Kolkata Soundscapes

Hawker's Call

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One needs but a leisurely stroll down any alley to experience the omnipresent sound of hawkers on the footpath in the megacity named Kolkata – be it the numerous cul-de-sacs of Burrabazaar or the mud-laden pavements approaching Khidderpore dock or the crowded roads of Gariahat. And such a motley crowd of jolly men with their collection of cheap goods are bound to impress a curious by-stander. Also they are most likely to surround him/her in a cocoon of cacophony of cajolement and gentle persuasion leading to the (usually) eventual sale of their goods. Take, for example, a random shop owner in College Street, proclaiming the veracity of the books on sale as well as their prices, drawing numerous students to their shops – or the roadside shop-owner asking ‘Chotu’ to show ‘ madam ‘ the very latest of bijouterie that surely would win the heart of her beau and dare I describe the rush activity when she passes by a sari shop? A single mellifluous voice and dozen saris are laid bare for one to admire, choose from, bargain and eventually buy. Or take for instance the hawkers of New Market selling his ‘latest Bombay’ good all for ‘eksho(hundred)’ for a limited period of time, the tinker of the bells of an old man selling ‘ghoti-gorom’, the banana-seller’s ‘aat-anar’(eight cent) banana, or perhaps the dull thud of a cobbler beating his shoe-brush against the pedestal drawing attention of the babus, the jhalmuri-waala shouting ‘masaala muri’masala-chola’ in their nasal tone, or even the random non-descript guy selling cheap pens with their usual ” das ka chaar “ chants .

Gariahat hawkers 1

These sounds, like a rhapsody, have a life of their own – it’s inexorably linked to the hawker, to his trade and to his livelihood, to his being. It is his insignia that Kolkatans have grown up with and learnt to love – it’s the halo emanating from the hustle and the bustle of a throbbing city, the pulsation of our very own Kolkata.