Shopping on Indian Highways
On Indian Highways, you can "expect the unexpected". You find any and everything and see the strangest sights, on our highways. Actually travelling on our highways, is a unique experience and gives you possibly the best insights about India. Given this, we have started this series of stories that provide glimpses of "Life on Indian Highways".
You find the most bizarre things, like these massive decorative lights, being sold on Indian Highways
Shopping can be an addiction, habit, hobby or treat, and it's also a full time activity for some. But shopping on Indian Highways is different. The range and variety of goods available is vast and the manner, in which they are displayed or sold, is also unique. You will find Indian Dhurries or handmade rugs and carpets, hung right on the road facing the craftsmen's home or workshop, to attract motorists. If you find them appealing, or they ignite your curiosity, you can park your vehicle and stroll into the carpet maker's house to have a look. And in all likelihood you will be welcomed with a hot cup of chai.
This smart carpet maker has displayed his wares on the highway going past his house
In recent years, shops selling ready made rugs, blankets, pillows, and bed covers and so on, have also come up and truckers often stop to make purchases at such "street supermarkets". Another new trend is the display and sale of goggles or sunglasses, and caps. India is a hot country with bright sunshine, so these are really useful. But what is unfortunate is that many youngsters have taken to wearing goggles in the dark and even riding and driving with them! When I asked a couple of youths why they did this, a bold one replied, "When I wear goggles I feel like an Indian film star, and automatically start behaving like a hero!"
Shops offering ready made carpets, blankets, pillows and so on, have become popular in recent times
Quite often, the seller stays right behind where he displays his merchandise
Caps and goggles are popular products on our highways
Sadly some youth have taken to wearing sunglasses even after dark
Nurseries selling plants, flowers, saplings and seeds are also getting increasingly popular and most of them do good business with road travellers. Personally what I really enjoy are the farm fresh fruits sold right on the highway. They are as fresh as can be, and very reasonably priced. These fruit sellers also tend to be simple and friendly chaps, so I often pullover to partake of their fruits and indulge in some conversation and khabar (news) of the region.
Nurseries offering plants, saplings, seeds, etc, also do very good business on our highways
Freshly plucked pineapple anyone? And what's more, at quarter of the cost in the cities
Guavas given with a smile
One thing that is intriguing is the number of barrels, cans and containers that are retailed on our highways. These range from large hundred litre capacity ones, to smaller five or ten litre ones. Why travellers need such large barrels is something I have never understood. Maybe, local villagers buy them to store water.
Huge barrels, cans, containers, are also retailed on our highways
This street shop even has pots and pans
And here you can even buy small cooking gas cylinders or kerosene stoves
Apart from barrels and cans, many of these "road markets" also display and deal in pipes of various sizes, pots and pans, buckets, cooking utensils, tiffin's, buckets, tumblers, etc. Interestingly, they also offer small gas cylinders and kerosene stoves. This is because many truck drivers and cleaners like to do their own cooking and carry rations and implements to make a meal by the side of the road.
Truck decorations come in all colours, shapes and sizes
Good to see safety triangles being sold as embellishments. Hope they are put on the rear of trucks, where they belong
Amongst the most popular goods marketed on Indian Highways, are the "Decorations for Trucks". These include colourful and shiny wheel caps, bright reflective tapes, vibrant pieces of cloth and all sorts of other attractive trims and frills, which can be placed around the windscreen and body, or hung from the doors, bumpers, mirrors, etc. What I find really funny though is that a few years back when I attended a leading designer's fashion show in Mumbai, some of the haute couture models were wearing outfits embellished with many of the "Decorations for Trucks". And yes it was being passed off as the latest fashion trend!
I once attended a fashion show in Mumbai, where the outfits of the models were ornamented with similiar truck decorations
Photos courtesy Makarand Baokar and Bob Rupani