Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Visit to Mumbai Chor Bazaar

The thing about Singapore is that things mostly 'do as directed', the country moves like an efficient algorithm, buses stop at bus stops and no where else, nobody breaks the traffic laws... but us Indians(waise this is one sure sign of identification for us desis) even the weather is constant, while the people move about like robots, expressionless.

Though this is good for the economy, law and order and related boring stuff, for a blogger like me it's not appealing, because I write about stuff going wrong, things and people out of place, people doing weird stuff. So for the last few days, I login to blogger.com and just stare at the screen(fear of the boss is not here now, as I have begun serious work and can justify myself... if only I can sound convincing enough) Finally I have given up on Singapore... albeit temporarily, and am going to recount a visit to Mumbai.

After psentisem, and during the holidays, some of my friends had come to Goa to revisit their PS days. After 2 days in Goa, they were to visit Mumbai and I decided to tag along too. This aroused the ire of my parents, but I managed it. So we reach Mumbai, and though one of the conditions my Mom out forth was that we'd stay at a friend's place(sorry mom!!! what can I do these guys told me so) we stayed at a small little hotel on Grant Road. Now this wasn't on purpose, but as luck would have it, this little stretch of tar was famous for all the wrong reasons. I suppose I needn't say any further, and further on telling a friend who stays in Mumbai about our accommodation, he was shocked as to how we found a decent place there.

We ate at a nice restaurant, went bowling at a mall... blah blah blah. Not that it was boring, just that I wanted to see the real Mumbai. So instead of going to Marine Drive later(now that's a paradox right.. hehe) I chose to go with Ranjot on the Local Trains, and it was an awesome experience. I mean if there was one more person inside, half a dozen people would have suffocated. There were people everywhere, of all shapes, sizes and colours... but white. :)

After this, when we were returning home late night in a taxi, the driver, as part of out casual conversation, told us about the Chor Bazaar very near our hotel. The bazaar 'opens' every Friday and the 'timings' are from 4am to 7 am. I just had to go there, Ranjot and Chintoo too shared the same sentiments.

So after dinner, at pseudo-Delhi Darbar at 2am(this was after the first restaurant was too full for us to enter) that reminded me of the Amchi Mumbai song.. 'Raat Ko Baraa' Baje, Din Nikalta Hai, Subha Ke Chhae Baje raat Hoti Hai'. Damn good. We slept, with an extremely hopeful alarm at 4am.

We did wake up at 4, but the forces were not aligned properly so heartless gravity just pulled us down again(not our fault man, it was nature's imbalanced forces). Next thing I remember, Ranjot was awake and sitting next to me, looking like a soldier exhausted after battle. It was 7 and the force within him was weak. I couldn't let him down, so I mustered up all my strength and awoke. Chintoo as usual had to be slapped awake. No this wasn't unkind, even after a 12 hour sleep that's exactly how he wakes up.

So we walk to the bazaar, and though I was prepared(all I had on me, were my clothes and Rs. 300 tucked deep into my pocket with my hand in contact with it at all times, I had left even my ring back in my room) The site was too good to be true.

Anything anyone has ever lost in India could be found there. I was ridiculous, silly and fascinating. The most expensive watches, and even the cheapest ones displayed together. CDs, games, electronic stuff, clothes.. anything at all. The bazaar was basically a series of 'galli's' intertwined and with several openings onto the main roads. The stench was bad but bearable. But despite all this we couldn't find any shoes. Not that we reallt wanted to buy any, but just dekhne ka mann tha.

So on inquiring, we were directed towards a "Red Galli" which was like shoe-hell. All shoes that have ever sinned were sent here. I thought I knew to identify branded shoes, but I gave up. Really expensive looking shoes were being taken out from old gunni bags and rucksacks.

One curious thing I noticed, was the existence of a code among these 'chors'(for lack of a better word). Despite the fact that all this was stolen, or imported 'maal' and no price tag existed, the prices were constant everywhere. When I jokingly said that a friend had bought stuff from here for less, and that I had brought less money, I was told that the friend was lying and-not so politely- was asked to return with correct information and more money. No shopkeeper has ever said that to me, let alone a 'chor', but I appreciated the invisible and unwritten code that they all followed.

It was late already... 8.30 am and the stalls startedclosing down. On the way I saw the other thing that Grant Road was infamous for... I think you can guess by now. Not too close to the hotel we passed by one such 'kothi'(hope I spelt it right). Thankfully it was morning and there wasn't much activity... at least no on the outside. But there were a few... I guess having finished their work, out to wash their clothes. I was walking past just looking around, when a woman's stare caught my eye. I was caught totally unaware. It was a cold stare that went right through me and left me cold... the kajal around here eyes made it even worse.

I fumbled on a stone, and was thankful for the release from the spell. But this was one of those things when you just have to look back and I did. She had gone back to her chores. I heaved a sigh of relief and walked back to the hotel... my pace slighltly quickened.

About Me

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I am Arjun P. Kamath, and I am a nice guy to know.