Guwahati: Diwali Brings in a Ray of Hope to Businesses, Markets
Fancy Bazar is reclaiming its old festival crowd, but exorbitant prices on old stock and its clearance limit customers
It’s Diwali! After almost a year of pandemic, confinement, and consequent depression the Diwali season is bringing in new hope and positivity. A stroll through the market place, especially Fancy Bazar, the oldest hub and center of all festive purchases, reaffirms one of better days to come. A new world, a post-pandemic world seems to be right around the corner.
The Durga Puja market was very dismal. Keeping up with Covid protocols, Guwahatians chose to keep things minimal. But as the number of positive cases are dwindling, people are becoming more confident of visiting the same Fancy Bazar that was once considered the epicenter of the pandemic in the city.
G Plus visited Fancy Bazar to do a quick survey of the Diwali market.
The old crowd and fervour is back and shopkeepers are hopeful of fast recovery of the losses incurred due to the pandemic if the same conditions persist. If not a fully packed festive crowd, there is surely some rush in almost every shop, from clothing to furnishing stores, festive decor to sweet shops.
Nitish Agarwal who owns a well-known decor store said, “Finally it feels good to come to the market. At least I feel enthusiastic every morning to come to work. When our shop reopened last month after the lockdown I had even thought of closing down altogether. All the expensive decor items were covered in dust; we had to clean every nook and corner, plus the rent and electricity bills all added up. It was very difficult to get the shop running. We were hoping for some sales in Durga Puja but nothing happened. But the Diwali feels positive.”
Guwahatians seem to be doing their best to wipe out memories of the bad times, even discarding old curtains and covers, redecorating with fresh fabrics to bring in good vibes. The furnishing stores and there are many in New Market, are all gaining pace. We spoke to Natwar Furnishings and the proprietor said, “Our regular customers are back. We have been doing good business every Diwali and this year is no different. Of course, it’s very low compared to the previous years, but when we recall the lockdown times, we must accept things are going great. And we should be thankful.”
Pronita Devi, a customer, said, “My family was quarantined, one member was even admitted in the hospital. Those were tough times. Prayers and faith kept us going. Now I want to erase all those bad days. So I am changing the curtains and cushions. Prices are high and income very low, so I am trying to adjust with whatever I can. Hoping to end the year on a good note.”
Although the bazaars are seeing the old seasonal rush, a few things are indeed missing. Light is the major component of Diwali and Kali Puja. After all, its known as the ‘festival of lights’. But with a complete ban on Chinese items, the sparkly threads of fairy lights that add to the glitter of the market streets and adorns the shop windows are minimal.
Popular electrical markets like Sahida Market and the market near Railway Gate no. 2 all have dull looks. The limited items sold are from the old stock that were left over from last year.
Sahid Ahmed, the owner of an electrical goods shop said, “The market looks so sad compared to last time. We did not even get anything new. So there is no variety. It is very difficult to sell off the old stuff. There are not many customers.”
The markets this year have abided by the motto of ‘Vocal for Local’ as foreign products have lost market significantly. While even the customers were found to be conscious of benefitting the local artisans with their purchases, whatever Chinese goods are up for sale are the leftovers of the past years.
As for dry fruits that are on high demand during celebrations, sellers are unable to recover the losses despite a steep decline in prices. Prices of pistachios have gone down from around Rs. 1,200 to Rs. 850. Similar is the case with cashews, raisins, and others. Yet there is no one to buy.
“We usually get bulk orders from corporate and other business houses. Rather than selling loose we make gift packages of all ranges, starting from Rs. 200 onwards. This year the business houses are reluctant to buy. Most have ordered a few limited boxes. Although other businesses are seeing profits, dry fruit items are at a complete loss,” said a businessman.
The cost-cutting by most of the business houses due to the pandemic situation has limited the usual sales of the gift items. Sellers have informed that only 20 to 30 percent of the actual sales has been observed this year.
While the sellers and proprietors of most of the stores have informed that they have procured new items at increased prices, hence the final price tags are also high. But customers have alleged that shops are selling the old items at exorbitant prices, saying them to be new.
The local artisans are breathing better after this respite. An artisan from Goalpara proudly said, “The whole year went without any work. But now whatever little we have made is happily accepted by the customers. My whole family depends on this business. I am content as of now.”
Fancy Bazar saw the most crowd on the occasion of Dhanteras, i.e., 12th and 13th November. People thronged in large numbers and jewellery shops registered major sales for the first time this year. Major brands could not provide with enough space to fill in the crowd of customers, the smaller shops were no better.
“We have given affordable offers on our jewelleries and have got a good collection of lightweight jewellery. Times are different and we understand that people cannot afford heavy jewellery like earlier. Yet the wedding season is coming up and people have to buy the needful. Our store has been running for years thanks to the loyalty of the people and we do not want to let anyone down. Diwali is for all,” said Shankarlal Soni of L. Gopal Jewellers at AC market.
With regulations imposed on the sale and lighting of firecrackers, limited choices to shop from and that too at exorbitant prices, Diwali celebrations this year might be a subdued and low key affair like the Durga Puja, but the atmosphere around is indeed bringing in good vibes and hopes of better days ahead.