It’s hard to believe that the now posh cosmopolitan neighbourhood of Dupont Circle was once home to a slaughter house and a brickyard. There had also been a creek, Slash Run, within a block of Dupont Circle, but the creek has since been enclosed in a sewer line.
I loved to stay at Dupont Circle whenever I got a chance to go to Washington, courtesy of my former employees. Early morning before work or after work I’d wander around with my camera and took a large number of photos. Some I’ve misplaced but here’s some from the ones I have found.
From the vantage point of my hotel room sipping my Sri Lankan tea, I’d watch the people saunter in for their quintessential brew at Starbucks. Everyone kept more or less to themselves — in their own capsules, not talking, not smiling, basically minding their own business as they do in big cities. Not quite like our famed “kopi kade” where anybody’s business was everybody’s business.
The Circle is named after Samuel Francis Du Pont, in recognition of his service as a rear admiral during the Civil War. The surrounding area is full of historical houses, cafe’s, Museums — like the Phillips Collection with its Renoir’s famous “Luncheon at the boating Party” plus works of many other famous artists. A bit further away on Embassy Row is Gandhi’s statue. I remember spending hours trying to get the light right on some buildings and the Gandhi statue but just can’t find them now!
The Dupont Circle Farmer’s Market held every Sunday morning is very much more posh than our humble farmer’s “Pola” but the concept is the same. The farmers’ come early to set up shop and offer for sale fruits and vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, fresh cheeses, fruit pies, Jams, breads, fresh pasta, cut flowers, potted plants, soaps and herbal products etc.
The bread queue was the longest but most orderly and reminded me of the mid 1980’s in Sri Lanka when we queued up as early as 5:45 am to make sure we got ahead in line for our fresh loaves of bread. We took our own cloth bag kept solely for the bread, no plastic bags then. Here in DC, it was either wrapped in brown paper or you held out your own bag. Something else was different – In Lanka we spoke with others in the queue while waiting for the shop to open — we grumbled about the high cost of living, the current political issues, illnesses and deaths in our families and laughed at the expense of the politicians. Putting aside these thoughts, I would get fresh bread, very sinful, very fatty but absolutely delicious almond croissants and then cross over to buy fresh goats cheese and tomatoes for my lunch.
We don’t have fresh made soaps at our Sunday markets but we do have good old Sri Lankan specials like Kohomba (using neem — my favourite) and the other long time best seller the Rani Sandalwood soap now has a gorgeous shower gel too. I suppose its all about packaging and customer relations as this seller knew his customers and had a friendly word for everyone.
In place of our Sri Lanka”s Virindu singers who sing improvised poems to the beaten melody of a rabana, on trains and bus stands to earn a living, here there were these two gentlemen providing the music and the case open on the ground for the contributions.
No, its not quite the same as our village sunday markets — the displays, the temporary tents of the sellers, at Farmer’s market sets them apart from our village markets but then who knows — paddy farmers now come to their fields in motorbikes in Sri Lanka, and we now have clean streets, so maybe — just maybe in the future our humble “polas” might go posh too.