With the banner proudly proclaiming 'Patake Rohtak wale', a shopkeeper here seeks to emphasise that crackers at his shop are 'desi' and not Chinese, but for the army of skeptical 'patriots' rummaging through the products, it is nothing but an "eyewash."
Business in markets across Delhi, especially the famed ones of the walled city, have taken a hit as 'patriotic' buyers are refusing to purchase firecrackers which they think are of Chinese origin, while sellers argue that they are not.
Why would I sell Chinese crackers? I am a patriotic person. Not a single cracker in my shop is from China. But how can I make the customers believe that? They come, ask questions and leave the shop empty-handed.
Amit Verma, who has a firecracker shop in Dariba Kalan in Chandni Chowk in Delhi, said,
This is the worst Diwali for me. I am all with my Prime Minister when he says boycott Chinese products. But I want my Indian customers too to trust us.
He says that contrary to profits that would shoot over a lakh in previous years, this year he has barely managed to make a few thousands. Pop-pops or bang snaps, that have always been a favourite as trick noise makers among children, seem to be at the receiving end of a mass boycott this year, owing to their Chinese origin.
I know Chinese crackers. These shopkeepers can't fool me. The pop-pops they are selling are manufactured by a Chinese company. I have been buying them for so many years, but not this time, says a buyer.
He says he would rather not buy crackers at all, than "buying one made by the Chinese."
Most shopkeepers in the area claim that their stock has not been sourced from across the border but from Sivakasi, the fireworks hub of the country. Sanjay, who runs Vasu Fireworks in the area said,
What we are selling is an Indian brand. See for yourself, I have in my shop: Coronation, Scorpio, Jumbo. But what can we do when the customer says it's Chinese?
Even images of Chinese women on the packets act as deterrents for customers, who refuse to believe that the products are Indian.
I never noticed it. But then the customers are. People are refusing to buy boxes with pictures of 'Chinese' girls. But, the product is from an Indian company. I have always bought my crackers from there. I was compelled to return the whole lot and ask the company for a new one, says another seller Umesh.
However, according to some sellers, there continues to be a demand for Chinese crackers because,
Chinese crackers are more fancy and attractive and are about 30 percent cheaper than their Indian counterparts," says Akash Jain, owner of Ramesh Fireworks.