be bought from here.
Showpieces of various kinds are available in abundance at New Market. Small stuffed feathered birds in cages and sticks of cloth made flowers are just a couple of examples of the widespread variety. Fragrant multi-coloured candles moulded into various shapes, some of them even mounted on wrought-iron candle stands of different patterns are a common attraction.
One of the most random items that are available is the bicycle. Previously, only tricycles and plastic toy cars for younger children were sold almost on the pathway inside the market. However, nowadays bicycles are also being sold from these places.
These are some of the numerous odds and ends found in the alleyways of New Market. It's almost like shopping presented to the buyer on a silver platter. Well, if shopping can be this easy, why bother roaming the whole of Dhaka city battling through the traffic and being suffocated by the pollution. That's why; even with hundreds of new shopping malls are mushrooming all over the city, New Market, being as old as it is, never fails to draw millions of quality-conscious but budget-minded consumers.
By Nusrat Khandker
On the cover
Debashish Chakma celebrates the first anniversary of his Debashish Nabagata fashion line up for Arannya. To find out more flip to page 6.
Photos: Zahedul I Khan
It is happening again. The annual cycle of sharp price hikes just before Ramadan is draining wallets and causing distress among the consumers. This is the time when prices of essentials graze the stratosphere. Newspapers display the daily figures of price rises. Being the month where the preparation of iftar is an integral aspect of life and even a matter of festivity, people are left with no choice but to accept these higher prices.
Naturally, the blame falls on the retailers. There are very few means of central monitoring of retail prices, so the vendors, seizing this opportunity, drive up their prices and earn exorbitant profits.
On the other hand, the retailers are not the only "sinners". They say that they are being forced to increase prices, being charged higher taxed during the month. Tax rates have shot up, which is compelling them to raise prices in compensation. Furthermore, there is the inevitable problem of "rent-seeking". Government personnel like tax officers and law enforcers tend to "fine" the retailers with the hope of earning some extra income on the side.
Goods that are most vulnerable to price shocks include sugar, pulses, onion, rice and soybean oil as well some basic kitchen masalas- such as coriander, mustard and green chilly. Some amazing price statistics: green chilly: Tk.120 per kg, onions: Tk.30 per kg, tomatoes: Tk.100 per kg and turmeric: Tk.80 per kg. If this price rise persists, what will happen to the lower and middle- income groups? Festivities will no longer festivities with money running low.
Emdad Hossain Malek, officer of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) stated that there is no appropriate government law to regulate market prices. The National Board of Revenue (NBR) has promised to modulate tax rates to arrest unexpected price explosions. But there have been doubts about its effectiveness.
A better option would be to increase the supply of essentials in the market during Ramadan. Apparently, that is one of the only ways to tame the otherwise unbridled prices. Consumer awareness is also important, so that they can act as pressure groups in the market. While most of us are aware, this awareness
only when coupled with action would bring a positive reform.
By Shahmuddin Ahmed Siddiky