People tend to hate guides, I don’t quite understand. Yes is can be nice to roam around with no head and tail, but sometimes it’s nice to have somebody to ask and get first hand information. That’s why I had booked a tour with Mumbai Magic, to do their bazaar walk. It was me and Max from Australia and famous Crawford Market was our starting pont. The market houses a wholesale fruit, vegetable and poultry market. One end of the market is a pet store. – YUK – Imported items such as foods, cosmetics, household and gift items are plentiful as well.
Because of Diwali, all the fruit sellers were busy making fruit baskets – a popular Diwali gift. In fact I was rather surprised to see this, as sweets seem to play an important role during Diwali. I didn’t want to see more poultries-ready-to-slaughtered, but I managed to see some of the puppies. And well, they seemed slightly better off than the poultry I had seen in Colaba market some days earlier.
It was 11 am when we met and the inside of Crawford market was manageable. No sun and not too crowded. – It’s still quite early, the guide said reassuringly. But when we, after some time, came out and ventured further on to the cloth market it was as if the whole area had exploded. Even the guide was overwhelmed, but after all – we were in the midst of Diwali. Just think about Stavanger or any other place the day before Christmas eve, people shopping like we were close to the end of the world.
But then we escaped into the Mangaldas cloth market, a world of colours. Again we got shelter from the sun… The market sells all kind of fabrics – preferably wholesale. Having a stall here is priceless. As I was in the hands of a guide, AND a man…., there wasn’t really time to stop and admire and spend – something I hadn’t really expected. I just wanted to get an overview, and go back on my own some time because we had a tight schedule.
I was very curious about Zaveri Bazaar, the market for gold, silver, diamonds and precious gems. And again, it was Diwali and people were buying gold, as well. And even more so, this was The Auspicious Day for buying gold. The street was a little bit more than crowded, it was absolutely packed with people, cars, carts, bicycles – and the odd cow. Jewellers were lining the street. – Look around you, said the guide. – Do you see any police, guards, security? The shops have gold worth God knows how much, but security is scarce.
A few years back I wouldn’t have given Indian jewellery even a quick glance… And if so, I would have said too much. I tend to like simple things made of silver. Something has changed though…is it called assimilation?
Have a look at an Indian bride, all dressed in red, red and white bangles, fabulous jewellery – it’s quite overwhelming, and I can understand Indian women’s addiction for gold. Myself I could never extinguish an imitation from a real peace of jewellery. But imitations are very common. An imitation would probably start to itch on my body though….
– Indian women think about gold as their birth right, the guide says. I’m thinking of adopting this birth right!
I couldn’t resist asking the guide about beads…. even though I realised Max wouldn’t bee so keen… But we easily found beads in this area and I got a card from an interesting seller, promising myself to come back…. next time (when you already have 1,4 kg of beads in your suitcase, you simply do not go for more….). So we visited the Mirchi Galli (spices market), the Phool Galli (Flower Street), and finally Mumbadevi Temple. Inside the temple area I came across a shop selling incense and what is called dhoop: incense powder. I got some really nice dhoop and have already asked friends in Mumbai for more…. Can one be addicted to a smell? definately!
What really made an impact was the cow shelter… the Panjra Pole. A shelter for homeless cows, where else than in India would you find such a place? They were well kept, sweet (!), all were named after godesses and came when called for (ie. they recognised their name). We fed them, admired the young ones and well, thought about the homeless people on the streets of Mumbai… How could we not! They were even protected from paparazzis; no photos allowed.
These markets are really fantastic, don’t go for the markets aimed for tourists. This is where real Indian LIFE unfolds. I spotted a wedding taking place right there, on the street. A barber on the street. A cheerful group of women enjoying a cup of chai, – in the middle of their Diwali shopping? And an outdoor chapati bakery.
People are in general very nice, they don’t push goods upon you, you can really enjoy being the observer. After almost 4 hours I felt drenched, all I could think of was a shower. But wow did I enjoy…………….