This infamous greeting, redundant as it is, was made infamous during a time of innocence.
But not easily gone, the greeting still greets the streets.
With the new millennium, a crop of so-called educated-elite began ridiculing the obvious.
But stubbornly, the greeting persists.
The once informal and polite marketplace greeting became the most derided expression – because we began to feel self-conscious for stating the obvious, rather shamefully.
As if other forms of greetings were more sophisticated. After all, in how many ways can one say Have a Good Day and See Ya and not feel somewhat funny about it?
But we began feeling superior – suffering from the shame of superiority – another refined complex.
And for the pompous, it became an embarrassment best left to an age long gone past, and forgotten.
Rather clumsily, we wanted to sound chic.
We failed to realize that the source of the expression was actually a residue from a time of strong mutual understanding and interdependent existence as equal members of smaller communities.
Where the village was your world and your world was the people in it; with whom you crossed paths on any number of outings. One hardly ventured far off from the village without the proper context – taking the cows a-grazing or collecting firewood.
And on the daring seasonal hunts for mushroom, herb and wild berries. Not that you spoke to the inanimate, but if you did come across a woodcutter or a gatherer, you did indeed, asking the obvious.
“Shamu Towa Inna?”
Your world wasn’t yet invaded by needless information coming at hundred gossips a click.
Then, an outing to the neighboring valley required the most legitimate reasons, for you used up valuable time and resource you could not spare. Where you either stayed put for years on end or you went really far away; rarely heard of again.
The expansion of the community and the advent of market culture replaced the barter trade, which gave the inhabitants a necessary but a pseudo-serious activity to a brand new place known as the Bazaar.
This influx of an abundance of substandard but necessary products made you haunt the bazaars, where invariably you’d run into your hitherto Spartan brethren, now humming the lines Bazaar Inna to an inane oddity.
The sturdy men and women of old now experienced an embarrassment of indulgences and an embarrassment of greetings.
The useful but inferior products in the marketplace might have made life easier, but it made us lazier; it saved more time for the ones with an abundance of time, making the mind wander, purchase, hoard, and materialize.
And with our innate Buddhist sensibility, this new awareness became a subtle source of gross embarrassment.
The former farmer, herdsmen, weaver, carpenter and gatherer met in the marketplace among the generic products of puffed rice, canned mushrooms, matchboxes, magic lighters, and plastic chairs.
This new setting made them awkward.
The abundance was vulgar.
The sudden availability of plastic riches filled their organic homes.
This market of pseudo-empowerment became akin to a stage where a real hunter is embarrassed to ‘act’ as a hunter in the face of a new power who knows nothing about hunting.
But so far, we have managed to hold on to the greeting.
The Times They Are A-Changing but not so badly that you cannot connect with a suspicious looking character who happens to be your neighbour. Or the parking fee collector who turns out to be your best buddy’s childhood friend.
Strange are our connections, and stranger still our greetings.
Now comes the time when you realize the power in the words of those elders who still choose to greet someone in the marketplace with the obvious “Bazaar Inna?”
The next time you hear it; consider yourself fortunate. Try to sense in those lines the richness in the souls of the past. If we carry over that bit of sensibility, then a small flame of old world courtesy can still light up the faceless chaos we find ourselves in.
When there would be no body to even say “Kuzuzangpo”; much less “Bazaar Inna?”
Contributed by Karma Wangchuk is a member of VAST. A freelance writer and artist who occasionally contributes to the Yallamma Page on Facebook.