The crazy thing about village markets is the amazing stuff you get there, and the absolutely mind boggling meld of smells, colours and textures that assail you. Its a 360 degree sensual experience. In my time I have been to my fair share of these markets. They are called Santha in some parts of South India and Haat in other parts of India. These markets happen on one or two particular days of the week and can be a delightful experience if you don’t mind sharing you space with a huge throng of humanity plus cattle, dogs, goats and chickens. One of the best haat’s I visited was in Tuljapur, Maharashtra. It had all the makings of brilliant market experience. Interesting people attired in bright clothing, a variety of fruits, vegetables and grains on sale along with an assortment of other things that were deemed important in the scheme of rural life.
The people were dressed in their traditional attire. There were men in Dhotis and bright pink turbans and women in navvari (nine yard) sarees.
The market sold a variety of things but a few of them were particularly interesting. for instance I came across an interesting arrangement of what initially looked like hand fans. On closer inspection I realized that they were actually brooms.
And then there was the absolutely mouth watering bread lane. Here they were selling khari, rusk, biscuits and a variety of other stuff. Most of these, especially the khari and the rusk are eaten dipped in hot tea. The whole lane was shaded by a yellow tarpaulin that cast the most beautiful light over all the brown and golden bread.
One of the more interesting things I came across was the ladies selling dried fish. Dried fish is very popular in the coastal areas of India and can be cooked in a variety of ways. To start with the fish has to be thoroughly washed to remove any trace of the sand and stones that get attached to it during its preparation period (fish is often salted and dried on road sides and sea shores). So washing the dried fish is essential. Not only does this clean the fish, but it also removes the excessive salt used in preserving the fish. Once the fish is washed it can been cooked in one of two ways. Either made into a spicy curry of tamarind juice, red chillies, curry leaves and mustard seeds or fried along with a whole lot of onions and curry leaves as an accompaniment to a dal or rasam and rice.
Dried fish as the name suggests is not only fish, but also shrimp and prawns. Usually sardines and mackerel as well as Bombay Duck lend themselves to being dried.
The haat at Tuljapur was delightful. It left me with so many memories of food and people.