Kasmally Rajkumar and her son Ryan are following in the footsteps of their forefathers who have been vending at the Chaguanas Market for more than a century.
“My mom’s been selling for about 50 years, and has taken over from my dad. I am literally a market baby,” Ryan said.
“I’m 31 years, and have been in the market for the full 31 years as my mom used to bring me in a box from birth in order to make an honest living, and I’m not ashamed to say it.”
He used to help out at his parents’ stall during lunch breaks and after school and after completing studies at Jerningham Government, Cunupia High School, The Academic College and CTS College where he obtained a Level 5 Diploma, Ryan got involved in the family business full time.
The youngest of three children, Ryan’s daily routine included leaving home with his mother at 11 pm for Macoya and lining up until 3 am to purchase market produce. However, with public health restrictions now in place they have made arrangements with private gardeners who supply them with produce at 5.30 am, as they now leave home at 5.01 am.
Their stall located in the north-western section of the market is usually stocked with market produce as well as seasonal items for Christmas, Divali and Easter.
During the Hindu month of Shraavana, which typically falls in August, the Rajkumars sell items honouring the annual celebration of brotherhood and love, Brothers Day or Rakhi (Raksha Bandhan). This year’s celebration was on August 22.
A selection of rakhis available for sale at the stall.
During these religious festivities, women and girls honour their brothers or any male who has been kind to them by tying a rakhi bracelet on their wrist. The bracelet is said to protect them against evil influences. In turn, a gift is given which is a promise that they will protect their sisters from any harm.
“We are proud of this occasion,” Ryan said.
Brothers’ Day is followed eight days later by Janmashtami, a festival that is mostly celebrated during the full moon in the month of Shraavana on the lunar calendar.
Raksha means protection, and Bandhan is the verb: to tie. The history of Raksha Bandhan dates back to Hindu mythology. In Mahabharata, the great Indian epic, Draupadi, wife of the Pandavas, tore the corner of her sari to prevent Lord Krishna’s wrist from bleeding (he had inadvertently hurt himself). A brother and sister bond developed between them, and he promised to protect her.
The rakhi bracelet is made of red and gold silk threads interwoven, and at times embellished with beads and stones. It is believed that when a woman ties a rakhi around the hand of a man it becomes obligatory for him to honour his religious duty and protect her. Traditional stories state that rakhis are blessed with sacred verses and are encompassed by them.
Sometimes rakhis are consecrated in rice and grass before they are given, and they are traditionally tied by people familiar with the Vedas. Following these customs, the rakhi is believed to remove sin from one hand and provide safety to the other. The protection offered by a rakhi is believed to remain for a year.
As the rakhi is tied, a prayer is offered asking for happiness and prosperity. Once the rakhi has been tied a mantra is chanted either in Sanskrit or Punjabi. At the end of the ceremony the sister places a sweet in her mouth.
The festival has evolved over the years to encompass the importance of many people in Hindu society but continues to honour and uphold the relationship between a sister and brother.