BY VIBHA MITRA
I cherish each of my expeditions to the ‘New Market’ (ergo Hogg Market) even today, and I would rather go there instead of shopping at the newer glitzier cousins- spiffy malls and arcades. I object to the superstore experience as they are not allowing consumers to choose, showcasing brands that probably are productive financially.
New Market has shops jostling for space, overflowing with choices of brands and inexpensive non-brands. My Bajaj toaster, packed up in a year and the one I bought without a sticker for half the price, popped on for about three years. Crockery shops are a delight as are bursting at the seams with crystal ware. The shopkeepers bring out some imported Venetian glass for their chosen clients. The iconic Chamba Lamba is jewellery we have been sporting since we were kids. I so missed my soft mints from D Gamas which shut down, but Nahoums started selling them. Customized, super comfy shoes from Henry’s, and other Chinese shoe-smiths that produce top-notch footwear. The only place which still sells authentic Bandel cheese, make from the recipes taught by the Dutch. From Jewish, Portuguese, and Nepalese, to Punjabi and Bengali, I would term this shopping place secular, embracing all cultures with easy harmony.
Cane, glass, textiles, food, utensils, toys, electronics, makeup, jewellery, accessories, wool, dry fruits, flowers, stationery. There is nothing you don’t get here. A visiting mall expert had commented that New Market was probably one of the only genuine malls worldwide where it is slated one could buy even a tiger.
On the lazy days of yore, I accompanied my mother on numerous shopping trips. Genial camaraderie and the shopkeepers knew us personally, smuggled me a toffee and assured us the best bargains. A very large family- a one-stop destination for everything. Till some years ago, I could never find a variety of safety pins, except here. When I got married, I got some must buy sarees from Oriental Arts, silver from Jewel Craft, wool from Guin, blouse material from Geeta’s, dry fruits from the Afghan seller who referred to my Ma as Ammi. The list goes on. Memories live on.
An annual ritual till a while ago was the Christmas shopping trip. Temporary stalls in the middle, selling faux trees, Santas, tinsel, crackers, decorations in warm bright effervescent hues, and the flavour was as real as anywhere in the world. Rich plum cake from Nahoums was an absolute must on our shopping list.
An occasional outing of yore has become an enduring affection for the place I know intimately, almost all the lanes and by-lanes from my childhood jaunts. Some shops have changed their wares; some old friends are no longer there. A newness has taken over the warm comfort of belonging of yesteryears. A feeling of being home, a twitch still remains as I stroll through this behemoth.
The oldest market in the city with its clock tower keeping vigil. A part that burnt down was rebuilt with concrete. Never a patch on the original with its wide walkways, high ceilings with cooing pigeons nesting there- probably talking of the changed façade, the altered composition of traders and shoppers. Some shops from then remain, the rest having ceded to changing times. The old has given way to the new and the nostalgia remains ever new.
Vibha Mitra is a Heritage Enthusiast – actively involved with Calcutta Heritage Collective. With a passion to do things well, she expresses herself from an original point of view. Films, plays, crosswords, Scrabble, Sudoku, Netflix are all jostling for space in her world. Vibha has also authored the book “Odds and Bends”, a journal and her reflections on the world.