How about being able to see a little bit of art and culture from various parts of the world, all in one place? It’s probably a like a feast to an artist or someone who admires it. Like the “melas” that we have in India, I had a chance to be in a place like this with dazzling traditions from around the world. This place that made me grow, learn and admire diversities is the Second Street Public Market in Dayton, Ohio, USA.
While living in the USA, I owned a small shop called 41o NW Bazaar from 2004 until 2006, where I imported handicrafts from India and introduced our art to the small city of Dayton. They seemed to be the best days of my life because business-wise, I did very well and not only that, there was some feeling within me that I am promoting and introducing some piece of our culture and art to the world. Asides my little store that market was like an ocean of people selling such a vast variety of things which were made by them or which belonged to the corner of the world they came from. This market was previously and railway station which was saved from demolition and made into this wonderful place in 2001. While I was one of its vendors, it accommodated 39 more like me, each displaying something unique in its own way.
Now let me explain what I meant when I said it had a little bit of culture from various parts of the world. Alongside my store, I had Julia a short sweet stout woman selling the most forgotten yet widely used thing in India; it was the “Akash Kandeel” or the lanterns we use during Diwali! She sold paper stars in various designs, sizes and colours and people bought it like hot cakes. She had a container full of them shipped from her supplier in Delhi. It was superb to see her do so well and also sell a small part of us half a globe away! Now Julia was my left-hand side neighbour while Gigi from Alpaca Designs was my right-hand side neighbour. Gigi sold the warmest and softest Alpaca wool sweaters and shawls and handicrafts from Peru. Alpaca is from the same family of lamas from which they make the best wool in the world. Her store was always full of people buying wool wear for the harsh winters of Dayton. Bang opposite me was the easiest lady I have ever met and she was Delia from A Little Bit of Mexico who sold the earthen pottery from Mexico rich in designs and colours made so creatively in the form of pots and plates, bowls, etc. I was surrounded by so many cultures and languages and artwork that everyday seemed new to me.
Besides the handicrafts we had some others who sold some real creative things. We had Jon Grahams Pottery where he spun his potter’s wheel and made different types of earthenware for his customers. We also had a Lorry who weaved wicker baskets in the most creative fashion and of course there was Joshua who made garden items like bird houses and tin pots, etc to make gardens look more beautiful. One other astonishing count to the market was the Spice Rack owned by Homer. He had all the spices from around the world. He had spices like chhole mix and cumin and so many more from India too! He often asked me what I thought of them and often gave sachets to try them while cooking. He always kept the aroma lingering through the market.
Every morning we had a great breakfast of hot breads from Gina along with Dan the Organic Man who sold organic vegetables and meat. Our breakfast was always followed by Christine and Robs cheese cakes and a cup of coffee from Steven who owned a coffee shop called Caffeine. The whole two course meal was so sumptuous and satisfying that it gave us energy to go through our busy day. There were a lot of others who made the market vivacious and lively. We helped each other by looking after each other’s stores in case of a busy day or shared our lunch, talked and flourished in our own ways.