Deepavali is just a week away and it’s time for the fire crackers exhibition and sale on Island Grounds. The sprawling setup, nestled along the Cooum River, has in the past few years of its existence become the ‘Ranganathan Street of firecrackers’.
While the cracker shopping scene on the Island Grounds during Deepavali week last year had put many fish markets to shame, this year it promises to be different, say organisers. The authorities claim to have put more effort into safety and seem to have learnt from past mistakes. But many in the city are skeptical about it, especially the firecracker dealers.
While the entire array of stalls last year was crammed into a single roof, this year’s setup will see numerous individual stalls dotting the banks of the Cooum River. Murugan, one of the organisers says, “The shops will be placed away from each other; each stall has been constructed as a well-enclosed makeshift metal structure so that even if there is a fire in a single shop, the damage will be mitigated and the flames will not spread to the other shops. It will also ensure that the buyers will have enough room to browse the area and look through the shops.”
On the scale and preparations this year, the organisers say that a total of 120 stalls have been put up, which is strikingly more than last year’s figure. While several stall owners had complained of poor preparations, a number of their concerns have been addressed. The rain factor, which caused dismal sales last year, has been factored in for this year. “Since the venue is along a river bank, the soil is clayish, so we have dumped a good amount of dry sand to reduce water-logging,” an organiser says. However, many who have rented stalls remain wary and skeptical in spite of the organisers’ claims. Only the coming weekend will reveal whether the venue will endure the heat of Deepavali shopping.
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