We didn’t want to go home, we’d lost everything’

Women vendors of Mao Market, Kohima which recently was razed to the ground by a fire have started business at T Khel Sokhriezie Market. (Morung Photo)

Women vendors of Mao Market, Kohima which recently was razed to the ground by a fire have started business at T Khel Sokhriezie Market. (Morung Photo)

Vishü Rita Krocha
Kohima | May 6

On the fateful night of February 27, when a major fire broke out in the famed Mao Market Kohima, it not only robbed the primary source of livelihood for several women vendors but also took away from them a place of profound sentimental value.

54-year-old Soneinuo had been selling vegetables there since its inception, for the last 18-19 years as she would recall. “The market would come alive as early as 6:00 am in the morning. We spent most of our days there, selling our vegetables sourced from different villages and we were home only in the morning and evening hours. The Mao Market building was like a roof that held a family together”, she related to The Morung Express.

When the fire broke out, all she could think of was how the building that had shaped the lives of many women vendors was now consumed by fire, taking along with it everything they had hoped would sustain their livelihoods.

“That day, I had cast my vote and I was at a funeral when people called to say our beloved marketplace was on fire. I came running and found my friends crying. There were no words to say, we just cried together”, she recollected. There was hardly anything they could do except to helplessly watch the building being consumed by fire.

“We didn’t want to go home. We had lost everything in the fire”, Soneinuo went on to say even as she related further that, “we came back the next day and just watched the building. We sat together and cried. We did that for about a week.”

As the President of the Mao Market Vendors, she bore the greater weight of the loss. “I was grieving for those widows who have no husbands and were totally dependent on the sales of their vegetables at the Mao Market. Some women vendors felt sick and had to be taken care of and I also realised we couldn’t go on like this”, she put across.

Following that, the women vendors prayed and fasted for days together even as she recalled- “we prayed that God would open a way for us”. Sure enough, in mid-March, the T Khel Sokhriezie Market Committee offered their parking space for the 39 women vendors to carry out their business activities.

Rebuilding livelihoods at T Khel Sokhriezie Market
As the 39 women vendors rebuild their livelihoods at T Khel Sokhriezie Market in the aftermath of the devastating fire incident at Mao Market, they are starting all over again. “All of us lost equally”, Soneinuo said while also recalling that “3 white mice were the only things that survived the fire.”

From acquiring trade license to procuring plates, baskets and every single item required to run their businesses, the women vendors only hope that their businesses would soon pick up. It also meant getting used to the new place even as she related, “on the first day, I took a taxi to Mao Market only for the driver to tell me it is no longer there. On realising I must be a vendor, the driver took another round free of cost just to drop me at the new marketplace.”

Over the phone too, she is still unconsciously telling people that she is in Mao Market. Such is the impact of the marketplace I spent years in, she impressed upon. While the new place is definitely not the same, she is deeply grateful to the T Khel Sokhriezie Market Committee for allotting the space for them.

“We are indebted to many people”, she expressed while stating that right from the beginning, many people have helped them either materially or financially, and some through prayers. Making special mention of “Keviyie Seyie, Nino Zhasa, Athikho Cha Family, G. Rio Prayer Fellowship, Er. Mrs. Kezha Theünuo, Mrs. Khrienuo Moa, Dr. Ruovinuo Theünuo, Er. Khriengunuo Theünuo, Mamas by Grace Group, Mrs. Alebu family, and Mrs. Oremboni Ezung family”, Soneinuo said, “we have nothing to give them in return but we pray for God’s blessings on them for the good things they have done.”