The San Jose Flea Market off Berryessa Road is one place I would not miss visiting every time I landed in the Silicon Valley. To me, the market is a perfect place to buy knick-knacks, cheap stuffs and a place to kill your weekend. Yeah, I have heard people say that second hands are sold there; who minds? To me, its a cultural hot pot. Where else would I find Mexicans alongside Chinese and Peruvians and Pakis; selling their wares.
I have loved shopping there; never mind if it really were used stuffs.My first camo print trousers; or the I Love San Francisco T shirts to give it to my friends back home, the $5 Shades, the $5 cotton socks or the $5 fedora. The last time I visited was with Gautam and he freaked out :) I have found genuine Mexican leather belts and Peruvian Lama wool knitted bag there. And many more; ballet shoes, tiny Machu Picchu traditional dolls, Chinese purses......
Anyway, the flea market has always been a mystery to me. Where do all these people come from? Are they legal migrants? Why do they have to sell their wares cheap? Who buys them? Old and broken, used stuffs. Crowds are mostly Mexicans, Indians, African Americans; maybe looking for cheap stuffs.
Anyway, what got reminded me of San Jose Flea market was the novel The Kite Runner. The flea market gets mentioned there. After migrating to US, Amir and his Baba live in Fremont and make some money selling off old wares in the flea market they accumulate as garage sale.
Now I was thinking; those Mexicans, Peruvians, Pakis; did they all migrate to the land of opportunity in search of a better life? Now living in welfare and using food stamps distributed by welfare offices? Living in a part of town allocated for immigrants? May be, was I haggling for a $5 T shirt from such folks? Those withered look on their faces; haggling and bargaining, jarring and loud clothing women and men; selling whatever they could sell away to have a life better than the land they left?
Once when I decided to visit the market alone, I called up Harpal to drop me there. Harpal is a Sikh cabbie in the San Jose area; he deserves a separate post. I instructed him to pick me up exactly 3 hours later. I was not carrying a cell phone. 3 hours later; when I walked out; I realized it would be difficult for Harpal since the section of road was blocked for reason I dont remember. I was not sure if I should wait or not. Public transport is not good in the bay area as NYC or LA. Now I don't know which bus to take back.
It was 6 pm; the sellers were packing and pushing off for the day. Well, I was stranded; not something new I somehow find a thrill in such situations. I noticed a man packing off his things and loading it in his truck. I just requested him if he could drop me back at my hotel; my cabbie has not arrived since the road was blocked. He agreed to my surprise. We got talking on the way; he was from Pakistan. Living for 11 years now; no green card, not a legal settler I guess. He makes his money by selling wares in the flea market. He was so happy after learning I was from India. The talks were about how close and yet how far we are; the bloody K issue, how people are separated and all that emotional talk. There was no bit of animosity in him. He was sweet to drop me at my hotel; why should anyone do that?
Maybe their struggle in life is too huge to hold on to simple grudges and petty issues.