Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Photo Essay - Flower market in Madurai

Walking through a flower market almost anywhere in India is quite a fascinating experience.

There's sackfuls of flowers - the centre of all the trading activity between wholesalers and retailers.

You can buy them in kilos. They are picked up in handfuls and weighed in the most simple scales.

This flower market in Madurai is a relatively new construction, quite different in its ambience from a traditional flower market, which would often have a thatch or tiled roof and would invariably be in the centre of town. The old flower market which is now shut down was located close to the famous Meenakshi temple.

The loading and unloading of nature's bounty as people live their daily lives in prayer and in work.

The new brick and concrete construction offers spacious stall space and rooms for storage. The old market spaces had their own charm and organic planning.

I am including below a link to an article in the Times of India, June 24, 2012 on: Madurai flower market exploding in colours

Bazaar tours in India :
Bazaar Tour 1 : Dadar Flower Market, Mumbai
Bazaar Tour 2 : Antique market, Mumbai
Bazaar Tour 3 : Varkala, Kerala
Bazaar Tour 4 : Gandhi Bazaar, Bangalore

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

How "green" is our bazaar?

The only reason to ask the question 'How "green" is our Bazaar?' is that so many of us who have replaced the traditional bazaar in our lives with the contemporary mall and who shop once a week at the 'Fruits & Vegetables' sections of SPAR, or Reliance Mart or Food World, believe that we have little choice, since the old bazaars of the city are dirty, unhygienic and congested places.

The city's fruit and vegetable markets may not be today's ideal urban selling spaces but they have been environments that are more respectful of resource use and have also been patterns of development that have had sustainable characteristics. Therefore, we need to be more aware of how green the bazaar is and why. Simultaneously, we can start working on how to make it easier for the vendors or the municipal authorities to keep our bazaars cleaner and more hygienic.
Inside the Poorna Market at Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh

If we were to look for what is "green" in the Indian bazaar, this is what one observes :
1. Containers of the flowers being sold at Poorna market in Visakhapatnam are mostly bamboo baskets.
2. Shopping bags are still either cloth bags, recycled plastic bags and recycled rice jute bags
3. The roofing provided in an open marketplace to provide shade from the sun is often jute fabric.

It is not that plastic has not entered the market here. However, the people have not yet given up completely on using the cloth or the jute bag to shop for vegetables. At a city supermarket in India, it is less common to see the use of these bags because it is easier for the supermarket to pack and bind the commodities in their own plastic bags at the billing counters, to be checked once again by the security as you exit, in order to prevent pilferage.

The shelter for the vegetable stalls in many towns and cities in India are palmyra umbrellas. It is also common to see shelters made with casuarina poles and canvas sheets as at the Weekly market in Theni

As shown below, in our vegetable stalls, we have always used small bamboo baskets for choosing the vegetables we want to buy and handing them over to the vendor to have them weighed.

In the image below, this lady caters to the vendors in the bazaar, who buy large baskets for holding the produce for sale and the small baskets for customers to pick up their fruits and vegetables for purchase. When one looks at the different markets in small and large towns and cities, one finds that there are many livelihoods in a bazaar that depend upon one another and together make way for an ecological approach to living.

Of course, these are only the visible options that confirm that products and processes in our traditional bazaars have always sought environment-friendly solutions. We have yet to study how producing, transporting and consuming food can be responsible for climate change and for polluting our environment. For instance, buying directly from producers, as in the Rythu Bazaars of Andhra Pradesh may be a good way to source fresh, seasonal produce and reduce packaging. Making fewer shopping trips by car to the Supermarket may also help reduce congestion and local air pollution. We could avoid unnecessary or excessive packaging of fruits and vegetables and help reduce the waste we generate whilst shopping for our food.

Coming back to our need for a cleaner & more hygienic bazaar, a few days ago, i was outside the Russell Market, one of Bangalore's oldest fruit and vegetable markets. There was a truck from the Municipality that was loading the garbage to be taken away. It was parked in a side lane, just outside the side entrance to the market. This side lane seemed like a lane devoted entirely to the garbage of Russell market. The carting away of the waste from the market is done two times every day. The truck picks up garbage once at seven in the morning and a second time at two-thirty in the afternoon. This is taken away to a garbage dump yard at Devanahalli.

Some questions come to mind here :
How do we better the working conditions of the men who take away the garbage?
How can the process of moving the garbage from where it is disposed by the vendors to its place in the truck be improved so that there is less litter and a cleaner environment surrounds the market entrance and exits?
What happens to the garbage after it reaches the dump yard at Devanahalli? Is the organic waste from the bazaars of Bangalore being converted into vermicompost?

In the summer, when the mangoes arrive into the city, they are unloaded for sale in the wholesale and retail markets.
After the unloading of the mangoes has been done, the truck leaves the market and the hay remains there much longer than it should. It is in these minor details of the day-to-day functioning of the bazaar, where interventions by the municipal authorities to enforce cleanliness would be useful.

This flower market at Georgetown in Chennai is a typical example of a a street bazaar in South India. It may be true that our fruit, vegetable and flower markets are often unclean, unhygienic and crowded places compared to a SPAR or a Reliance Mart outlet. We could work towards understanding the sanitation regulations, the drainage systems, the increasing vehicular traffic and the need for parking facilities. Supposing we study Food World or SPAR's efficient back-end operations and see how much of it we can use in our bazaars, maybe we can improve upon them a bit?

I welcome all thoughts/comments on how our bazaars could be made cleaner and more hygienic.

p.s. At the Hampi Conservation Conference early this year, an observation by a Dutch photographer who is a resident of Hampi : "India has a real problem about garbage. Maybe it has perhaps something to do with the caste system, where people think low of someone who thinks about garbage or would do something about garbage".

Read about :
Dadar Flower Market, Mumbai
Fish market at Sasoon docks
The Informal Economy and Urban space
Gandhi Bazaar, Bangalore

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Rythu Bazaar

Rythu bazaar or Farmer's market is a concept that was developed in the late 90's and implemented in the 23 districts of Andhra Pradesh by the then Chief Minister, Chandrababu Naidu. The inspiration came from the Apni Mandi, a similar experiment in Punjab.

The project was initiated to :
1. Eliminate middlemen
2. Bring more profits to the farmers
3. Make vegetables cheaper for the consumer
4. Make available fresh vegetables to the public
The entrance to the Rythu bazaar at M.V.P.Colony in Visakhapatnam

The bus that brought the farmers from their homes in the nearby villages to Visakhapatnam and took them back in the evening

The dustbins at the Rythu bazaars. Other than the fruits and vegetables sold here, the government had also allocated a few stalls within each Rythu bazaar for Dairy products and for home-made Pickles

The stalls were constructed in Brick and Cement plaster for side walls with an asbestos cement sheet for roofing

The mandate was as follows :
  • Physical markets to be created close to the areas of consumption
  • Actual growers to be identified and requested to bring their produce
  • Land to be made available for the Rythu bazaars in towns and cities with A.P.State
  • Permanent infrastructure with support systems to be constructed
  • Farmers with identity cards only to be permitted to sell
  • Special buses to pick up the farmers from their villages to be arranged
  • Storage facilities to be made available
  • Co-ordination to be encouraged between revenue, marketing and horticulture departments to ensure smooth functioning
  • Additional essential commodities like pulses and edible oils to be sold at controlled prices
The prices of the vegetables would be written out every morning on this Blackboard that occupied a prominent place at the entrance to the Bazaar

On one side of the Bazaar were the offices of the "Estate Officer" who addressed the needs of both vendors and the customers

Here is a link to an article by The Hindu Business Line, on AP Rythu Bazaars : a success with vast scope, Jan 08, 2004

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Indian Bazaars Review - Feb 2009

"These paper boats of mine are meant to dance on the ripples of hours,
and not to reach any destination"

- Rabindranath Tagore

This blog has been primarily about markets from South India - the Street bazaars and Vegetable bazaars in the cities of Visakhapatnam and Chennai and within a few towns in Kerala. Craft and Spice Bazaars of rural India have often fascinated tourists from the western countries. However, I have been writing mostly about the simple selling spaces in urban India that people frequent for their day-to-day needs - whether it is vegetables, or flowers, or clothes or puja items. It is only because these are the bazaars I see more often. More recently, I have also started to observe and write about the contemporary malls in India.

The reason that the blog has more questions than answers is that the spontaneity of the bazaar environment, its response to the changing seasons or festivals and its ability to exude charm amidst chaos, threw up so many questions in my mind.

I do hope to be able to put down the answers to at least some of the questions that i have asked. And, I would be delighted if Readers helped with the answers and we worked along this together. So, please do add your comments!!

The more I look at these bazaars, the more I see a simultaneous complexity and commonality embedded within them. In so many places, there are the colourful flowers entering the market with every break of dawn; the flower vendor spaces are inextricably woven with the vegetable vendor spaces, street corners become either a confluence of both or the receding of one; there is the emergence of an entire streetful of kite makers a month before Sankranti or the rising crescendo of firecracker sales as diwali draws near. The layout of the bazaars have similarities in their spatial clustering and in their randomness. The efficiency of the market system depends often on the same issues. The decline of the bazaar and its replacement by modern shopping spaces shows the same patterns.

To sum up the nature of bazaar thoughts & experiences thus far, there was Bazaars - a beginning; few posts about Art is a way of Life in an Indian bazaar; a bazaar in Alleppey in Kerala where there is a relationship between the canal and the bazaar; the fish bazaar at Murud Janjira; the Signages at the Cliff Bazaar at Varkala beach and lastly, the increasing number of malls in the country.

More recently, i have begun to study the Russell market in Bangalore - its history, the vendors, the parking options for visitors, the garbage disposal, the Shivaji Nagar bus stand nearby and its relation to the market and eventually, what will bring about the revitalisation of Russell Market.