Johannesburg’s very own little India, very own Mumbai. Fordsburg!!! It smells the same. It sounds the same. It almost looks the same. If you want to buy anything Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi – get a haircut, threading, clothes, accessories, shoes, dvds, creams, hair oils or food — you’ll get it at the Fordsburg flea market.
I’ve been wandering through the flea market for years now. Moving out of home and into a new city, you find a little comfort in a place that reminds you of home. All things Indian. But I looked at it differently this past week when I took friends there for the first time. They were afraid at first at how busy the place gets. There’s people everywhere, you can’t turn without almost bumping into someone. But everybody’s happy here. No moaning, no fussing, nothing. Just smiles and laughs and lots of bargaining everywhere. They were also afraid of the roads. People drive here in Fordsburg as if they’re driving in India. It’s almost as if everyone who drives into Fordsburg forgets that they live in Johannesburg. In South Africa. You hear hooters every other minute, you see cars parked on the road not really caring that they’re blocking the way, and you see people standing on the road happily having conversations with other people. But we made it through the traffic.
The fear now gone, we wander through the market. The smell of spicy, Indian food fills the air. The sounds of Bollywood music blares through the market, combined with the chitter chatter of throngs of people bargaining a good deal. Our first stop, Dosa Hut. Fordsburg is littered with lots of tiny little restaurants serving up delicious Asian food. And Dosa Hut is no different. Our order: Curry, Idlis and masala dosas. The food was divine. The conversation great. Lots of laughs and then we continue to wander. After spending some money (everything is cheap so you want to buy everything. By the time you’re done you realize that you’ve actually spent a lot more than you thought) on monkey nuts, jewellery, barfi, a hubbly bubbly, we went on to find the paan shop we were searching for.
My first time eating paan. The paan guy has a tiny, neat and tidy stall on the sidewalk. We watch him prepare and roll the paan. We then each get to taste. Now I know why people who eat paan are always chewing. It’s too much. It tastes good, but it takes a really long time to chew it. To swallow it. My mouth was not red. Thankfully! We then went in search of the guys selling coconut water. We needed something to drink, to wash it down.
Having had a little too much of the hustle and bustle of the place we decide to head back home to the quieter suburbs. And as is always the case, we’ll be sure to to return some weeks later for our regular “Indian fix”.