The first day of the Ganesha festival was Monday, the 9th of September. Today, it’s six days already since the festival began. If one were to step out onto the street here at Bannerghatta road in Bangalore, there would be little to tell us that it is Ganesha time. Our Bilekahalli locality is not a prominent marketplace, like the Malleswaram market or like Gandhi Bazaar. But, on the day before the start of the festival, this small bazaar comprising of just a few pushcart vendors was a place of celebration and festivity! That was for me the bit to contemplate about Ganesha festival this year. To know how small neighbourhood bazaars have so much happening during a festival and are totally joyous for that day.
The next day evening, on Monday, the vendors were already dismantling their display systems, the metal tables that they had taken on hire for a day. The little Ganeshas that had been sitting on these tables all of Sunday and Monday were all gone. The banana leaves were not to be seen. There was garbage everywhere and it had been raining a little. Of course, it was all a mess and you couldn’t see any celebration any more. But, so what, Sunday had been a special day here!
On the morning of Sunday, we had gone all the way to the Malleswaram flower market. It is quite far from our B.G.Road. We had been invited by cousins to a morning walk in Malleswaram which was to be followed by the traditional breakfast routine. The bazaar bit was exciting but the breakfast bit more exciting. I’ll come back to that later.
We were now at the flower market. Of course, it was beautiful. And, it was busy. It was in fact very busy that morning. The stretch outside the market entrance had a long row of vendors selling banana leaves. They stood almost just off the footpath. No, they stood on the footpath, but the banana leaves stood on the road. I mean, there would be no place to walk otherwise. And, right there, was the Bus stop and people waiting for the bus. Nobody complained. Each one did what he or she had to do. Vendors looking after their banana leaves and lotus flowers, customers bargaining in voices that you couldn’t hear in that crowd and noise and commuters with their eyes on the road for the next bus.
Both of these newspaper articles are about the Ganesha in Bombay. For those in Bangalore, there’s more about the eco-ganeshas at Eco-Ganesha: Where to find him, and why?, a Citizen Matters article that talks about what is eco-ganesha, the do’s and don’ts for this Chaturthi and about ‘BBMP’s rules for the festive season’ which is quite good to read also because it makes you realise how much work and responsibility a festival can generate for a local municipality. It's more work for them with every festival we celebrate. Also, with the Kadlekai Parishe or Groundnut festival that happens at Bull temple road every year. I've written about that earlier at: Policing the Urban space.
Coming back to the streets of Malleswaram, there were also sweet vendors along the footpaths. Just as we had bought some and were already into eating the coconut barfi right there, it started to rain. We wished it hadn’t rained that morning. The vendors had to quickly cover their wares with large blue plastic sheets that they had ready with them. All the people who until then had been strolling casually and stopping at every few feet had to take shelter under some of the shop awnings. It wasn’t heavy rain, it was a drizzle, but everyone had to think of rushing their shopping and getting back home sooner.
This wasn’t the end of our trip to Malleswaram. The rain had stopped after a while and we were on our way to Veena stores, for what were considered the best idlis this side of town. Our side of town (not Bannerghatta road, but further away at Basavanagudi) you could get good idlis at Brahmin café or at Vidyarthi Bhavan in Gandhi Bazaar. That was our favourite traditional place closest to home. Nothing else on the way, and, nothing on B.G.road could even be considered as a breakfast place to go to. But, yes, the Veena stores idlis were really good. We had been asked earlier by our cousins if idlis were what we wanted. Because, if we preferred dosas, then, they would have taken us to another part of Malleswaram!
I’m not done yet. There’s just a bit more. We happened to step into Naturals Icecream in the Adigas Lane on Bannerghatta road that same afternoon. We had to pick up some icecream for a lunch get-together. So, we go in and there’s some excitement in the air, with some people trying out the flavour of the day. And, what was that? The prasadam icecream. So, we tasted it and were told that it was the ‘modak’ flavour. Earlier, we had eaten the ‘panchamrutam’ icecream at Saravana Bhavan at the Mylapore Bazaar in Chennai. We always remember that one fondly. Here, the modak flavour had a distinct coconut and jaggery taste to it. Absolutely wonderful! For those of you who haven’t tasted it yet, it’s available until the tenth day of the Ganesha festival!
Each time I go to Manek chowk in Ahmedabad, the streets look different, completely different. The last time I went there, it was around the Holi festival and you could tell that Holi was just around the corner, because everywhere, you saw the Pichkaris and the holi colours. If you were to go there in January, around the Sankranti festival, there’s kites everywhere!! And, Diwali time, it’s fire crackers and the paper lanterns and all kinds of lights! The more I see of Manek chowk, the more I wonder about its innate nature to absorb, to adapt. It seems to soak in whatever happens in the city – if people celebrate Holi, the streets of Manek chowk celebrate Holi; if people celebrate Diwali, the streets of Manek chowk are lights and firecrackers!
And right now, it’s the Raksha Bandhan festival and there’s Rakhis everywhere! It’s like seeing the reflection of nature in water…whatever is outside is there inside the water, nothing more, nothing less.
'Life in the Streets' is a 4-day workshop for architecture students and young professionals to be held at Dakshinachitra, Chennai from 15th to 18th aug 2013. The focus of the workshop is to develop a “way of seeing” the Indian Street that accepts and understands that while the Street is ‘Connector’ (meant for people and cars to move) it also enables social, cultural, religious, political, and economic practices that are unique to our country. How can we bring about small changes in our perception and that of others through documenting ‘how people use street space’ and interpreting the observations in the context of how our cities are developing?
The workshop begins with sessions that help look at our streets and neighbourhoods differently. There are walking tours to observe and document experiences through photographs, films, sketches, diary accounts, maps and interviews. The urban practices that are documented are analysed through brain-storming sessions as well as discussions on key issues that emerge. Finally, the participants rethink and replan a Street with the collective knowledge that the workshop brings about. While the core audience is architecture students, students from disciplines that engage with public spaces are also welcome to apply, such as design, social sciences, etc.