Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Bazaar Tour 2 : Antiques Mumbai

In India, when you travel to small towns, many traditional houses have antique furniture, brass items, paintings and artefacts that would fetch a high price at an antique market. These are family heirlooms and seem most appropriate within the houses where they belong. Often, a conversation with an older member of the family brings out a story of the wooden chest which goes back to three generations or more. Here, the number of years matter less and the number of generations matter so much more. The characters in the story have lived in this very house and sat in the same stone-floored verandah where you chat now with the old lady who is head of the household.

The experience of being in an antique market in the city of Bombay is completely different. I plan to visit the Chor Bazaar (literally translated as Thieves market) in Bombay. It is a central part of old Bombay and there are many buses from all over Bombay that can take you there. It is in the vicinity of Bhendi Bazaar. You can also get there by train from Masjid Road station, on the Central Railway line or Sandhurst Road station. On the Western Railway line, you can go upto Grant Road station and take a bus or a taxi from there.

As I chat with Imran, one of the antique dealers on Mutton street, he points out that the name ‘chor bazaar’ is actually from ‘shor bazaar’. Shor is the Hindi word for noise and he believes that the bazaar got its name from the noisy auctions of textile and wood that this area was known for. He says that these auctions continue to happen even today, but they are fewer compared to the past. Most antique dealers have warehouses where they are able to store much of their merchandise and wait until they are able to sell directly to clients. There is now also an export market and many dealers have a network that brings more business from high-end clients, who may never have physically come to chor bazaar. The outlet in Chor bazaar is only a very small part in the big money business. Imran’s own shop ‘Art Centre’ sells colonial and antique furniture and chandeliers. He is at shop no.13 on Mutton street and can be reached on 022-2347 4834

Imran continues to talk about the auctions. They are meant only for the dealers from Bombay. This auction market is not open to anyone else, although it is an auction that is held in the open marketplace. Within the shops here at Chor bazaar, you may often find a piece that has been acquired through an exchange with an antique dealer in Bangalore or Delhi. A growing antique market other than Bombay and Delhi is now in the cities of Jaipur and Jodhpur in Rajasthan. There are some beautifully polished pieces of Teakwood and Rosewood furniture in Imran’s shop that are not too ornate and would look elegant in a contemporary Indian home.

At another shop in Chor Bazaar – Mughal Art Gallery, there is a large collection of old wrist watches, pocket watches, clocks and nauticals. The owner, Rashid explains that he is in the third generation that runs this shop. He says that it is possible to service a watch if a customer insists on a working piece. However, a true collector would want an old watch without it being serviced so that all its original parts are intact and its value as an antique is high.

Rashid says that many of his special customers and regular buyers like Bollywood stars come to his shop at ten in the night. Chor Bazaar closes at 9pm and there is quiet and privacy at ten that allows a film star or his family member to visit and choose what they like for themselves. Rashid can be reached at mughal_artgallery@yahoo.com or 022-2345 4718. Within the Chor Bazaar or Antique market is the Bazaar for Bollywood posters, which I hope to put up as a blogpost soon!

Mutton street is lined with many other antique shops other than the ones I mention here. There is much to explore when you are here.

Other Bazaar Tours in Indiaa :
Bazaar Tour 1 : Dadar Flower market, Mumbai
Bazaar Tour 3 : Varkala, Kerala
Bazaar Tour 4 : Gandhi Bazaar, Bangalore

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