By Sreya Basu, IANS,
Kolkata : If you are an animal, bird or plant lover, a visit to the weekly market at Shakher Haat on north Kolkata's Galiff Street is a must on a Sunday morning.
The market brings together an unending variety of animals - from dogs, cats, rabbits and white mice to birds and fish - besides a vast range of flowering and decorative plants.
"This is the oldest animal market of the city. Most of the animal and plant sellers have been doing business here for generations," Shankar Jana, who sells dogs and rabbits, told IANS.
"Earlier the haat used to be held at Hatibagan and Grey Street (in central Kolkata)," he added.
Showing off his stock of Spitz, Alsatian, Doberman, Dalmation, Golden Retriever And Labrador puppies to an enthusiastic teenager, Jana said: "Over 2,000 people visit this market every Sunday morning. Here, one gets the best buy at the cheapest price.
"Take my case for instance. I sell good breeds of dogs for Rs.1,500 whereas a professional breeder will start at Rs.8,000 for the same breed," Jana added.
Asked about the reason for the low prices, Jana said: "We buy our stock from (neighbouring) rural areas. Thus, we charge only Rs.40 for a good pair of rabbits or white mice."
Moving with the crowd brings one to the bird section of the market where cages with lovebirds, cocktails, pigeons, javas (sparrows) finches and budgerigars adorn the two sides of the street.
On bargaining, one can pick up a pair of lovebirds for Rs.600, budgerigars for Rs.100, javas for Rs.500, or a pigeon for a mere Rs.30.
If you are lucky, you may also return home with a swan for Rs.600 and ducklings for Rs.30 each!
"To get the best buy, make sure that the feathers of the birds are clean and smooth and there are no bald spots around the head and neck," said Riya Dey, a regular visitor of the market who has 26 lovebirds and 20 cocktails in her house.
Under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, indigenous birds like parrots are banned from sale.
"However, exotic species like javas and lovebirds don't com under the preview of the Act," said West Bengal additional principal chief conservator of forests Pradip Kumar Ray.
Continue browsing the haat and the fish section unfurls a riot of colours in beds of yellow sand, coloured pebbles and greens. Goldfish, Black Molly, Highfin Variegated Platy and Angelfish are the most popular buys here.
Those with a green thumb come looking for crotons and flowering plants like hibiscus, roses, jasmines, lilies and orchids. Besides, seeds and saplings are also available for as cheap as Rs.5.
Once you enter the market, you can rest assured of not returning alone - but with an animal, a fish, a bird or a plant.