Women Vendors Burning Midnight Oil To Eke Out A Living

Who says that business in Khwairamband Bazaar closes at 9 pm?

No, one is not talking about the kiosks, manned by girlishly painted young women at Keishampat junction. Here one is talking about poorly dressed housewives, who are coming here to eke out a living by selling vegetables etc. in the ‘night market‘ of the city.

At 12 o’clock, midnight the city comes to life with hundreds of vegetable and fish mongers from all parts of the valley swarming the Khwairamband Bazaar. One can, of course if one can make it by 1 am, buy all kinds of vegetables, fruits and fish.

Thanks to the strike called by the transport bodies, women traders from far flung rural areas could not come to the city during day time. But, there are transporters, who are ever ready to violate the edict of the bodies of which they are members to ferry the women traders from Thoubal, Oinam, Bishnupur, Moirang etc.

But neither the law enforcers nor the city dwellers or for that matter the transports’ body seem to be making no complaint for, it is they transporters and traders who are feeding the two districts of Imphal. A three-member team of Sangai Bureau bought one grass carp each weighing nearly two kilos each at 3 pm. And mind you, it is real cheap.

But it is not a smooth business, as it would seem. For instance more than five hundred women vendors were huddled up with their merchandise braving the incessant rain when the Sangai Express team reached there at 2 am.

More buses packed with more vendors arrived. No time for lazy talks, all the women were trying to find a space in the already packed portion of the Maharani Bridge and the two market sheds near the Session Court. And rickshaws and thelas and even jeep taxies were ready to pack off the newly arrived merchandise to other parts of the city.

The vendors say they have no problem about coming to Imphal or for that matter selling off their merchandise. Whatever goods they bring along are sold off like hot cakes by 8-9 am. But the problems surface when they are ready to return home after the day’s business.

‘Sometimes, we have to hire jointly an auto rickshaw to take us home. But the fare is very high. We fork out Rs 15 each to our return journey to Oinam in Bishnupur district,’ a young woman who brought two baskets filled with fish said.

The normal bus fare is only Rs 5. The women are only willing to pay Rs 15 because, sometimes they have to walk on foot after the hectic day at the night market upto home, when no means of travel is available. ‘We often walk home on foot,’ added another middle-aged vendor next to the fishmonger. Are not they tired? ‘What is the alternative,’ she snapped.

What has made these women traders to come to the city at the dead of night? Ibemcha, a trader from Oinam sums up the answer. ‘We have to make a living by selling these vegetables. As there is no market at my area I have to come here. If I don’t come here all these will perish. On top of this I have to feed my two daughters. I have to take care of their education as well,’ she said.

*The article is written by Khelen Thokchom.

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