• Suresh Naganathan

Exploring Mumbai #2 - The Bazaars


Mumbai - 2019

Hi everyone! It's been a few months since my last blog post. Unfortunately, real life took center stage and I had a lot less time to pin down my thoughts. I hope that I can be a little more organized from now on and that I can start publishing my blog a little more regularly (twice a month feels like the sweet spot)!

As I've been away from the streets of Mumbai for almost 2 months (between my house renovations and a long-overdue trip to Switzerland), I thought that a good way for me to reacquaint with the city that's been my home for almost a decade and a half was to write the second installment of my theme "Exploring Mumbai". So join me in exploring the bazaars of South Mumbai.

Mumbai - 2019

Before I got to know the city more thoroughly, the first images that came to my mind whenever I was thinking of South Mumbai were the touristic area of Colaba, the art deco buildings at Marine drive, Chowpatty beach, and all things colonial left behind by the British. But I realized that these were just some of the facets of this historical area.

If you travel a little bit north of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (the beautiful historic railway terminus and UNESCO World Heritage Site), you will enter a whole different world. An old, chaotic, fascinating area filled with bustling markets, beautiful mosques, people, and activities that will start before dawn and will go on well after sunset.

Each bazaar in the area has a different feel: Chor bazaar for example is a chaotic little flea market that comes truly alive on Fridays from 4 AM and offers fascinating sights in its narrow lanes. It's also a wonderful place to buy strange curios from yesteryears.

The area adjacent to Crawford market (closer to CST) has wider roads, lots of activities, and houses the beautiful Juma Masjid.

Other bazaars (Null, Bhendi, etc.) all have their own unique and interesting sights. Although I have mostly gravitated towards Chor bazaar, I like to spend time in all of them. On the days I find myself here, I usually spend at least half a day walking these lanes. A whole day of walking the bazaars is not uncommon for me.

The best way for me to experience these areas has been to walk and get lost. It took me months (if not years) to figure out where a particular road led and many a time, my favorite pictures were taken when I took a turn on a street that led to somewhere unknown. Street photography's superpower is that it forces you to surrender to serendipity and let yourself be open to the infinite possibilities that your surroundings offer you.

The bazaars are one area where I've always felt this superpower most acutely.

I also have a strong sense of urgency to go there: the bazaars have been undergoing tremendous redevelopment over the last few years and some of the features that have been giving them character (the chaotic small lanes of Chor bazaar for example) are slowly giving way to Mumbai's own form of gentrification. Things may look completely different in 5 years and so I feel compelled to take as many pictures as possible in these areas before the urban landscape is altered forever.

If you have decided to explore Mumbai, I highly recommend that you give the bazaars a visit. Although it is a challenging place to shoot (no clean background, loads of people, chaos, tricky light), it is an area where one can observe life unfold in all its messiness and energy. Furthermore, I have always found the people I have encountered to be very kind and well-meaning. Someone even offered me a ring during one of my walks there! And with enough patience, who knows, you might even get a few shots you will be proud of.

Mumbai - 2019
Mumbai - 2019
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Mumbai - 2022
Mumbai - 2019
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Thanks for reading and see you soon!

Suresh

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