Criss-crossing narrow lanes, tiny shops spilling with colourful wares, people haggling for a better deal…welcome to the bazaars of India. You can find them everywhere, even juxtaposed against high rises and glitzy malls, these bazaars fiercely hold their own. The bursting metropolis of Mumbai has many such gems hidden in its folds. Care to try the fiery tears-in-the-eyes signature Indian spice mixes? We begin this tour of Mumbai from the Lalbagh spice market. Guntur, Bedki, Reshampatti or Kashmiri; no we are not planning a travel itinerary. These are the names of the variety of chilies one would find in the lalbaug spice market. This market is also home to spice mixes so authentic, which the pickiest grandma would approve.
Here, you can not only buy the spices, but can also get them dry roasted and ground into the masala mix of your choice before your own eyes. It’s not uncommon to see ladies patiently waiting, with bagful of spices and a recipe that has been handed down since generations. This offbeat tour of Mumbai would be incomplete without a visit to the once a well-kept secret and reserved only for the adventurous, the notorious Chor Bazaar.
Chor Bazaar’s literal translation is the Thieves Market, although, it was born on the premise of ‘Shor’ Bazaar, which meant a noisy market. It was named so, because it was used to house mechanics and their repair garages. The British for the greater convenience of their tongue, misnamed it ‘Chor’ Bazaar. Up until recently, this 150 year old Bazaar lived up to its borrowed name, by housing various smuggled goods. It was believed, that if you left your car parked at Chor Bazaar, chances are you’d be seeing parts of your precious car being sold off at various shops within the hour. For the collector there is aplenty – Furniture from the Raj, rare electronics like vintage gramophones, out-of-print LPs, hand-made film posters time – It’s not uncommon to find a genuine antique here.
And if these guys can’t find something for you, it probably doesn’t exist. The Juma or the Friday market here is to behold. So while most of the shops are shut on the day, the street is buzzing with activity. It’s because of the Friday Flea Market. You name the product and it’s available on the street. How many hands they’ve exchanged though, is another matter altogether. The crowds, the activity, the lip-smacking street food, all add to its unique culture.