Pettah - Colombo's Bustling Bazaar!
The Pettah Market is Colombo's open market. It's a maze of streets and alleys just like the Burma Bazaar in Bangalore or perhaps, Chennai's China Bazaar. Whatever you are looking for, you'll find it in here.
Most businesses in Pettah are dominated by Muslims traders, but history records that one of the first was an eminent Parsi family from Bombay, who used to have substantial business interests in the country and who also owned the Colombo Oil Mills.
Colombo may have been in deep slumber elsewhere, but certainly not here. This place was abuzz with activity. Hundreds of tiny shops lined the entire stretch of the road, selling almost everything you could think of - garments, footwear, jewelry, handicrafts, antiques, cushions and bed linen, hardware tools, electrical stuff, mobile phones, cosmetics, spices, fruits and of course, lots of tea.
We walked along the narrow, congested pavements taking fleeting glances at the wares displayed and not particularly stopping at any one shop. We had "tourist" written all over us and the shopkeepers did their best to entice us into buying something. I stopped at one shop attracted by a pair of suede shoes. How much, I asked. "650 Sri Lankan Rupees," he replied. That's around 350 INR. Hmmm! I thought for a moment. Something about the shoe quality bothered me. I decided against it.
There was this dagger on display in one of the shops. The carving on the scabbard was exquisite, and the dagger itself was a remarkable piece of forged stainless steel with a sculpted grip. "Antique piece, only 850 rupees," the shopkeeper said. I took a closer look at the glistening weapon in my hand. Was it Chinese, from the Ming dynasty perhaps or one amongst those mass produced items that roll out off Chinese factories, day in day out? Thanks pal! I smiled at the owner and breezed off before we got into a debate.
I liked the dagger, and I'm still trying to figure out why I didn't buy it.
I popped over at this hardware shop where I saw a spanner set and before I could say my customary "how much", the wife pulled me out by the collar. "You don't have a workshop back home that you need a spanner set". She didn't actually say it, but her looks can launch a thousand words.
We needed to make some enquiries on trains to Galle and Kandy and headed for the Fort Railway Station. We walked towards the terminus and suddenly I stopped, took out my camera and focused on a very familiar feathery friend - the crow.
"Hello Blacks, Indian or local?"
Next: Fort Railway Station