From distant corners of the country such as Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh and West Bengal, Tibetans come to Lake City to gladden the hearts and warm the bodies of Udaipurites and others with winter wear. They put up the Tibetan Woollen Clothes Market at Samore Bagh near the famous Gulab Bagh. Warmed by soft sunlight during the day and with a canopy of bright stars shimmering in the clear blue sky at night, the market is a place which offers the customers a wide range of woollen apparel.
Tibetan families that come from different cities spread all over the country such as Rawangla (Sikkim) Simla, Dehradun and Mcleodganj set up over fifty stalls in a rectangular area. The largest number of families hail from Simla followed by Dehradun.
As is the custom prevalent in the market, three office bearers are elected through secret ballot. It is mainly their responsibility to look after the smooth running and security of the market.
Stall holder Dhayern, who has been coming to Lake City for over 25 years, hails from Simla and is a weaver of woollen carpets back home. They are made on order and then marketed through an association. He fondly remembers the days decades ago when the woollen market was located opposite Ashok cinema near Surajpole. He feels that Udaipurites are nice peace loving and hospitable folks. Among a huge variety of other items, his stall has on offer fur wear and shawls with heavy work. So also reversible stoles that are extremely suitable for social occasions such as parties and functions. Also for sale are ladies cardigans and sweat shirts.
Over fifty-year old Tsering Dhondup, who hails from Delhi, studied up to class 12 in Mussorrie and has been putting up his stall at Samore Bagh, Udaipur for the last 25 years. To escape the sweltering heat of the Indian capital in summer, he puts up a bag and ‘chapal’ shop at Haridwar in Uttrakhand.
Young Dolma who comes from Sikkim says that her stay has been highly enjoyable. She resides at Raoji Ka Hatta, in the heart of the town as do other Tibetan families and is highly impressed with the affectionate nature of the people in the vicinity. In most of the shops, the owners have helpers whose main job is to fold the items quickly especially during rush hours.
Regular buyers admire the new designs and wide variety of clothes that are not available at any other place. They find the price quite reasonable. The one big difference that they find here in this market is that customers are treated with utmost courtesy and the businessmen are never tired of showing all the varieties. They also find that shopping in this market is a highly profitable and enjoyable experience.
An official reveals how it is possible to provide a wide range of products of high quality at competitive rates. Hectic activities start in right earnest long before the four-month seasonal business in winter. Families of the traders visit apparel makers in markets of Ludhiana and Delhi to order for the required goods. Each family that has a stall meticulously prepares a list of items based on the trends in the previous season and likely demand in the coming one. In hot summer, the family meets the big wholesale dealers and involves them in the final selection. Then orders are placed in the month of July. A part of the payment is made in advance. The remaining amount of money is paid when the Tibetans return home after the end of the winter season. Another reason for the popularity of this market is the shift to fixed rate system to avoid competition between stall holders. Fixed price and no bargaining makes the customers feel that they are not cheated. Towards the end of the season a fixed discount is given to the customers.
The sales in the market pick up after Diwali as then people have more time to visit the market. The duration and severity of winter also has effect on the sales.
There is a strict dress code. Tibetan ladies have to wear traditional dresses whereas helpers can be in ‘Salwar Kurta’.
So congenial do the Tibetans find the ambience of Lake City that there is a tinge of sadness when they return home after their four-month sojourn here.