It was in Imphal, Manipur that I discovered Mother-Market or Ema-Market, which is run by women. There are two main markets opposite each other in huge sprawling buildings, which also have places of worship, like a clay-plastered temples of Radha-Krishna and some other gods of the Hindu pantheon. Here, the women-vendors sit in rows with their ware, like food, bamboo and textiles. Everywhere, there were flower sellers, selling mounds of exotic flowers of all colours; along with orchids and purple lotus flowers. While banana-leaves cut into squares or rectangles, were placed next to all types of fruit, vegetables, mostly leafy or with roots, along with eggs, next to a fish market.
Hindu traders were seen with caste-marks, like thin lines in black or vermillion colours, which were painted from the tip of their nose to their forehead. Most women were dressed in their traditional dresses of the sarong-like mekhla worn with a blouse and a shawl or in saris, often with embroidered borders, similar to those worn by Manipuri dancers. They also keep cash or valuables in small embroidered hand bags shaped like a Manipuri dancers dome shaped skirt. They were also seen in transparent pastel coloured saris, embellished with subtle woven flowers, typical of Manipur. The men were dressed in trousers, shirts or dhotis worn with kurtas, while most men were seen in trousers, jeans, T-shirts, sports caps and wearing sport-shoes. Some women were also seen in jeans, kurtis and scarves and riding scooters, complete with helmet. The textile market, also run by women, was very popular; with its variety of colourful fabrics.
Besides cars, buses, taxis, auto-rickshaws, cycle-rickshaws are also used as a popular form of transport in Imphal.
The food markets of Ema-Market are very popular, arranged with benches, where; both men and women were seen eating food in steel plates or banana leaves. The food was cooked right there; in vessels simmering over coal stoves, as their plates were filled with rice, dal or fish-curry with pakode or fritters, fermented fish, dried strips of meat, cooked soya-soup served in paper-cups, along with black-rice kheer. While packaged food like shrimp-paste and pickled apple jam were also available in the market.
Some stalls had fabric dolls dressed in the Manipuri dance attire with male drum-players dressed in dhotis and turbans. Some corners of the bazaar were stacked with bamboo artifacts, knives, spears. Then, there were ritualistic objects made with puffed rice cooked in jaggery; shaped like pyramids or roasted rice flour; ground with sugar, shaped like boxes or made into laddoos.
Most Manipuris love paan, which are available everywhere, so paan, beetle-leaf and chopped beetle nut are supposed to be the perfect ending to all meals. These markets were efficiently run and a perfect example of Women-Power.