Monday, August 20, 2007

Mitumba in India?

What? Never heard of Mitumba? Fret not. Mitumba is the African term for second hand clothes from the western world. In any case you dont have to go that far to experience Mitumba. Come over to Bangalore and on Sundays you can find markets of used clothing in places where there are migrant workers. (Not sure if it happens in other cities.) They create a mess and I am no fan of them, occupying and clogging streets illegally, but I happened to read about how second hand clothing from the US finds its way into Africa in the book, The travels of a T shirt. I had long held a suspicion that clothes that we give out to charities often finds its way into the market in some form or other. This book confirms that view - apparently people give away so many clothes in the US that there aren't enough takers, so it finds its way back into Africa.

In India, I believe, you cannot import used clothing, but I guess some resale happens within the country itself. Not necessarily all from charities, remember the steel for clothes (called bhandiwala in Mumbai - they took used clothes and gave you steel vessels in return) barter? Also, remember those people who mysteriously materialized whenever there was a solar eclipse ( many people believe in donating used clothes post an eclipse), yet wore the same tattered clothes? Perhaps even from the various natural disaster relief camps too. There are a thousand sources and there are markets in everything (a trademark of MR) in India.

But whatever be the route, it all lands up in some of these markets. Shirts for 25 rupees, Trousers for 50, negotiable.

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