A Poignant Mix

Journeys back.

And now, little villages, with shopping malls, strung out on either side of an open area that serves as main thoroughfare – and the “road.” They are what one could call “downtown.” They throb with life for twenty-four hours, every day. People shop, eat, socialise or just lounge here, and they have a lot of time to do that.  Through traffic, which is mostly pedestrian and bicycle, with the occasional motor cycle and rarer motor vehicle, has to weave through the throng.

On the left, here, are two restaurants. The one is a more formal one, more or less roofed, but open in front, with a kind of counter. One can also buy other items, like fashionable garments from it. Right next to it is another, similar, except that it is not roofed – apart from the tree canopy – and it stretches out almost to the centre of the “road,” where its food offering is on display in a collection of plastic basins.

Further down the mall, the ramshackle little shops are all open plan, and always open. They all sell basically the same goods – almost anything: basic groceries (and surprisingly sophisticated items, like specialised infant formula too), cooking utensils, bicycle parts, clothing, sexy underwear, toiletries, costume jewellery, (warm) cool drinks, sweets, and, importantly, alcohol, some locally concocted, some commercial.

Merely moving through the area, even in a vehicle, is a chaotic experience. One has to weave through the activity and anything that has the appearance of a potential customer, and that includes anything that is not a known local villager, is immediately mobbed by a crowd of shopkeepers and others that hope to sell or scrounge something or want to show off or are merely inquisitive. It is all very loud and persuasive and merry as each try to capture your attention by outdoing the other with probing questions and quips and jokes.

If you actually stop you are almost doomed to be persuaded into buying something you don’t need, and get short-changed or over charged; but that is perfectly legitimate, and part of the local sport.

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