I went to the Surajkund Fair today. It’s a handicrafts fair organized by the Haryana Government in Surajkund, Faridabad. Make no mistake – for most of us city folk going for this (or Dilli Haat) is borne out of a craving for a taste of Little India. Those who’re impatient and don’t want to read the rest of the entry can skip directly to my photo album on Surajkund (tinyurl.com/surajkund). In the left sidebar, click the second button from left (mouseover text ‘Launch PicLens’) to view it as a slideshow. (You can click anywhere in the slideshow to toggle to fullscreen mode. And if you have CoolIris installed then you can flip through the album in 3D.)
The first thing that struck me as I waited in the parking lot (read – a dusty maidan) for the ferry service is the commercialism. At the risk of sounding like a jholawala I have to say that for an event which gets as close to ‘Indian culture’ (a phrase bandied about a lot these days), it is quite odd to be greeted with autorickshaw ferry services sponsored by Vodafone. (And your friendly Jat autowallah wearing Vodafone T-shirts.) As you wheel into the mela compound you see the dried up kund (pond) which gives the place its name.
Onward ho, after your wallet going lighter by 50 bucks for the ticket. You walk past the security check and in an astonishing moment of realization it hits you that this thing is immensely profitable.
The whole thing is a mess. You just can’t ‘start’ from a place and expect to follow a path which will show you the whole mela. The area over which it is spread is huge. So you dive bravely into the crowds, jostle with them, haggle with shopkeepers and (basically) show them the finger by walking off without buying anything after a while. Curiously, about 70% of the items on sale are Ganesha idols.
The crowds make it hell for anyone interested in clicking photographs. None of the artisans object to having pictures clicked. What is a major problem is the people constantly walking in-and-out of frame so the best you can do is stand at a spot, aim your camera in the general direction of something you want to click, take 2-3 snaps in a row and pray it turns out fine later on. You can’t review what you’re shooting most of the time due to bright sunlight anyway. (D)SLRs are out of question because you won’t have much room to play around with. Caution – there are stairs at unexpected places; don’t blindly keep moving to get your shot. Also – and this goes without saying – be careful with your camera in the crowd. (Maybe it was just the fact that I went on the last day of the Fair, that too a Sunday.)
The ‘theme’ this year was Madhya Pradesh, made evident by the numerous artisans from the state. Describing the whole ‘journey’ in the compound is difficult because it isn’t the same for any two people – there being multiple paths you can take. One thing that is common is that you will appreciate it.
Don’t like the ‘ethnic stuff’? You can buy Ritu Beri designerware from her outlet in the same compound, and then sip coffee at the nearby Cafe Coffee Day. Or you can forego that and go to the food court.
Try out some Egyptian delicacies at the food court. (No, they don’t eat dried mummies.) Koshari – rice with tangy gravy; kinda similar to poha from the Madhya Pradesh Kaleva food stall. Find the food too spicy? Try the Egyptian sweet dish Om Ali (sounds a bit like Amar Akbar Anthony, doesn’t it?). There’s a lot you can try out – South Indian dishes (at ripoffs prices which are extravagantly high…and the food’s crap too), Rajasthani food…even Domino’s Pizza! Those who eat paan (I don’t) might be interested in trying out chocolate-syrup coated Banarasi paan or kulfi which doesn’t come packed in neat Mother Dairy labelled boxes.
That probably won’t be the end of a trip, for there’s more to see, but this is where I end the post. The fair is a thing which you see and feel for yourself. If you haven’t been there, don’t miss it next year. Or just view my photos taken at Surajkund.