SAMREEN RAZZAQUI | 17 FEBRUARY, 2020
Banjaras of Gurgaon: Photo Essay
It’s safely said that this place is quite matriarchal in nature
Gurgaon is known for its corporate work culture, multinational companies and glassy high-rises. Amidst this urban lifestyle thrives a culture distinct from the rest of the suburban, in the Banjara Market in Sector 56.
The market is in direct contrast to the rest of the city and its dominant culture. These “workplaces” are home for them, literally. It’s where they cook, eat and sleep as well as earn. Most strikingly, the Banjaras here live in a city of immigrants without sacrificing their own culture, habits and lifestyle. The sense of community is proud and strong, and it shows.
You stare at the reflections of the shiny, hand-painted vintage artefacts in the muddy waters trickling along the market lanes. Rich residents in Nike sneakers negotiate with barefoot Banjara women in their Hasli anklets. Kids comfortably seated in their baby-seats in SUVs look at kids dancing on auto-rickshaws. Behind the roofs of huts the tall skyscrapers stare at you. The Banjaras stare right back into their eyes, unafraid.
Lead like a woman
It’s safely said that this place is quite matriarchal in nature. It’s predominantly the women of the tribes running the show. Women of all ages are involved in all the tasks performed in the market through the day – whether setting up, painting, cleaning, negotiating, dealing, cooking, selling or simply supervising. Unhesitant in their interactions, they are affectionate and amiable yet fierce. They belong to different age groups but appear tied together with a common thread, of similar styles of dress and accessories, and a sense of community.
Merriam-Webster defines subculture as “the cultural values and behavioral patterns distinctive of a particular group in a society”. That Banjaras have social, ethnic and other traits distinctive enough to distinguish themselves from others within Gurgaon society points toward the need for further anthropological research on this social group across India.