Night Market

Riya Abiram | Art by Annabel Qin

    The sun was nothing but a speck hiding behind the thick and grainy smoke that coated the humid air. As its weak presence slowly disappeared behind the layers of ancient red sandstone and white marble, the hues of deep orange and red that managed to leak through soaked the tables of early vendors setting up for a night of dizzying negotiations with unwavering customers.
    To her, it seemed to be nothing more than a night of loud and harrowing conversations, attempting to process a seemingly endless list of products that were shoved in your face. As children, she would often bury herself in their parent’s clothing when arguments broke out with the seller over the price of anything from deep-fried onion pakoda to a silver trinket that looked amusing. But it seemed that she could not avoid the nerve-wracking experience now as her friends begged her to walk through the night market they had spotted after hours of grueling activity outside.
    “Promise to stick together,” she warned as they tightly gripped hands. The market was swarming with people, the already warm air becoming sticky with sweat and aromas. It became apparent, as they lost focus from each other and instead observed the angry conversations and product pitches that tightly surrounded them, that she would have to navigate through the maze by herself. In all the noise and confusion, she had finally found solace in the stand of an old woman selling a special kind of stone jewelry. While her sales were not as high as many of the other more vocal vendors, she couldn’t help but notice the detailed patterns and specialized material that was not characteristic of most jewelry at the time. As she approached the booth, the woman gave her a smile.
    “Itu eṉṉa?” she asked, curious to understand the story behind the antique pieces adorning the walls. As she listened to the story of the woman’s ancestors who had learned the lost technique and had passed their secrets down from generation to generation, she could almost see the layers of history carved into each of the unique stones. “Evvaḷavu paṇam?” She pulled out a bag filled with a few coins hoping it would cover the price. As she stepped out of the shop, the sky had turned ink-black, and the vendors slowly began to drift home.
    She was quickly pulled by the arm with a curious, “Where were you? We were supposed to be back an hour ago!” She gave an apologetic smile, as they hurried back home with the little gem glistening in her pocket.