I marvelled in awe as I stepped into the huge gateway of the 30th Surajkund International Crafts Mela and it felt like I had re-entered my childhood again. Every year, they have a different state-theme and this year, the state was Telangana. It smelt of incense. Towards the left, we could witness one entire part of the mela that was dedicated exclusively to rides. It had the same old giant wheel, merry-go-round and other rides lit up to resonate the vibe that fairs have always kindled in us. Jeena isika naam hai played while we maneuvered our way through the lanes and bylanes of the mela studded with stalls of household goods and food items. We could spot big families—hailing from different parts of India, dressed in authentic Indian wear—chilling, taking pictures, shopping for everything from home decor accessories to roti makers, bulbs and cosmetics (Taiwanese cosmetics which costed twice the amount a similar Lotus product would. This man at the stall demonstrated how a particular gel rubs out dead, tanned skin within seconds and I almost bought his pitch except, I didn’t. But that’s a story for another day.) We also stumbled upon a shop that sold potted veggies, cactus and cute little succulents.
There was a vivid collection of clothing stalls. One could buy sarees and suits in various colours, designs and textiles from all over the country. They were a bit overpriced for obvious reasons. “Hum sab Bihar se hain aur yeh sab hum khud hi banate hain. Har jagah ja ja kar bechte hain pure desh mein.” (My companions and I are from Bihar and we make this jewelry on our own. We travel throughout the country and participate in fairs and exhibitions.) said a woman in her mid 30’s adorned in a glistening maang tika, an intricately designed nose ring and a awfully bright pink saree. When asked if she enjoys selling jewelry and if she is able to make enough money out of it, she said with a smile,”Karna padta hai. Thoda bahut kama lete hain. 15 saal se yahi kar rahe hain.” (We have to do it. We make a little money. We have been doing this for the past 15 years.) There were a lot of jewelry stalls with similar kinds of junk jewelry—somewhat overpriced—of the same patterns that one could easily find in Janpath and Sarojini.
My friend and I made a stop by the cutlery stall and had our eyes jotted on these China clay kulhads. We talked to the owners for a bit who had come all the way from Bulandshahr, UP. They told us that they were paying Rs. 2,000 per day to the fair authorities for the stall but managed to make enough to be satisfied. We bought 6 China clay kulhads from them for Rs. 100. It wasn’t a bad deal at all.
We also got in conversation with Suresh, a potter, from Firozpur. “Main aur meri wife, dono hi mitti se gullak, kulhad, bartan aur alag alag cheezein banate hain. Main banata hoon, woh madad karti hai. Hum alag alag exhibitions main apna samaan bechte hain. Main school main yeh kala sikhana chahta hoon. Mujhe achha lagta hai.” (My wife and I, both of us make all kinds of pots, piggy banks, glasses and various items like those. I make them and she helps me. We sell our stuff at various exhibitions. I want to teach pottery at schools. I like doing that.) We found ourselves stirred with the enthusiasm and honesty that he displayed in his demeanor. It was rather heart-warming. He gave us his number and asked us to get in touch with him if we find an opportunity for him, as we left. (Suresh’s phone no. 7503958787).
Eventually, we reached a the stage being projected on large screens across the fair, where loud cheering and laughter was erupting from, we found a huge gathering near a beautifully decorated and lit stage graced by a desi stand up comedian in a fuchsia pagdi and a french rose kurta paired with a black jacket as a part of the Haryana Cultural Evening by Kurukshetra University. The stage formed the nucleus of the fair. After cracking a few haryanvi jokes, he broke into a folk song and was backed by dancers. We found our feet tapping to the tunes as we made our way towards the food stalls near the stage.
The food was expensive. We had the famous pyaaz kachori with kesari milk. It cost us thrice as much as it would have outside. It was 8pm already. We’d spent good 3 hours without realising how quickly time was flying by. It was time to leave and we made our way to the exit, but my friend insisted that we grab a papad or two from the guy selling papads out of a sack. And like everything else there, it didn’t disappoint.
I feel that more than anything else, these fairs reminds one of the significance that little things hold in our lives. Magic lies in the details, afterall.
Location: Surajkund, Faridabad, Haryana
Nearest Metro station: Badarpur
Date & Time: 1-15 February, 10:30am-8:30pm