Saturday, 18 February 2012

Crawford Market: If You Can Buy It, They Probably Sell It

If you're a housewife in South Mumbai, Chances are you visit Crawford Market once a week. If you arent, you might just pass it by everyday without seeing the wonder that exists beyond the imposing outer walls. Its one of the few places in Mumbai, and probably the world, where fruits, vegetables, fresh cut meat, dry fruits and even pets are sold under the same roof. For people like my grandmother, its quite a run of the mill place, but for me it was a wonderful experience and something anyone who visits Mumbai should see.
Crawford Market was the first building in india to be lit by electricity, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it looks exactly like it did back then today. As soon as you walk in you’re greeted by eager porters and dazzling displays of fruits laid our neatly in boxes wrapped in gaudy shiny paper. As you venture into its catacomb of retail fruits and vegetable stalls, interspersed with tea stalls, dry fruit vendors and even electronics stores, you begin to see the charm of the organized chaos that characterizes Indian bazaars.
If you survive the onslaught of “Sir, I give you best price”, you eventually reach the wholesale market, flanked by the pet stores and livestock market. If you have ever wondered what a symphony consisting of yapping puppies, chirping lovebirds and haggling Indian women sounds like, this is where you will get to hear it. If you want to see the billy goat gruff sitting by a huge pile of pineapples, this is where you will get to see it. And if you want to buy an endangered species, you might just get it here too. This is definitely the most interesting part of Crawford Market and in summer all you will see are mangoes. Since its February I got to see scores of pineapples papaya and watermelons.
The last part of Crawford market is not for the faint of heart, or stomach. It’s a slaughterhouse where all you can hear is the scores of hungry crows. It is however very interesting, and the absolute lack of hygiene is more than enough motivation for anyone living in Mumbai to swear off meat. As far as I know only chickens are slaughtered here, but you can get most kinds of meat, including pigeons.
Crawford Market is definitely not as clean, organized or convenient as the local supermarket but is defiantly is more charming, unique, interesting and beautiful. The chaos and bustle of this market are what won me over. You might not love what you see, but you love that you saw it.
Fruits at the Entrance

My Grandmother Haggling with the Vegetable Vendor

Payayas everywhere

A Huge Pile of Pineapples

A Puppy at the Pet Store

An Exotic bird for sale

Sheep with Watermelons Piled high in the background


A Wholesale Watermelon Vendor

This Really reminded me of the tale of the three billy goats gruff

More Pineapples

A Playful Cockatiel

Scores of little white mice

Dead chickens being butchered

A Man Skins Dead Pidgeons

Chickens outside the slaughterhouse

A Fat Rooster

Whole chicken being prepared for sale

That cat wants in

A bunny at the pet store

Turkeys at the Pet Store

A Butcher with cuts of beef

A man sleeping in the slaughterhouse

These birds were smaller than my thumb


A Young Strawberry Vendor

The First of The Seasons Mangoes

Neatly Displayed Fruits
A Local Canteen

A Coolie Carries Our Groceries

The One Brilliant Structure

Friday, 17 February 2012

Mumbai's Amazing Street Food: Part 1

I usually hate the sound of steel sliding against steel, but when I'm waiting for my Dosa(stuffed rice crepes), there is no sound more pleasing to my ears. Why? Because it means the dosawalla (person who cooks the dosas) , is sliding his spatula under the dosa, and and rolling it up to serve it. 
One of my favorite dosas is the mysore masala, which is stuff with diced, tomatoes, cilantro, mashed potatoes and two types of chutney, and last night I treated myself to just that. 
The batter for dosas is made of soaked and ground rice and black lentils. this Batter is then spread on a hot griddle and cooked till crisp, and often is stuffed with vegetables, mashed potatoes and sometimes even cheese. It's served with spicy lentil soup, sweet coconut chutney and spicy coconut chutney.
Everybody has a different recipe for this, and every Indian housewife considers herself an expert but the best dosas in my opinion are made by the dosawalla at chandralok, a market close to where I live. Working from a dilapidated bus-stop he whips up delicious dosas with at ferocious speed. Prepared freshly for you to see and piled haphazardly on a plate, the mysore dosa will run you about 80 cents and is worth every penny. Its spicy, hot, crisp, sweet salty and sour, and it always leaves you wanting more. I could go into more mouth watering detail, but a picture is worth a thousand words, so I'll let them do the talking.

Tomorrow, I cover Crawford Market, one of Mumbai's busiest markets, where fruits, vegetables, meat and even pets are sold.
The Dosa Being Served

The Star of This Show

A Dollop of Spicy Mashed Potatoes

The Finished Product

Thursday, 16 February 2012

I Hate Red Tape

A Bulldozer Near the polling station

The BMC, or Mumbai’s municipal corporation, is India’s richest, with an annual budget of over Rs20,000 crores, which equates to about 4 billion dollars, and today the citizens of Mumbai got to decide whether the unscrupulous politicians or the more unscrupulous politicians got to control it. I just wanted to take some pictures and capture the essence of this democratic exercise, involving millions of people.
Unfortunately life is never as easy as it seems, and as usual it threw a wrench in my plans. After reaching the polling booth, I was told I needed a whole range of permissions to be allowed to take pictures, even though I was not infringing anyone’s rights or the functioning of the operation. I was however able to capture a couple of very ordinary pictures before I was turned away.
Nevertheless elections always bring with them a faint ray of hope, hope for change. I hope this time, the change is real and Mumbai can get more of the care it definitely deserves.

PS. I hope I have more sucess covreing some of the street food I love tomorrow

A Poliecman Outside the Ramshacke Polling Station

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

"UNCLEEE, take my picture"

I'm 19, and I'm not used to being called "uncle", so i was pretty surprised when I realized I was the "uncle" being spoken of. It was around 6:30 pm and I had set out with my camera to take a few pictures to upload, when I came across a group of children playing cricket(like baseball, but cool) ,  and was reminded of my receding hairline.

The children who helped me come to terms with my age

I was caught totally off guard, not by them calling me uncle, but by their enthusiasm and lack of inhibitions. I was thinking about whether people would let me take pictures where I was going, but my question was answered less than  5 minutes after I left home.
A short walk past some vegetable vendors , slums and views of the sunset, I had arrived at my destination. Banganga, literally translated to “arrow ganga” is a hotbed of temples, street food and small temple related industry cose to my house. Legend has it, that when Lord Ram was at the spot, his wife Sita needed holy water for her prayers, so his brother, Laxman, shot an arrow into the ground creating a tributary of the Ganga river.
Today the tank, despite not being clean at all, is surrounded by temple on all four sides and is a sight to behold.  Something I noticed here today, that I never noticed before, is the number of people who rely on these temples and their visitors to make a living. Even at dusk, away from the buzz and crowds usually thronging to the area, the area was lively, with impromptu gatherings at the cigarette stores and food vendors discussing the elections, and who was getting whose vote. 
Among all the vendors, the one I found the most mesmerizing was the florist. Sitting inside a glorified closet, he was effortlessly braiding flowers in beautiful garlands to be offered to the gods. I also really wanted to get some of the street food, but fear of dysentery made me refrain. 
Today I got a healthy serving of happiness, perspective and sights I have never seen before, but the thing I'm really thankful for, is the new-found enthusiasm I have to find out more about my beautiful city

The sun sets over the arabian sea

 A Silhouette of Shiva's Temple

A vendor Braids Flowers to Sell Worshipers

The Street Lamps Reflected in The Tank

A Street Flanked By Clotheslines and Slums


Another Sunset

A Proud Cat

A Street Food vendor and Two Curious customers

Monday, 13 February 2012

The Idea

What makes a city a supercity? Skyscrapers? Money? Fame? In my opinion, none of the above. Yes Mumbai has skyscrapers (sort of), money, and fame, but it also has the most important element of a supercity, character. For seven islands, that were given away as dowry, and then leased for £10 an annum, that's pretty good progress.
My idea is simple, capture this character on camera, and share it with the world. Pulling it off wont be, but armed with my alarm clock, camera and running shoes, I intend to give it my best shot.