iRediscover | Khwairamband Bazar: Imphal's Women-run Market in Monochrome

There were very few things I knew with as much surety about my Manipur itinerary as I did about wanting to visit Imphal's women run market - Khwairamband Bazar; also known as Ima Keithel, meaning mother’s/women’s market.

Evidently, being an only women-run market - the oldest and perhaps the only one of its kind across the globe at that  - makes it an intriguing phenomenon. From the different sources I have been reading up since my return, no known date seems to emerge for when the market was established. Some records attribute its origin to the late 18th century.

This post is in continuation to my Micro Stories from Manipur where I've shared my experience of walking through the market, observing and being observed.

In this post, through the photographs taken, I'll show and won't tell without further ado!

"The earth laughs in flowers" ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
The entrance to the market is lined with women selling flowers - irrespective of the hour of the day one visits.

"Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “it’s not a priority,” and see how that feels." 
Being a silent observer (mostly by virtue of not knowing Manipuri as a language) meant that I had many a fly-on-the-wall moments watching the women alternate between being attentive when there was a customer to resuming back to their own worlds when there were none. So many moods to capture through the lens of a camera! 

“The longing for sweets is really a yearning for love or "sweetness.”
Laddoos! What's not to love about them. And as for this photograph, let it be known that between artist and muse much effort was made to avoid eye-contact. Such an interesting experiment and an insight into human behaviour merely wielding a camera can turn out to be. Who would have thunk?

"Whether you think you can, or you think you can't -- you're right" ~ Henry Ford
Something about catching another person lost in thought feels intrusive as well as serves as a tiny reminder that we're wired the same

“Anyone who tells you size doesn't matter has been seeing too many small knives.” 
I don't know whether it was because of what she was selling but something about being a little more upfront and approaching this lady for a photograph just didn't seem that easy. 
"No one is ever satisfied where he is....Only the children know what they’re looking for....”  ~ The Little Prince
Lost in conversation with her fellow lady-vendor, my muse in this photograph is wearing the Manipuri phanek -- the wraparound/sarong with horizontal lines, that is typical to the Manipuris alone.

“Belief, hard work, love–you have those things, you can do anything.” ~ Mitch Albom
If there's anything I thought I saw the women consistently embody, in spite of my extremely short stint of about three hours at the market, it would be Albom's words. 

“The Times is a paper which is seldom found in any hands but those of the highly educated.” ~ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
When a woman isn't running her own business and minding her own affairs, she makes it her business to catch up on those running the world, informing herself if they are making too much of a mess managing affairs they weren't cut out to deal with!

“You'll find that life is still worthwhile, if you just smile.” ~ Charlie Chaplin
I have a deeper sense of respect for anybody who is willing to allow me retakes when I'm struggling with lighting whilst capturing a portrait. And this lady tops that list! She was among those few people who was extremely at ease with a camera being pointed at her (even though she didn't need to)

“I think... if it is true that there are as many minds as there are heads, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts.” ~Leo Tolstoy
I don't know who she is. I never will. I just saw her sitting there with her back towards us, staring at something right in front of her and I got her in my frame -- while silently hoping she wouldn't turn and take away the sense of mystery away

"Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” ~Confucius
I could see myself making my way out of the market and was left thinking, "Is there anything that I did not see these women sell?" and couldn't come up with an answer. My muse in this photograph did strike a pose with one of her products after she saw me hide my face behind the lens! Who doesn't like a subject who plays the good sport?

“Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second.” 
I have gone from despising the act of pointing the camera into anybody's face to gently getting comfortable with the idea that seeking permission makes the entire act less intrusive. And these women have been the perfect kind of validation - even after all this time. Because I still struggle. With portraits. As much as with being that-pest-with-a-camera!

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