Bangalore – The One at City Market

It’s Sunday the 24th of April and today I have chosen to explore the City Market. It has taken me a long time to learn about the market, but I finally found out about it during the week and I went off to explore it today. 

The Auto driver wasn’t too clear on where I wanted to go, so I followed our route in the map book as we travelled along. I’m starting to really understand the set out of Bangalore now, or at least the inner part. In Melbourne terms, I’m getting quite good from Glenferrie to Footscray, with me living in Hawthorn. We got there with no drama at all. 

It was easy to tell we were there, map book or not, because suddenly the amount of activity in the street increased a thousand fold. I asked the driver to pull over, paid him his money, donned the backpack, checked the mobile and set off on this new adventure. 

I made my way through the thronging mob along a wide footpath where lots of street vendors were touting their wares. I knew this wasn’t yet the market and wanted to start the exploring centred on the actual market, to be able to set and maintain my bearings. So I made my way through the crowd towards the enormous intersection, on the other side of which was the market. The number of people amazed me, but I had only just scratched the surface so far. 

The first thing I saw as I entered the market proper, apart from a sea of humanity, was a sign in various languages warning of the presence of pick pockets in the area. I have seen a similar sign before, when I was in Commercial St, so this didn’t surprise me. I swapped my wallet to my front pocket and held my mobile in my hand. That’ll fool them. 

Off I went. 

Have you ever felt like the whole world is looking at you? Have you ever “stood out in a crowd?” Yes? No you haven’t until you have walked into Bangalore City Market wearing a white, New Zealand t-shirt and carrying an over packed backpack on your back. Talk about turn heads! I can confidently say I was the only caucasian (There’s another interesting word. Have a look at it. What sort of Asian are we? A CAUC Asian. Interesting.) amongst conservatively a quarter of a million Indians. Many people might feel a little unnerved by that, and the thought did pass fleetingly through my mind, but I felt no danger what-so-ever. Although many strong men would wilt if they went where I went next. 

After entering the market I wandered through an area where they were selling fruit and vegies, which were very neatly stacked in piles on sheets on the ground. The ladies, and most of the people selling were ladies, sat there cross legged, surrounded by their goods. I didn’t recognize much of what they were selling, but the cucumbers were obvious, as were the bananas and oranges. But there is much else that I’m sure I’ve never seen before. 

I moved through this area and came to the entrance to the main building. A set of stairs went up and a set went down, so I chose the down ones. I descended to the set of a Saturday afternoon movie from the sixties, in which the hero is pursuing the villain through the back streets of Zanzibar. It was unbelievable. Now don’t get me wrong; there was nothing wrong with it at all. What was unbelievable was just how far from Melbourne I was, both in distance and time. I was now thousands of kilometres and sixty years from home. I actually paused momentarily to ponder my future. I checked my wallet and phone. I tightened the straps to my backpack, why I don’t know. I girded my loins, whatever that means, and decided to proceed. 

What I entered was a tightly packed labyrinth of stalls and pathways. Each stall was jam-packed with goods. Down here was where they were selling the things that couldn’t be sold in the sun, like tomatoes, cabbages, lettuce. There was aisle after aisle of stalls with more fruit and vegies than you can imagine. 

I walked up and I walked down. There was just so much to see. I came to realize that there were two central areas in the building around which the rest of the building was arranged, forming a figure eight pattern. At the bottom of the central areas were ladies sitting with piles and piles of the beautifully aromatic flowers they use to make the exquisitely smelling flower decorations for ladies hair. Around me the stalls had changed from fruit and vegetables to flowers, so everything was smelling beautiful. 

I walked around and around, spell bound by it all, eventually taking the stairs up to the next level. On this level were stalls selling kitchen ware of the type that was around fifty years ago. Now I was seeing what the “normal” people in Bangalore used to cook and eat with. Much of the cooking ware is made of heavy steel or iron and is used on gas stoves of the most basic kind. There were also many aluminium pots, from small to extremely large. I slowly walked around and around until I thought I may have attracted enough attention. 

I left the building by another door and found myself in another street of stalls, this time selling coconuts. Not knowing any better, I headed to the right, soon coming to a proper street. There were Autos, cars and two wheelers (motorbikes in case you have forgotten) snaking their way up the street with horns squealing. You see, the street was also full of people, walking up and down checking out the shops. Every shop had a stall out the front on the edge of the street, which wasn’t very wide. So now we had shop stalls, people, cars, Autos and two wheelers, all taking up the very limited space in the street. 

I turned left and right all over the place. According to my trusty map book I was no longer in the actual market, but was now in the suburban streets surrounding the market. I walked and walked and walked, always slowly and always seeing new things. Every so often there was some sort of religious celebration going on, with cows with coloured horns, flowers, lots of colour and many people gathered around a central area under a multi-coloured banner. There was always very loud music blaring from mobile speakers. One time they started the music up at the exact moment I was  walking in front of the speakers. I’m ever so glad I was prepared for anything, otherwise I could well have lost my lunch. I have no idea what the celebrations were in aid of and am only guessing when I say a religious celebration. It could well have been the Bangalore equivalent of the sausage sizzle at Bunnings. 

I turned a corner and found myself in a large road with traffic crawling in both directions. The road dipped away from me down a slight hill, which enabled me to look along a kilometre of market road. It would have made a fantastic photo if I had my camera with me, but I’m wondering if the camera would have been able to capture the true sense of what I was looking at. Quite frankly it was mind blowing to see what I was seeing. There was so much activity and so many people and it was all so un-Australian. 

Finally I had to rest. I found a quiet door step (Don’t you hate those door steps that make noise.) out of the way and propped myself for ten minutes. This was a very pleasant way to see the people who were here. Unlike Brigade Rd, most of these people appeared to be working class or lower. For the sensitive amongst you, you will need to excuse my descriptions of class and social standing. When in India, the contrasts are so much greater than Melbourne that it is pointless trying to maintain the flimsy façade of “niceness” that we wrap around everything in this politically correct but bland world of ours. I was now surrounded by working class people who probably struggled to get through each day. Of course there were middle class people as well, but there were definitely no upper class people at all. Interestingly, there were no beggars. I have only now realized that I didn’t see a beggar all day. I wonder why. 

If you look back at the story about Brigade Rd, you will see that I make mention of the fact that many of the women wear traditional style clothes but none of the men do. That is not the case in the market area. Here, the women still wear the traditional style clothing, although not quite as nice as Brigade Rd, but many of the men are also wearing non-western style clothing. I can’t say they are wearing traditional clothing because I honestly don’t know what the men’s traditional style clothing looks like. But you don’t see many men in Melbourne wearing loin cloths, or simple skirt arrangements made from a length of material wrapped around at the waist. The market area is definitely closer to the old India than any of the other places I have been so far, with the exception of the quiet stroll up the side street. 

Maybe the crowning glory of today’s adventure was when I was walking slowly along a narrow laneway connecting one street to another. I stepped around the cow with the coloured horns, side-stepped the steaming offering that had been made by the cow with the coloured horns, and saw walking towards me a Swarmy and his disciple. The Swarmy was old, maybe seventy years old, and was striding along at a decent pace. On his head he was wearing a turban, with multiple coloured lines and dots on his forehead. Over his shoulder was a bag and a cheese cloth wrap. His trousers were a loin cloth / nappy looking arrangement, beneath which his dark, spindly, bandy legs protruded. On his feet were sandals. In his hand was a walking stick as tall as he was. 

His disciple walked a pace behind and to the left. He was dressed in a similar fashion, but without the walking stick and with a different coloured turban on his head. His legs weren’t as bandy and were a little more muscular than the old fella. He was taller as well and maybe thirty five years of age. 

Teacher and disciple. 

That is India as I have seen it. 

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