Bargain-hunting time of the year is here

Madurai is awash with vendors and shoppers ahead of Deepavali

Madurai’s festivals are synonymous with boisterous crowds, revelry and a carnival atmosphere. If it is religious zeal during Chithirai festival, it is shopping, rather bargain-hunting, that attracts people during the run-up to Deepavali which reaches a crescendo on the festival eve.

The shopping hubs are Vilakkuthoon-South Masi Street area, Nethaji Road-West Masi Street area and commercial streets leading towards West and South towers of Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple. While all big shops sell white goods with attractive offers, it is the small shops and pavement ware the crowds are after. Just a folding cot, table or a cart and you have your shop ready. And there are stands with 50 or so hangers with dresses which can be moved around. Even shoulders become display stands for a few, and stationary bikes too.

Just for ₹100 flat, you can buy a myriad of things – nightie, churidar, umbrella, laundry basket, folding mat… the kind of things on sale is mind-boggling, never mind the quality. The colours and designs are also as loud as the villagers who make up Madurai to a large extent and make it a lively place. Vendors crying out their bargains, horns blaring, police issuing warnings over public address system, it is a cacophony the shoppers just love, for which they have come all the way from various places in Madurai and neighbouring districts.

Most of the vendors are locals but for a smattering few from north India who carry their ware through the crowd. Ismail, a vendor from Othakadai, who sells a popular fragrant spray, says they made a killing in the last three days of last Deepavali . He prays that rain should not play spoilsport in the following three days.

The police have a big presence. One can see them and hear their voice everywhere with their announcements and advice: “ If you park here, the message about the fine will reach your phone before you reach home,” and “There are 1,000 cameras and 500 police men and women in plainclothes watching you on Masi streets.”

Not all are happy

But not all business people are happy. One of the leading tailors in the city said business is so-so. Their hey days are long over, as people buy off the shelves and impulse purchase and instant gratification is the name of the game now.

Happy faces of mask-less bargain hunters and vendors, a slew of snacks and drinks on carts, the carnival atmosphere and general bonhomie. Deepavali is here once again.

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