With his index finger, Sunil Kumar taps a spot of sticky, gel-like substance on to one end of the tiny plastic straw. Four or five careful blows at the other end, and a bubble begins to take shape. The diminutive hawker ‘plucks’ off the bubble, now the size of a coconut, and tacks it on to the tip of a PVC pipe on his tiny stand.
‘’One piece ten, there’s also a box of 32 pieces, which costs only Rs 300,’’ he invites prospective customers in Hindi. ‘’This is unlike your regular soap bubble, this won’t pop,’’ he adds, stabbing the bubble with a thick needle. He’s right. It doesn’t. Not many visitors to Putharikandam Maidan fall for the Rs 300 kit, though.
Sunil Kumar is one of the many who have made it to Thiruvananthapuram from outside the State hoping to cash in on the Onam market. The number of street vendors flowing in from the northern and eastern parts of the country during festivals here is on the increase, unlike in earlier years, when Tamil faces dominated the visiting hawker population. But things are changing, with north Indians now constituting a large section of the migrant labour population round the year.
Sunil Kumar has come all the way from Patna on his first visit down south. He hopes to make a killing with his ‘Blowing Balloons’ this Onam. Nandikesh, from Rajasthan, has set up shop on the roadside at Fort. His wares are placed on two faded sheets of newspapers; key-chains with fiery-looking plastic chillies, and toy horses for lockets.
Nearby, Ujjal from Kolkata is banking on faith to see him through Onam. The middle-aged vendor is selling religious charms and amulets. ‘’I’m quite familiar with this place. I’ve been here for sometime now,’’ he says, keeping a sharp eye for customers.
Jostling for space on the roadsides with the North Indian faces are the old hands, the visiting vendors from Tamil Nadu. They are mostly garment sellers, cajoling evening shoppers in Tamil-laced Malayalam to have a look.