Friday, November 25, 2011

Peanut festival in Bangalore

The Groundnut (Peanut) Fair, colloquially called the Kadalekai Parishe takes place once a year at Basavanagudi, in close proximity to Gandhi Bazaar. Every year during November-December over 200 vendors come to the city of Bangalore offering for sale tonnes of groundnuts. This photo essay covers the 2011 Fair that took place this week on Nov 21st and 22nd with Bull temple road becoming completely pedestrianised for the two days.

The legend goes that for some years, on every full moon day, a bull would charge into the groundnut fields located here and damage the crop. The farmers then offered prayers to the Nandi Bull to stop this and pledged to offer their first crop. Ever since, farmers and traders come here from the neighbouring villages and towns with cartloads of groundnuts a week in advance and there are visitors to the fair from within the city and from many places nearby.

Groundnut growers, Balloon sellers and the Sugarcane juice vendors

It's late afternoon and the crowds are increasing

Flower sellers in front of the Bull temple

Puffed rice, fried snacks - all part of the fair

Stall selling tapioca chips

Bull temple in the evening with the colourful lights - on the trees, across the road, everywhere!

For anyone who loves blowing bubbles!

It's the third day now and the traffic resumes on Bull temple road - the groundnut vendors will be here for a few more days

The quantum of groundnut has been increasing year after year and in 2010, the business turnover was around 100 million rupees

The numbers of people who come here has increased and last year, more than 0.6 million people participated

The Fair has been organised year after year by the growers themselves and is now also supported by two government institutions - the Department of Muzrai (Religious Endowment) and the Municipal Corporation of Bangalore

The residents of Basavanagudi believe that this tradition must continue and that the groundnut vendors who come from the nearby villages once a year must receive greater support from the city.

As the city of Bangalore expands, the groundnut fields near Bull Temple road move outwards and away from the temple. The relationship between the temple and the farmer still continues. The growth of the residential and the commercial neighbourhood in Basavanagudi has been a recent one, however, the urban fabric now envelops the Bull temple. One wonders if it is the groundnut vendors who are appropriating territory that is not theirs or is it the city that has appropriated land that was historically a place for the groundnut growers to make their offering to Lord Basava?

Read about:
Groundnut fair at Basavanagudi 2010
a Sea of Silence
Udaipur City
Fish market at Sasoon docks

Monday, November 14, 2011

Walking thru’ Chickpete

I had a printout of the google map of Chickpete that I studied quickly before I set out. It looked like I could start at the and then walk through the many streets and come out towards the Majestic Bus stand at the other end. It was tempting to go into and around the as I neared it. I had been there before. Always a hustle of activity, with its fruit and vegetable vendors making brisk sales almost at all times of the day! I loved watching that.

I was trying to be focused that day. So, knowing from my map that taking Avenue road would be a good point of entry into chickpete, I started out. As I walked here, there were stationery shops, diwali cracker shops, jewellery shops and all kinds of other shops. The footpaths are not so wide but there ARE footpaths and they had no encroachments. There is an interesting article Narrow avenue, broader minds at Citizen Matters that talks about Avenue road and the communities who live and work here.

The place was crowded at 11.30 in the morning. I got to a “circle” and took a left towards Balepet. A four-way road junction was being referred to as a “circle” whenever I asked for directions. “You will come to a circle, take a right there” someone would guide. There was no circular traffic island or roundabout, just the chaos of a four-way junction without a centrepoint identified.

Soon, I came across a Mutt building and then, some time later saw a Jain dharamshala. These were old buildings – the only ones with elements of vernacular architecture and seemed like they’d been here for many years. That suddenly took me into the past and I began to look at every new façade I passed with a different eye and an imagination of what it might have earlier been before it became a place of “grand sale” and “bumper offer”

What was Chickpete like fifty years before? Was the fading away of the vernacular architecture also a fading away of the traditional shopping culture? Had there been a traditional shopping culture? Were the streets less crowded then? Had there been horsecarts on the avenue road and not the loud, honking autorickshaws that deafened me from sensing the past or contemplating the future?

There seem to be similarities between inner city cores in our cities – Chickpete has characteristics that remind me of Georgetown in Chennai or the Crawford market area in Mumbai. I’ve written earlier at a Street corner in Mumbai about how in the Indian city, the bazaar has been the nucleus of the city growing into many intersecting streets that tell a story of livelihoods and a story of the city's evolution.

I was nearing yet another edge of the Chickpete market precinct and the walk had been about getting a feel of the maze of the streets that made it this dense shopping experience – both in physical and cultural terms – layers of everyday life that unfolded itself in front of you with every step and every thought that time took forward for you.

I knew I was coming back again soon. It was the next day that this happened. I was now at the Mysore Bank entering Avenue road from the other end. There was informal vending all over the place. Many many book titles looking at you from the footpath curb where stands balanced themselves and the books on them. Many booksellers of secondhand books occupied the sidewalks. Were they a spill-over from the formal shops? No, these were independent street vendors, for whom public space was where their livelihoods were anchored.

Suddenly, today, it seemed as if Chickpete was only about the informal sector. Nothing else was as predominant as this incredible range of things on sale – plastic flowers, bags of all kinds, dryfruits, sunglasses, what-not. There was street food of all kinds – from boiled groundnuts to cut-fruit stalls that were on push-carts that stood in the middle of the street sometimes, it really was sometimes the middle or at least half-way to the middle of the road!

I continue to ponder about this marketplace also after my walking around is done. What was a typical street in Chickpete, if one were to do an anatomy of it? It was this undefinable mix of pedestrian, street food vendor, car, autorickshaw, imitation barbie dolls positioned on parked two-wheelers or some other attractive item for sale – all put together – bringing back memories of the dizzying hand movements of the street vendor in old-time calcutta as he would mix the jhal-muri in that tin container with the aroma of mustard oil flowing towards you to tell you that the mixing was good and right!

If you were to walk through Chickpete in the morning, any time before 10am when the shops begin to open, it is quite another place. The streets are rather empty and you might see pigeons perched in the middle of the road, as I saw this morning as I chose to explore the streets of the Pete area when business has not yet begun here. You see tender coconut vendors on bicycles parked momentarily, sipping their morning tea alongwith street sweepers. There are newspaper vendors who have the news laid out for you on the steps of the merchant establishments.

In the morning, you can walk freely with the sun coming in and gently lighting up the street facades that you now see more easily since you are not jostling your way through the street crowds. There is a Nankatai vendor with a bicycle, who is stocking up fresh baked biscuits into a large glass jar for the corner Paan shop, who sells snacks and the paan. There are empty white, wooden shelves along the white wall of a building, which I had seen the day before covered with many books. I see them now in this morning light, waiting for their owner to come fill them again for this day and waiting for those who will read the books for their stories, in a way that others would read the city through walking its streets.

Read about:
Walking in Lille
Faces in the Bazaar

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Tender Coconut in a Street Bazaar

You are walking along a Street Bazaar absorbed in looking at the busy sweet-meat stall where you know you shouldn’t go but where your heart takes you nevertheless. You quickly turn away so as to shrug off just one more culinary temptation of the marketplace. Aromas of enticing street food waft towards you from another street corner. You tell yourself that you are not hungry, but then, you are suddenly thirsty!!

1  Welcome to Ahmedabad : the paan stalls, the farsan stalls, the chai stalls and coconut water stalls – Manek Chowk has everything.

In the Bazaar, there is no dearth of drinks to buy. Today, you can buy a bottle of mineral water anywhere. But, it’s such a waste to be in the Bazaar and to spend Rs.12 buying a bottle of mineral water!! Drinking water is what you will get yourself at home, you say to yourself. You can also buy a Coke or another cold drink. But, you look around hoping to find either a Sugarcane juice stall or a Tender Coconut seller. That’s what you get here that you don’t get elsewhere, and that’s what you want now! You find a vendor selling tender coconuts and walk up to him, standing in the middle of nowhere, a bunch of coconuts on a bicycle making brisk business in this hot afternoon. It gets you thinking about coconut-sellers and their place in the bazaar.

2  Banjara (gypsy) woman who sells bangles on D.V.G.road in Bangalore stops for a tender coconut

I look at the coconut-sellers in J.P.Nagar in Bangalore. There are two individual shops on the two sides of the road where the Mini-forest meets the Ring road. As I speak to one of these sellers, I learn that he buys a thousand coconuts each time, once in two days. There is a wholesale exchange at the Mandya at Mysore road. He sells about five hundred coconuts per day. The responsibility for carting away the waste of the coconut is that of the coconut-seller. He pays Rs.200 to have it taken away. This is also done once in two days. That’s the story of just one coconut vendor in a city of 9.5 million inhabitants in a country with a population of 1.2 billion.

3  Push-cart vendor has customers from the Brahmin café at Basavanagudi in Bangalore

You realise as you try to remember the different coconut-sellers you’ve seen and photographed that they are sometimes on a bicycle, sometimes with a push-cart and sometimes just with a bunch of cocontus that rest on the footpath. Often times, the vendor sits in the shade of a tree and sometimes he is constantly on the move, with the sun on his head for hours at a stretch. If it is a regular location, the selling space is established mostly at a corner junction, where you would have maximum visibility from as many potential customers as possible.

4  Serving those who worship the Lord: at the Bull Temple in Bangalore

The bazaar has a place for every kind of vendor, the one who walks, the one who cycles, the one who moves with his push-cart and the one who sells from a shop. The bazaar also has a space for every kind of commodity – food, drink, shoe, bangle, utensil, anything that you want to consume in a day or possess for a life time.

5  Tender coconut for the street, water melon for the home : at in Bangalore

I do a google search on ‘Coconut water’. I find the lyrics of Harry Belafonte’s song ‘Coconut woman’ that goes:
“The thing that's best if you're feelin' glum
Is coconut water with a little rum
It could make you very tipsy, four for five
Make you feel like a gypsy, four for five
Coco got a lotta iron, four for five
Make you strong like a lion, four for five”

6  Fixed Price: Rs 12 only for tender coconut (No extra charge for the shade of the tree)

Another link is to the Seminar Proceedings for ‘Coconut revival: new possibilities for the Tree of life’ held in Australia by the International Coconut Forum and it says that “More than 11 million farmers, mostly small holders with low income, grow the palm in 90 countries” Indonesia is the largest coconut producing country, followed by the Phillipines, with India occupying third place.

7  Café coffee day: 
a lot can happen over coffee 
Tender coconut: 
quenching your thirst 

Coming back to the Tender coconut vendor in the bazaar – it is a question of livelihood. He doesn’t know the Caribbean song and he does not hear what the experts discuss on Coconut. He is unaware that there are emerging new markets for “functional drinks from coconut – the sports drink, the energy drink, welcome drink and well-being drink” His life goes on and so does that of the blogger who contemplates on what goes on in the bazaar and outside of it, thinking that while a lot can happen in a street bazaar, life seems to be about quenching thirst of one kind or another.

Read about :
The Golla wallah
the Garland Makers in the Bazaar
Bollywood Posters
What is Chai