Notes on Antique Textiles, Folk Art & Timeless Traditions – Jaina Mishra
A town’s pulse may be felt in its markets – markets in which the locals shop.
Traders big and small, the wares they offer, the way these are displayed, their ways of calling attention to their shops, their methods of negotiation, the courtesies, warmth and involvement in their exchanges, the bonding between the buyers and the sellers, the flow of traffic, the prices, the order or the chaos, the little details of the shop, the sentiments that are present and particularly those that are absent, all together describe the character of a town better than any words can.
In every town I visit, the local market is usually my first stop. It is a trailer of the film that will unfold during the journey, if one has time for the film. Otherwise it offers a great glimpse into the society and the matter that are dear to it.
A few photos from the streets of Yangon and Bagu in Myanmar (Burma).
The psychology of Myanmar and how ‘earning good karma’ is the central theme of the life of the people.
Outside the monastery or Pagoda, this man sits with caged sparrows. For a small payment one may earn good karma by buying the release of these sparrows!
This is similar to the scene that I see often in India. There, outside temples a woman sits with her pet cow and bundles of grass and animal-feed. For a small fee you can buy the grass to feed HER PET cow and thus earn good karma of Punya. What a winner business model the cow-owner has come up with!
In this case though, the caging of the birds is entirely different from holding a pet cow. But perhaps he is earning karma from the service in which he is offering others an opportunity to earn karma.
Note the paste on the cheeks of the drink-vendor. These are religious marks are made by applying a paste that is made by dipping a particular wood – Tanakha – in water and then rubbing it on stone. It is applied of the cheeks and arms during visits to the Buddhist temples. Sandalwood is used in a similar way in other places.
Riding on the tops of vehicles is common across the small towns of Asia! The breeze, the scantier crowding and the view make it worth the risk.
Here we have a monk enjoying the prime spot on the vehicle!
The markers of courtesy and politeness ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and ‘hello’ might be absent in these streets BUT everyone here makes room for everyone else.
And THAT is a courtesy in action – not mere words of ‘hello’ & ‘thank you’.
This attitude of ‘making room for all’ is lacking in more ‘civilised’ societies where the grumbles of drivers can pollute the atmosphere far more than the the emission of their cars can.
Monks and nuns must beg for their food every morning …. a group of nun novitiates and their senior.
Bagu is famous for fermented fish & fermented prawns – Myanmarese delicacies. Just as one might ask friends traveling to Japan to bring back some Wasabi or bring back Maple syrup from Canada, visitors to Bagu are asked by their families and friends to bring back fermented fish or prawns.
Chewing Betel nuts and Betel nut leaves is a widely enjoyed habit in Myanmar. In Singapore too, the only place one can find betel nut leaves is the mall that is popular with Myanmarese people!
And finally the smoke! Called a cheroot the tobacco is rolled up in a leaf! Also another specialty of Bagu!
And surprise surprise – a samosa snack seller – who has a portable stall o which he makes the yummy fried snacks, keeps them warm on a straw tray above the frying pan that is above the stove AND he speaks to me in Hindi!!
Many Indians stayed back in Rangoon and his ancestors were one of them!
I saw several Indian women wearing saris probably originally from Eastern U.P. or Bihar in India …. living their full-on Indian life with ghunghat sarpallu and bright orange sindoor paste in the middle of Myanmar!
THAT is the beauty of Asia – there is no way she will conform to your expectations! She will always go beyond and surprise you and leave you gawking at the novelty of life!