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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

HAWKERS AND VENDORS IN KGF - NAMAKARA HAWKER

Namakara Hawker was a Walking fancy Store. He had everything that could be found in a regular Fancy Store among his wares. He had all his wares packed between layers of brown paper and tied with white sheets in two huge bundles (An excerpt from my book KOLAR GOLD FIELDS DOWN MEMORY LANE)
Life in the olden days in KGF was blissful. We were really lucky and blessed to have had a number of faithful and honest vendors and hawkers who brought their services and goods to our doorsteps. They didn't charge anything extra for this service unlike today. They were just part and parcel of a familiar landscape. 
Namakara Hawker and China Man John were the other hawkers who visited our house on a regular basis. As little children, we didn’t know that Namakara Hawker’s actual name was Mr. Venugopal. He was known as the ‘Namakara’ Hawker only because (being a Brahmin), he had three ‘Namus’ or 3 vertical Red lines drawn on his forehead which was the sign of his Hindu caste. The word ‘Namakara’ meant ‘Man with Namus’.In fact we thought his name was "Okker" conveniently dropping the "H" and only as we grew older we realized that the word was "Hawker" and not "Okker"!!!
Namakara Hawker was a Walking fancy Store. He had everything that could be found in a regular Fancy Store among his wares. He had all his wares packed between layers of brown paper and tied with white sheets in two huge bundles. Namakara engaged two men to carry the bundles for him on their heads while he walked at their side carrying his umbrella.  Namakara Hawker had everything from safety pins, elastic in running length, Cotton Bras, Dress Materials, Nail polish, Hair Pins, Hair clips, Clothes Clips, Cotton Vests and Banyans, Men’s Briefs, locks and keys, screw drivers, nail clippers, nail files, scissors, handkerchiefs, scarves, Naphthalene Balls, etc to Reels of white and Coloured thread for the Sewing machine, Skeins of embroidery thread, machine oil, balms, hair oil, bundles of knitting wool, knitting needles, machine needles, plastic brushes, combs, pens, shirt material, pant material, etc, etc in his bundles. Each variety was packed separately between layers of brown paper.
Whenever Namakara Hawker visited out house, we’d eagerly wait for him to open his wares. It was so exciting watching him open each layer of brown paper and reveal the items concealed in them. There would be ‘Oohs’ and ‘Ahs’ of delight when we saw something we liked and much smirking and sly smiles when he came to the Bras and Panties. We’d worry my mum to buy us stuff from Namakara even if we didn’t need it.
Namakara Hawker was a permanent fixture in our lives during the first and third week of every month. He extended credit and installment facilities to all his customers and each family had a separate page in his account book. He would collect his dues in the first week of the month after the salary day, and bring his wares for sale again in the third week. He was always sure of making a sale in whichever house he went to.
I remember Namakara Hawker coming around to the houses in the mines right up to the 1970’s. He must have been about 80 years old then and he was still healthy and active. However, his walk had slowed down and he was quite bent up. We were all very sad when we heard that he passed away in 1976. It seemed like the end of an era.
Chinaman John was another Hawker who regularly visited all the Anglo-Indian homes in KGF. Chinaman John was a Chinese National settled in KGF. He was married to a local Tamil lady and had 4 children. His son studied in the KGF Boy’s School and his daughters Violet, Charlotte and Lilly studied in St Joseph’s Convent. We didn’t find it at all strange that while they had Chinese features, they had an Indian dark complexion. Chinaman John would get consignments of soft, beautiful Silk dress materials, Silk Cushion Covers, silk table cloths etc from China and bring them around to the Anglo-Indian houses. Sometimes, he would get beautiful Silk Kimonos with elaborate embroidery of dragons and lanterns in gold and red silk threads. Chinaman John never left an Anglo-Indian home without making a sale!!!