Shopping on Indian Highways

Bob Rupani Updated: December 14, 2021, 06:05 PM IST

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".

Shopping on Indian HighwaysYou 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.

Shopping on Indian HighwaysThis 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!"

Shopping on Indian HighwaysShops offering ready made carpets, blankets, pillows and so on, have become popular in recent times

Shopping on Indian HighwaysQuite often, the seller stays right behind where he displays his merchandise

Shopping on Indian HighwaysCaps and goggles are popular products on our highways

Shopping on Indian HighwaysSadly 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.

Shopping on Indian HighwaysNurseries offering plants, saplings, seeds, etc, also do very good business on our highways

Shopping on Indian HighwaysFreshly plucked pineapple anyone? And what's more, at quarter of the cost in the cities

Shopping on Indian HighwaysGuavas 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.

Shopping on Indian HighwaysHuge barrels, cans, containers, are also retailed on our highways

Shopping on Indian HighwaysThis street shop even has pots and pans

Shopping on Indian HighwaysAnd 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.

Shopping on Indian HighwaysTruck decorations come in all colours, shapes and sizes

Shopping on Indian HighwaysGood 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!

Shopping on Indian HighwaysI 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

Also see:

Life on Indian Highways - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Indian Highways - And the historic Kos Minars or Mile Pillars

Indian Highways - And our toll booths fortified with steel pipes

Indian Highways - The common and strange sights

Indian Highways - and more common and strange sights

Indian Highways - And the disappearance of trees and milestones

More of - Shopping on Indian Highways

Indian Highways - And the vast variety of vehicles

Indian Highways - And our "Delicious Dhabas"

Indian Highways - And more food and "Delicious Dhabas"