Raising South Asian Voices

Cynthia Dettman:  Author

“Blame the British”

I rarely go on a tour here in India, but I’ve always wanted to go on a Story Trails tour.  They are local tours put on by a group of well-prepared guides.  Today it was the Bazaar tour- a walking tour of the Georgetown Bazaar, a large, buzzing area with many many shops and people and activity.  Our guide, Shobana, has a masters degree from England but decided she loved storytelling so much she wanted to do this work.  And she was indeed knowledgeable and enthusiastic.  She called the tour

“Blame the British”.

It was a bit horrifying to hear about colonial history in this area- first it was the Portuguese, then it was the Dutch, then the French, then the British, who all fought each other for control of the area.  Of course finally the British won.  They established White Town near the port where they could bring in ships, and this White Town received material goods from guess where?  Black Town, where the natives lived.  The area was changed to Georgetown thanks to a visit from King George.  The British wanted and took cotton, pepper, and other raw materials for increasing industrialization in the UK.  She said that some shop owners in the area are direct descendants of those resident traders of “Black Town”!

The market had streets of particular shops:  leather, shoes, kitchen items, jewelry.  My favorite was the produce area, jammed with all sorts of gorgeous vegetables.  The British named many of these “strange” vegetables names like ash gourd, ridged gourd, bitter gourd, ladies fingers, drumsticks and snake gourd, and those English names survive.

The flowers were spectacular, along with other items that are also intended for spiritual use, that is for offering to the gods.

Decided to make my photos into a little slideshow to give readers a sense of the energy and colors of the market.  Enjoy the slideshow!

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We savored your slideshow of Black/George Town market flowers, fruits, giant leaf plates and bowls, vegetables, a gazillion kinds of rice, all set to solo flute music. Is that an Indian flute being played?

Thank you for the history lesson. Fascinating! I loved the slideshow. It was like I was there and could smell the roses and jasmine. The variety is fruits and vegetables is incredible!

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