Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bazaar Tour 1 : Dadar Flower market, Mumbai

This is the first part of a series on Bazaar Tours in India - some Bazaars that you may want to explore on your own. I relate here how it was for us to visit a bazaar in Mumbai.

We set out on a Sunday morning to visit the Dadar flower market. It is Bombay's largest wholesale flower market. We were staying at Colaba. So, we walked to Churchgate station, going past the early morning cricket players at the maidan. At the station, we asked for two tickets "Dadar return" since we wanted to head back to Churchgate also by train. At 6.45am, the train was almost empty. Dadar is the stop just after Elphinstone road on the Western Railway line. If you are travelling from V.T.station (or CST, as it is now called) you need to be ready to get off the train after Parel station has gone past.

On reaching Dadar station, we looked around to see where most people were going - it is usually a good way to know where the exit to the main road is. We didnot have to take the overbridge since the train had stopped at Platform no.1. As soon as we came out of the station, we were inside the flower bazaar - flowers on either side, marigolds in bamboo baskets, there were flower sellers all over the place!

I had travelled to Dadar station many times in all the years that I had studied there, but had never seen it at this hour in the morning. There was commotion, there was colour, there was filth and yet there was fragrance! You enter the underside of the flyover and there was brisk business there already. If we stopped for a few minutes, we were asked to move aside since we were blocking the visibility of some of the women who were selling flowers. There was a small shop that sold only satin ribbons, thread, cellophane paper, etc. in wholesale for florist shops.

Beyond we could see the yellow and black taxis being loaded with cut flowers. They would get loaded and leave immediately. These were on their way to florist shops in different parts of the city. They seemed to be the last taxis carrying flowers, making their departure from Dadar. Later, I bought a bunch of pink chrysanthemums for Rs.10! It was only a rupee each. The next day when I was at colaba, a florist was selling one chrysanthemum for Rs.10. A bunch of roses was selling at Rs.100. I had bought a bunch of roses for Rs.15 at the Dadar bazaar. Makes you wonder how long the chain of middlemen is and how much the farmer who grows the flowers gets for his efforts. How fair can trade be?

We walked along the flyover where there were more cut flowers - stalks of chrysanthemums, gladioli, carnations and so on. And, there were orchids too. The vendors mentioned that the main market was a 10 minute walk away. So, we headed southwards along the main road.

Started to notice trucks parked on the left side of the road and noticed a few vendors carrying loaded baskets on their heads and walking back towards the Dadar railway station. We were nearing the main market. We were surprised to see how big this bazaar was. It has 542 stalls and is a covered market of 13,000 sq.ft.area. Heaps of marigolds being sold.

We finally entered the Meenatai Thackeray Phool Bazaar or Flower market. You could buy a basketful measure of marigolds for Rs.20. Of course, the wholesale price. This bazaar opens at 4am everyday. So, its actually a good idea to get there early if you want to see truckloads of marigolds being emptied and distributed. The flowers come from Satara, Nagpur and other places. Its a 4-6 hour journey and the wholesalers are already at the market from midnight to be there when the flowers arrive. The market opens for the public at 4am.

It was one fun-filled morning for us. All the vendors wanted to pose for us as we took pictures. They thought we were from the Press. I told them we were not from the Press and that their pictures were not going to appear in the newspaper tomorrow. They simply shrugged, smiled and posed for another picture.

Other Bazaar Tours in India at :
Bazaar Tour 2 : Antique Market, Mumbai
Bazaar Tour 3 : Varkala, Kerala
Bazaar Tour 4 : Gandhi Bazaar, Bangalore

More on Dadar Flower market at:
www.trivialmatters.blogspot.com
www.intransit.blogs.nytimes.com
and the article in The Hindu about the flower markets in Mumbai, Srinagar & Bangalore at www.thehindu.com

4 comments:

Anil P said...

Dadar Phool Gali is choc-o-block during office time, more so in the evening as folks find their way back to the station.

Early mornings are busy affairs there.

Lovely account.

radha said...

This is like the opening scene of the movie - My Fair Lady - the morning at the flower market. Similar but so different. Nice narration and pictures.

Kiran said...

Anil, would love to go back to Dadar, to know more.

Radha, it was for us such a happy way to start the day!
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Over the next few days, couldn't help but notice flower sellers wherever we went in Bombay.

A colleague visited Sassoon dock early one morning the same week and mentioned that he saw the same fish in a market nearby later that day. We laughed, "You recognised the fish?!" He said, "No, but i did recognise the woman behind the same basket of fish"

And, that made us wonder even more about where the flowers were after we had first seen them at Dadar.

indian yarn said...

when i was there in march we went at 5.00 in the morning - boy - was it crowded