By Malaika Mathew Chawla, 13
Jalebi Ink recently invited me to do another assignment for My Mohalla.
This time after thinking about what to do, I decided to interview the people who sell different wares on Bazaar Road in Bandra, Bombay. Bandra is the suburb where I live. Bazaar Road is a narrow lane in the old part of the neighbourhood with wooden balconies and staircases in houses. I and my mother both visit Bazaar Road often to stock up on groceries and other stuff…. you can find vegetables, fruits, spices, paapads, cereals, idli and dosa mixes, wooden frames, glass bangles, hair clips, household wares… everything under the sun, actually.
I decided to meet some people I have seen many times and even bought things from. Like the Picklewala, Chakkiwala, Koli women ( fisherwomen), a glass bangle and hair band seller. But as I walked around, I came across many other interesting people who I had not noticed earlier. I came across old buildings – built more than seventy years back and funky wall art…
I landed up in Bazaar Road on a Sunday morning. It was a beehive of activity. We had to weave our way through a lane crammed with baskets full of vegetable, fruit, spices… plump red tomatoes, orange pumpkins and carrots, bunches of diferent kinds of saag, fresh green bunches of dhania and pudina leaves with yellow lemons, long and thin mooli (raddish), beans and bhindi. It was like a feast for our senses. There were sights and smells of different kinds of foods and colours. There was the musky scent of melons at one point. Then we became aware of the rich clove and pepper smells from the spice sellers. And the appetising smell of fresh bread from the bakeries.
This bustling market place is on Bazaar Road which, I now know, is a historic place and is built in an old style of a Goan/ East Indian village neighbourhood, with people living close to their neighbours and knowing them well.
As I entered the market, I came to the Crystal Tea and Masala Shop. The owner of this small shop was Mr Naushad. He is 57 years old and has been selling spices like turmeric, cumin and coriander, and tea leaves for the past thirty years. Earlier, he used to work as an accountant with Rajshree Pictures. He lives above his shop. Mr Naushad enjoys his work and always wanted to be in this business. He has two children. His son is a computer engineer in USA and his daughter is a model. He speaks Gujarati and has lived in Bandra his entire life. He studied in St Aloysius School in Bandra and recounted an incident when a teacher had caned him, as a punishment for a firecracker hitting a girl. This has remained an enduring memory. He buys his wares from the wholesale market and earns Rs5,000 a month. He opens his shop at 9am and closes for lunch at 2pm. After a siesta, he is open from 5pm to 8pm. He told us people do not buy loose tea leaves any more as everything comes packaged. So his business has not been doing well.
Right next to Mr Naushad was a flour grinding shop. Here sits one of the most interesting people I have met in Bazaar Road — Mr Salem, the chakkiwala (flourmill owner). Looking at him, you will think it has been snowing in Bandra. He is always covered in white flour. People come to him with whole wheat grains and he crushes them and makes it into atta (wheat flour). Mr Salem sells atta for Rs 3.5 per kg. He is 25 years old and has been working here for ten years. He gets about a hundred customers daily and works 12 hours a day.
He says he likes Bandra because “yahaan public solid hain” (“people are nice here”). He is good at driving and would have been a driver, if he had not had the flour mill. He has studied till SSC level. “I was a good football player in school,” he told us proudly.
My next stop was at Mr Fakruddin, the bangle and knick-knack seller. He was there withy his wife today. I buy my hair clips, bands and sometimes junk ear rings from him for as little as Rs5 and Rs10. He has an amazing collection of beautiful glass bangles in all colours.
As I went through the gullies of Bazaar Road looking for interesting people, I spotted a man painting butterflies sculpted out of wood and some strange looking yellow tubes. I stopped to ask him what he was doing.
He said he was a fisherman. But since fishing activity has gone down due to the recent oil spill, to make some money, he does wedding décor. The tubes were flower holders for wedding ceremonies. His name was Sanji Kalicharan.
Further ahead, I came across a dhobiwala — Baburao Diwakar. He was ironing clothes with a hefty, large metal iron which had coals in them. He irons over two hundred clothes a day. He bought his iron from Dadar. He told us that he uses ten kilos of coal every day.
My walk was almost coming to an end by now. The sun was mercilessly beating down and I was feeling a bit hot. I decided to take refuge in the fish market, which has a covered ceiling.
My mother and I come here several times in the month to buy fresh catch from the sea. The fish sellers are all women. They are called Kolis and are the oldest inhabitants of Bombay. They wear colourful sarees, and beautiful jewellery like nose rings and lots of glass bangles. And they talk loudly, shouting out their wares, and price, calling out to customers walking by. And they laugh loudly too. I like watching them. At the market, I met Janabi, Lalitha and Bhagirathi. They were selling many types of fish and seafood like mackerel, pomfret, ravas (salmon), shrimps, prawns, lobsters and crabs.
In the corner there was a man on a cycle-like contraption who was sharpening the knives of the fisherwomen.
I had thought this would be the last stop but on my way back, I just had to make a stop at Fakhruddin Frames. I met Mr Fakhruddin who is 64 years old and sells wooden, acrylic and plastic frames. He also stocks aluminium and plastic mirrors. His shop is eighty years old.
It was stimulating to see people from different walks of life who give Bazaar Road colour and character. I returned home energised. Here are some more pictures from my walk on Bazaar Road — interesting graffiti, a ‘Seahorse Boys Club’, old buildings, children in doorways, wall art… you should come to Bazaar Road some day.