On the ground next to the main traffic lights in Manimajra, tents have been pitched by the organisers of the annual Himalayan Woollen Market. A lot depends on the weather for these woollen garment sellers who arrive, with families in tow from Lahaul Spiti, for this event. Set up in a circular fashion — as many as 27 stalls are encircled within the area demarcated by fluttering Tibetan prayer flags — the market is a good example of orderly business. The stalls are well marked and there is something for everyone— large, colourful sweatshirts, cardigans, fashionable machine-knit kurtas for women, warm jumpers for kids, warm leggings, coats, shawls et al. Incidentally, the garments have been sourced from woollen factories in Ludhiana as well as from across the border in China.
“This is our fourth year at this venue. It isn’t going too well as there are hardly any shoppers. It isn’t too cold and soon it will be time for Lohri. No one will shop for woollens then,” rues Usha Negi of Himalayan Tribal Women Empowerment Society, the organisers of the market. Seated in stall one, Negi, along with fellow organiser Sundar Khapa, has been praying for the cold to intensify.
“We come here as it is too cold at home. A lot depends on how business goes for us during the time we are here,” says Negi. The market will be on till early February.
Stroll around the stalls and you can see ladies of the house tending to little children towards the back of the tent, everyone huddled together. The bonhomie is hard to miss among the sellers and they all stick to their rule to give no discounts.
“You can check other stalls. This is fixed price,” we hear a seller tell an elderly gentleman haggling over the price of a sweater.
“People here just don’t go by printed price. But we all have fixed one price,” said Pema, a young lady behind the counter. The apparel is priced starting as low as Rs 200.
Also dotting the area are iron benches that are for those still looking to make of the benevolent winter sun. And to make it a complete family outing, there’s a food stall as well offering soups and chowmein and the likes. The badly spelt hoarding aside, it seems to be doing good business along with the stall selling patties, chips, tea and coffee. For the garment sellers though, the next few days will tell.
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