Saturday, December 29, 2012

Policing the Urban Space

In a City, some Urban spaces are always safe, others are not. Sometimes, the urban space becomes a temporal marketplace and the city administrators have to judge whether it will be a safe place for the public or if things may go "out of control".  If they anticipate unsafe conditions, they ensure that the Police will be present there when they are needed. However, the police exercise control in different ways and the urban spaces extend from being 'spaces as containers' to being 'spaces of power' *. I look at one such urban space in Bangalore - the Bull temple road which is pedestrianised for two days for a cultural festival around the Bull temple at Basavanagudi.

The Groundnut Fair (Kadlekai Parishe) that took place this year on December 10th and 11th had all the familiar elements – the Groundnuts, the Vendors, the Public and the Police. We had interviewed a few Police officers on duty during the Parishe and I reproduce here excerpts from the interview:

How many people from the Police department are present here during the two-day Parishe?
Approximately 200-300 police officers. Some of the officers are here in uniform and others are in mufti (plain clothes).

What are the duties of the Police officers during the Kadlekai Parishe?
There is a lot of crowd during the fair which means many crimes can occur without anyone’s notice. Petty crimes like chain snatching can occur without the victim’s knowledge. Sometimes, vehicles get stolen. We need to keep a check on the crowds coming in and out of the temple and also make it easier for them to move about in the Fair. In case of fire emergencies, we need to make arrangements to have it extinguished, get the fire department to respond immediately and so on. In case someone gets hurt we need to make sure they are taken to the hospital quickly and safely.

What are the arrangements made by your department for the Kadalekai Parishe?
At some places, barricades need to be put so that there is no vehicle interference with the pedestrians. We depute more officers on those roads where there are likely to be more people entering the Bull temple road. Basically, we try to minimise crime problems and traffic congestion.

Which police stations in the city are involved?
The South division of the Police department has three sub-divisions. There is the Jayanagar sub-division, the Chamrajpet sub-divison and the Banashankari sub-division. Each of these sub-divisions has seven stations under it. There are officers from about 21 stations here for the two days.

How is the work distributed to the officers?
There are both the Traffic police and the Law and Order police. The Traffic police supervise the Bull temple road and ensure that it is a pedestrian zone for these two days, not permitting vehicular traffic to enter from any of the connecting roads or from either ends of Bull temple road. The Law and Order police look after the internal movement of people within the Fair and their safety, between these two ends.

How are the zones demarcated for supervision? 
You will notice the row of barricades near the restaurant Halli thindi and another near Ramakrishna ashram. There are such barricades provided all along the Bull Temple road to demarcate the zones for supervision. For instance, to mark Hanumanthnagar police limits, there is a line of barricades and then from the next barricade another police station takes over the responsibility.

There are several police in uniform (although there are plainclothes policemen too) to signal to the public that they can spend their time at the Fair within a safe environment and to simultaneously signal to the unsocial elements that any crime or wrong act will be caught immediately. In these 'spaces of power', on the one hand, the city empowers the public and the vendors who work within the law and on the other it controls the users of the space who may have the tendency to break the law to do only that which society finds acceptable.

* Koskela, Hille. "‘The gaze without eyes’: video-surveillance and the changing nature of urban space." Progress in Human Geography 24.2 (2000): 243-265.

(Interviewer: Rakshitha K.S.)

Related Posts:
Groundnut Fair in Bangalore city
Peanut festival in Bangalore
Groundnut Fair and the Temple Priest

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Groundnut Fair and the Temple Priest

The Groundnut Fair is both a religious and a cultural festival that takes place every year on the Bull temple road in Bangalore and brings groundnut growers and traders from several villages in Karnataka to the city. We started to interview the Groundnut vendors, the Residents of Basavanagudi, the Traffic police and others to understand more about the Fair. I reproduce here a short interview with the Head Priest of the Bull Temple.

When was the Bull temple built?
The temple was built around 1537 A.D. It is said to be built by Kempegowda during his rule.

Why was this temple built, why here in Basavanagudi?
The idol of the Nandi (Bull) in this temple is said to have been that of “udbhava”. They say that the idol was always there, Kempegowda just built the temple. There is another legend that says Lord Nandi appeared in Kempegowda’s dreams and asked him to build a temple in his worship. The idol is 12 ft high, 20 ft in length. It is the second largest Nandi idol in south of India, the first being in Lepakshi, in Andhra Pradesh.

What about the legend of River Vrishabhavathi flowing under the idol?
If one looks closely at the idol, one can see that the right leg of lord Nandi rests on a veena (the musical instrument). The veena rests on a lotus flower. We know that the lotus flower grows only in water. This water is said to be the water from Vrishabhavathi river. It is said to rise from below the idol. I haven’t been a witness to it, neither has my father or grandfather who’ve been around for around 80 years now .

How did the Ganesha temple come to be? Was it a part of the Nandi temple?
The usual custom is that before starting anything good like say entering a new house, there is usually a ganesha idol placed and worshipped for success and prosperity. Similarly with this temple. Before the Bull temple was built there was probably a Ganesha temple built .

What are the special events at the temple during the Kadlekai Parishe?
Early in the morning there is the Panchamrutha abhisheka. Also, a Rudrabhisheka which involves abhisheka with milk. The nandi idol is totally covered with flowers. On the Monday that the Parishe begins on, in the evening there is “Nandi kolu”.  At 11 pm, there is the Mahamangalarthi.

What is the temple’s involvement in the Parishe?
The temple allocates the space for the vendors outside the temple entrance and along the Bull temple road. The contract for collecting the rent for the space is given out as a tender. The MUZRAI department (Department of Religious Endowment) plays a major role in organising the Parishe. They send us extra staff to handle the parishe.

The support required from various fields is taken into account by the chief executive officer. He writes out letters to different departments which includes the Police force, the Municipal corporation, Ambulance and medicine, Generator and Emergency power supply etc. They all co-operate and work together. The local politicians direct the police force to co-ordinate the event. The Municipal authority (BBMP) plays its role in cleaning of the streets during and after the Fair. Because there is a large crowd visiting the temple during the parishe, we need to add more priests to help maintain the place. Usually I call upon people I know and some from within my family too.

What about the revenue for the temple from the Parishe? What do the vendors pay?
The vendors need to pay some 200-300 rupees per day to the appointed person who has been awarded the tender. The temple gets around 10-15,000 rupees from it.

Do vendors like the coconut seller or the one who manages the shoe stand within the temple premises need to pay a rent for the space?
Yes, it’s more of a yearly contract though. This space is also auctioned and the highest bidder gets it. The shoe or chappal stand itself generates an income of about Rs.2,00,000/- per year.

What are the other roles that the MUZRAI department plays in supporting the temple?
Mainly, all the funds that the temple collects during the Parishe goes to a dedicated account of the temple with the MUZRAI department. They take care of everything from cleaning, maintenance, making new spaces, repairing old structures, granting salaries to the temple employees etc. The Priests and the maintenance staff at the temple are paid their salaries by the MUZRAI department. If say, a temple’s funds are insufficient for it’s own upkeep, then the Muzrai department can actually reach out to another temple’s funds and fund this temple. If any repairs to the old temple structure or new spaces need to be planned, the MUZRAI department works with the Archaeological survey of India to prepare the necessary plans and execute the work .

Interviewer: Rakshitha K.S.

Related Posts:
Groundnut Fair in Bangalore city
Peanut festival in Bangalore
Faces in the Bazaar
Srinivasa Coffee works

Friday, December 07, 2012

Udupi Sri Krishna Bhavan

I had been walking in Chickpete for some time now. It was nearing lunch time and I had unknowingly started to read the nameboards at just above the normal line of vision, looking for a place to eat. It had to be the usual – reasonably clean but with old-world charm. That’s what one looked for in a bazaar precinct.

I wasn’t going to eat in a spotlessly clean, new type restaurant. Saw a ‘Gokul Lodge’. It seemed old alright, but old AND neglected. It was dark in there and not so clean-looking. I thought I wasn’t going to find my place today. Anyways, I kept walking. The purpose was just that, to walk the chickpete area of old Bangalore with its large expanse of market activity – an area originating from the time the city began, being one of the two main nuclei in Bangalore, the other one being the Cantonment area.

As I walked further, I saw this board Udupi Sri Krishna Bhavan. The name was familiar of course. There was one at Malleswaram, another of the old Bangalore localities, a restaurant we had often frequented. It had the nicest neer dosa (with coconut milk). This had to be the same. It would be good.

Going into the restaurant, I found that here time had moved so much slower than on the street just outside it or on the many streets amidst which it was nestled. The place was quiet, not so many people about. I was early for lunch perhaps. I picked a table so I could see the restaurant and its entrance the way I felt like, with plenty of space in front of me, a bit of the light from the street coming in and the lights inside just enough so as to not drown out the natural light.

I ordered the food and waited, as I looked around me. It was better than I had expected. It actually had rosewood tables and chairs. The table top had been changed to a smooth, black granite top and the chair seats had a white, worn-out laminate, where probably canework had once been.

In front of me, I saw a brass nameplate that said ‘Special room’. This was the typical Family room that restaurants of old had always had. It had a five foot high wooden partition, partly glass. You had your privacy and yet were not too separated from the others. The flooring was the old checkerboard pattern – black and white marble squares. It had been a while since I last saw that. The washbasins located on a side wall of this large hall space had mirrors with teakwood frames.

The ceilings were high and supported by I-beams and I-sections. Just above the serving counter, where the menu was written in large bold letters were large photo-frames. There was one set of pictures of deities – the Raja Ravi Varma prints and another set a little away, of the founders of the hotel, these in black and white.

It had been a discovery, this Udupi Sri Krishna Bhavan. There weren’t so many in the city anymore. It was like going into a time machine. After I had eaten my dosa and had my coffee, I got up to leave, knowing that I could come back into this art deco time machine anytime I wanted to and they even served you the finest filter coffee, as you traced the city back in time!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Srinivasa Coffee works

This is an interview with the owner of Srinivasa Coffee works on D.V.G.road in Basavanagudi, Bangalore. I reproduce here the story of Gandhi Bazaar as told by him:

"Gandhi Bazaar was created 50 years back. I have been here since the beginning. I grew up in the coffee plantations. I knew everything about coffee, so decided to start this business here. We were six brothers and all of us were in this business. I have had this shop selling coffee for 50 years. Our coffee also goes abroad, America, Muscat, Dubai, Singapore, Bombay, Delhi. Our coffee has also gone to Commonwealth games.

There are fewer and fewer of the older generation now. The business is also less. Many people have moved out. Things have changed so much. Good quality of coffee and condiments is not available any more. Previously, D.V.G. road was called Nagassandra road. Earlier, there were only ten shops. Now, it is completely filled with shops and houses.

Every year it is improving more. Also, the Kadlekai Parishe (Groundnut Fair) previously it was only one day or two days, now it is come to four days and Ministers come. All children’s toys are also available now. Previously, village people came. It was a mela. You get things to eat, you get balloons, everything. It begins in the morning and goes on until midnight. It is so congested. Police cannot control anything. In the old days, there would be only 100-200 people at the Parishe. There was a piece of land near the Bull temple (the Basavana devasthanam) where groundnut was grown in the old days. The Kadlekai Parishe happens on the last Monday of Karthika month.

I live in Basavanagudi, near the Bull temple. Now, outsiders have come to live here – Bombay people, Calcutta, Delhi. From everywhere, the people are here, from every State. There are moneylenders, silver business, gold business, cloth business, readymade textiles and so on. There are many from the Jain community. There is a Jain temple and a Jain college here. There are many Mangaloreans here too. The population has increased so much. Some of the Mathas have properties here. They have constructed choultries and they give rooms for rent. Earlier, the Basavanagudi community was only Brahmin community. In Malleswaram, there were only Iyengars.

Everything has become so expensive now, tiffin is more costly, hotel is more costly. When I first started my business, in 1960, I used to pay sixty rupees as rent on D.V.G.road. Now, you have to pay Rs.5,000 or 10,000 to rent a shop here. Earlier, house rents were Rs.20, Rs.30 to Rs.100. According to food rates, all rates have increased. It is become second U.S. here. You can export anything, our flowers are exported, our tulsi is exported. Everything is possible now. It has become a world market."

It was an absolutely special afternoon listening to this story in the midst of people coming in to buy their filter coffee, in the midst of coffee being freshly ground and feel most grateful for having this opportunity to know how life was in Gandhi Bazaar at the very beginning. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Bazaar - a layering in time

In a Bazaar, there is a layering of people and of goods. There is also another kind of layering – of spatial configurations that are random in their making and that metamorphose into a different complexity from one day to the next.

The vendor is part of a layering process that has on one hand, spatial elements – those that create his own territory and those that circumvent his territory. On the other hand, there are the changing displays that can be seen as part of one layer or as belonging to more than one layer. The vendor participates in a simultaneous layering of spaces and displays.

There is an organic development within the bazaar where layers may take the form of a shop, a shop extension, a pedestrian accessway, storage of goods, the selling space of the street vendor and the signage that belongs to the street.

One could define a layer in the bazaar to be an outcome of function – walking space, display space, storage space, advertising space, selling space or interaction space. These are layers that do not have a clear demarcation between them. The walking space weaves sometimes in and out of the selling space. The layers are individually and collectively occupied by different user groups at different times. The layers are formed, they interchange sometimes – that which was selling space is returned to the public domain and becomes a walking space and somewhere else, a walking space enters the private domain as it becomes a selling space.

The image shown here is the main entrance of the Kapaleeswarar Temple at Mylapore in Chennai. This is a centuries old temple that is today surrounded on four sides by streets lined with formal shops and informal street vendors. If one is standing in front of the east entrance gate, a layering is perceived where in the foreground is the flower-seller, in the middle ground is a mobile tailor with his sewing machine. The third layer is a sign board that announces the dance recital scheduled to take place within the temple that evening; the fourth layer is the stone wall of the temple and the background layer is the temple space itself.

Opposite the main entrance of the temple at Mylapore is this street lined with houses and shops. It is also the street where the Temple Car (Ratha) is kept through the year. A part of this ratha is seen here as it becomes a place of seating for autorickshaw-drivers, balloon sellers and temple priests. In this image, the two-wheeler parking becomes the foreground layer; the ratha and the people make the second layer; the vehicular access forms the third layer and the residential facades and shopfronts become the fourth layer. It is of course our perception of this urban space that generates the idea of a multi-layered collage.

In a bazaar, every vendor makes his choice about where to locate himself and how to display his goods and it is these choices that add to or subtract from a layer. The vendors adapt and simplify and bring about an urban experience that is an unconcious design effort - a spatial layering that ebbs and flows with time.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

a Morning market

In the early hours of the morning, the flower vendors at completely fill the public spaces of the inner city in Bangalore. It is a loose space that shapes itself as vendors and customers manoeuvre through it.

I am walking here on Dasera day. However, the vendors sell flowers here everyday. These are small traders who belong to the informal sector of the city. Their occupation of spaces on the streets is considered not legal. But, they continue to sell and the customers continue to buy. It is a symbiotic relationship of the informal economy with the citizens and the city.

No one asks questions about why people make a living by selling flowers on these streets as long as the selling happens before the city’s vehicular traffic begins to enter this same space.

As it nears 8am the numbers of cars, buses, autorickshaws and two-wheelers increases and the vendors are gradually edged out. The flower market then thinks of ending its transactions for the day. Here, at as in other flower markets elsewhere in India, what is almost legal before 8am becomes “illegal” after eight.

The traffic police begin their duties for the day and a line must be drawn, understood either visibly or verbally to know that the time for vending is now over. Some vendors leave before the police reaches there. Others leave after the police arrive and drive them away.

It is a daily act of vigilance. Every day, the morning market borrows urban space and then gives it back again. It is a way the city works.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Grand Central Terminal market

There are times when you have thoughts that run through your mind one after another from a different place and a different time – thoughts of walking through a market in a New York train station, of a story called ‘Hugo’ unfolding inside a Paris railway station and of memories emanating from the Victoria Terminus in Mumbai.

You look at these thoughts as they pass by like you were looking at a roll of film unfold before you. These are negatives that are placed side by side in your mind but are geographically located in different continents. Something binds them – they all hold within them histories of the railroad and of the time when the making of a “place” came about from detailing a ceiling, a grand clock or a monumental turret in a way that generations later, we still wonder about how time could stand still then as it never does now to make such inspiring work possible.

The experience of the Grand Central Terminal in New York city and the market within it are heightened in my mind with the imagery of Martin Scorcese’s 2011 film ‘Hugo’ particularly the opening scenes of the little boy looking through the hands of the station clock and the story’s simultaneous perception of ingenuity in the making of clocks and in the making of films with the railroad station as its backdrop.
I really liked the way Tony Hiss describes the Grand Central Terminal in his book The Experience of Place - “The main concourse of Grand Central – an enormous room, with 14 entrances – is only one part of an intricate structure that was opened to the public in February of 1913 and is justly famous as a crossroads, a noble building, an essential part of midtown Manhattan, and an ingenious piece of engineering that can handle large numbers of trains, cars and people at once. It was designed to handle huge crowds and to impress people with the immensity and the dignity of enclosed public places in a modern city. From the accounts left by its builders however, it was not designed to provide the experience actually available there today. That experience is one of the unplanned treasures of New York.” There is more about its history and its design here.

The market at Grand Central Terminal is where you go to for gourmet food – for artisanal cheese and bread, for speciality coffee beans, for hard-to-get spices, for fresh fish and for gourmet chocolates. You can read here an interesting description of the food merchants, including Zaro’s, Murray’s cheese and Penzeys spices, amongst many others. The market is located on the east side of Grand Central. It can be entered either from inside the Grand Central or from the entrance at Lexington avenue at East 43rd street. I entered the market from inside the Grand Central and after the overwhelming experience of the railroad station, when you walk through the market and come onto Lexington avenue, it seems as if it's one entrance connects you to the city's past and its other entrance to the city's future.

The Grand Central market came into being when a revitalisation plan was commissioned for the Grand Central Terminal in 1990. A $425 million master plan was presented at a public hearing and subsequently adopted in concept by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The retail specialists Williams Jackson Ewing had been asked to prepare a master retail plan to address services and amenities and the “new” Grand Central was reopened in 1998.

As I think about the Grand Central Terminal and its market, I recollect the days in Mumbai from twenty years ago when we travelled by the local trains starting and ending at the Victoria Terminus in Mumbai. It is a building designed by the British architect F.W.Stevens and built over ten years starting in 1878. It is an example of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture blended with elements from traditional Indian architecture. It became a symbol for Mumbai as a mercantile port city within the British Commonwealth. The building was originally intended to house the railway station and the offices of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway. A number of ancillary buildings were added later, but it never had a market planned within it. The original building is still in use for suburban traffic and is used by over 3 million commuters daily. (Source: UNESCO World Heritage list )

Crawford market in Mumbai

The Victoria Terminus could have had a market section within it similar to the Grand Central Terminal market and it may have been successful with its floating population being extremely high. However, the Crawford market, just north of the Victoria Terminus had been completed in 1869. It is another magnificent structure of Mumbai with a built-up area of 6,000 sq.ft. It was designed by the British architect William Emerson and is a blend of Norman and Flemish architectural styles. It has been primarily a fruit, vegetable and poultry market with the merchants also selling imported food and cosmetics.

In Mumbai, the experiences of the Crawford market, the Victoria Terminus and the Flora Fountain, built in 1864 are woven together. The Hornby road (now named D.N.Road) linked the Crawford market to the Flora Fountain with several Neo-classical and Gothic Revival buildings built on commercial plots along the broad avenue road. Over the years, the market building had grown into an urban precinct with intersecting streets of formal and informal vendors selling textiles, stationery and household goods. This is an experience different from that of the Grand Central Terminal Market, where it is one street lined with shops on its either side and yet both the Grand Central Market and the Crawford market are part of the histories of railroad stations – one, in New York city and the other in Mumbai.

Related Post:
The Marketplace: Lonely Planet Blog Carnival
Faneuil hall marketplace
Marketplaces of the world: a Listing
Street corner in Mumbai

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Gimme Coffee

We had not heard about Gimme coffee until a friend introduced us to it a month ago. With every cup of gimme coffee we learnt more about it. We heard more, we read more. We realized that it was not just a cup of coffee, it was not just a cafeteria, it was the whole new culture that we were getting absorbed into.

Here’s what it is. Gimme coffee is the neighbourhood coffee place. The first Gimme coffee shop opened at Cayuga Street in Ithaca, Upstate New York in the year 2000. Thereafter, more outlets opened in Ithaca and at Brooklyn and Manhattan in New York city. Soon, this small artisan roastery became a known name as it began to feature in the news. The GQ magazine said: “This is serious stuff, seriously good”. The Forbes Traveller wrote: “Yes, there’s life beyond Starbucks”

So, what made Gimme coffee so good? It’s the roasting, they said. I’m sharing here a link to Gimme Roastery on their website which is an absolute must-read! With this kind of attention being poured into a cup of coffee, it had to be good. They also share with you on their website, information about the farms where the coffee is sourced from on their ‘sustainability’ page where they talk about organic coffees, relationship coffees and so on.

For us, the first cup we experienced was at the Green Street outlet in Ithaca. The following weekend, we were cajoled by our friend into visiting the outlet at Cayuga street. Did we really have to visit Gimme coffee again?! We had only a few weekends in Ithaca and all we seemed to be doing with them was going from one Gimme coffee place to another. But, of course, now we do think it was all worth it! And, it’s not that I have not wanted to share with others our very own ‘chai’ culture which I wrote about earlier at: what is chai

So, while we were at this Cayuga place on the Sunday morning, we looked around us and the place was filled with young people sipping their coffee and browsing the net. In India, we gradually moved over from the ‘Indian coffee shop’ to the ‘Café coffee day’. Actually, not quite. The people who visited the Indian coffee shop were a different generation from the ones who “hang out” at the Café Coffee day. Of course, there’s a few of us who belong to that previous generation who are still around and go to the Café Coffee day as well, for the “conversations” part of the coffee experience although I must say we just can never converse in the midst of all that music and din as effortlessly as the youngsters do these days!

The Café coffee day experience in India is probably more comparable to the Starbucks experience in the American city. Gimme coffee is a bit different. It’s not about “being on the go”. It’s not about “conversations”. It’s more about the coffee. As we waited for our coffee at the Cayuga place, I saw a book on their shelves – ‘Café Life New York: an Insider’s Guide’ It was a book about New York city’s neighbourhood cafes. I browsed through it with great interest and came across these lines about the Gimme coffee: ‘Nobody comes to Gimme coffee for its décor, or its roominess, they come for the excellent coffee’ That said it all.

This reminds me that I have earlier written about the Stolen Coffee room which was really only about the décor because it’s objects from Chor bazaar made it so special. And now, this sharing about the artisan roasted coffee at the neighbourhood café is more about how one experiences a city and imbibes the culture of its people as you walk the streets, spend time at the café and have the opportunity to know experiences that are special to those who live there.

There was always a prelude to our visit to Gimme coffee. A past experience that had to be shared or a story about it’s many flavours, since we were going to be able to sample just a few. There is the 'La Primavera Decaf' coffee with its taste of sweet cocoa, currant and brown sugar and the 'Finca San Luis' which tastes of crisp citrus, grape, apple and peach with an aroma that reminds of orange and fresh florals. This was how deep the experience could go! You could say this was way beyond the real thing, that it was about branding or about romanticizing the experience. Well, whatever it was, we enjoyed it!

And, then there were times when we came back home and continued to talk about coffee! We talked about R.K.Narayan’s essays on coffee and our friend shared this YouTube video about the television sitcom Seinfeld, (another cultural phenomenon in America) and we watched an episode from ‘The Opposite’ on the coffee table book about coffee tables! That was the epilogue that seems to have made the coffee experience totally immortal for us!!

The taste of the coffee lingers on, only this time the aroma ties up with much more because in America it was the coffee lens through which we saw life in the city.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Ithaca Farmers' Market

The week we arrived in Ithaca, the local Ithaca Times carried an article on the Silent movie era and its early days in Ithaca. It said ‘In 1913, Theodore Wharton came to Ithaca to shoot footage of typical college life, he liked the natural beauty of the town with its gorges and its lake and produced over 100 film titles from about 1914 to 1919. This is one of the few original silent film studios in the United States’. However, most people know Ithaca as the place in Upstate New York where Cornell University was founded in 1865 and which continues till today to be home to students from all over the world.

For a student at Cornell, the University campus is all they know when they leave school. There is no time for anything else. Some remember the quadrangle where their department is housed. Others only remember the library where they spent all the hours of all their days here. For a student, this is definitely the centre of the universe with nothing else beyond. But, if you do not come here as a student, it is nice to also experience the town. For instance, there is the Cayuga lake, there are the Taughannock Falls, there is Stewart park and there is the Ithaca Farmer’s Market!

The market is a co-operative with over 150 vendors who live within 30 miles of Ithaca. These vendors bring fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry as well as freshly baked goods, honey and sauces to the market at the Steamboat landing locatio (which we visited) every Saturday and Sunday. There is also the Dewitt Park location where the market takes place on Tuesdays and Thursdays. There are artists and photographers who exhibit their work here. The Ithaca farmers’ market first opened in 1973 as a place for local food growers to sell their produce and for local artisans to market their crafts. Today, the location at the Steamboat landing is also a picnic place as people come here to shop, to listen to music and to just sit by the waterfront.

I am sharing here some photos from our weekend visit, when the weather was absolutely wonderful and we got a glimpse of the ‘shop+picnic’ scene in Ithaca.

There is a lot more about the Ithaca Farmers’ market at:

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Faneuil Hall marketplace

I am sitting by the Boston Harbour as I write this post. There’s the hum of people talking as they walk past and the live music that’s playing nearby. There’s a view of the boats at the harbour with the reflection of the afternoon sun shimmering on their sides. This is just a two-minute walk from the Faneuil Hall marketplace where I’ve been all morning, my second time this week. It’s the weekend and there are crowds everywhere.

The Faneuil Hall building as you approach it from the Boston Harbour side

The Faneuil hall has served as a marketplace and meeting hall since it was built in 1742. It was donated to Boston by wealthy merchant Peter Faneuil to accommodate farmers bringing their products to town. The hall was built on land gained by the filling of a cove near the dilapidated town dock. The lower level of the hall was divided into stalls which sold meat, vegetables and dairy products. The large meeting room on the upper floor became Boston’s official town hall.

The Plan of Boston showing the long, rectangular Quincy market and the North & South market buildings on either side as they face the Faneuil Hall. To the right, the map shows the Boston harbour. The 'North End' seen above is an old, Italian neighbourhood.

In 1761, fire gutted Faneuil Hall, burning the interior. Two years later, repairs were completed, this time financed by a public lottery. In 1826, the Marketplace was expanded to include the new Quincy market building (as well as the North market & South market buildings) and became the hub of New England commerce in response to Boston’s rapid growth. These three market buildings along with the Faneuil Hall’s market stalls continued to be Boston’s wholesale food distribution center until the 1960’s. (Source: National Park Service, U.S.Department of the Interior, MA)

The small sign of old times still exists, unlike the signage culture of today where urban landscapes with the scale and intensity of hoardings are becoming "cities of signs"

Today, the Faneuil Hall is not a market in the traditional sense. There are no vendors selling fruits and vegetables or fish and meat. There are no flower sellers or booksellers. There is no barter, there is no bargaining, not anymore. The ground floor contains shops and eating establishments. The second floor meeting room is used by the Park Rangers of the National Park Service. The third floor has the museum and armory of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts. Here is a link to the official website:

A shopfront inside the Quincy market building with its line of eateries offering clam chowder, bagel pizzas, icecreams and starbucks coffee and so much else.
Now, the Faneuil hall is visited by not only the locals who live in Boston but also tourists who come here from all over the country and from all over the world. You can buy food, you can buy clothes, you can learn about the history of the place, you can hear live music sometimes.

The urban space between the three market buildings becomes the place for social interaction
You find places to be with the food and the music; spaces where you can sit and watch people as you contemplate about life. The Faneuil Hall marketplace and the Boston Harbour are urban spaces that are designed to let you do that. And, I think that’s what I like about this marketplace. Here, you can relax after you shop, you can spend time with your family outdoors in the midst of the shopping and the eating. It’s a place where you can take a stroll, have a drink, laugh together as you “do nothing”.

I am reminded of Jan Gehl’s book Life between buildings which emphasizes that planning processes must begin by understanding the spaces between buildings. He says, “First life, then spaces, then buildings – the other way around never works.” The book was first published in 1971 and continues to be a widely used handbook on the relationship between public spaces and the social life in cities.

In an Indian bazaar, the “life between buildings” is sometimes about livelihoods, sometimes about shelter (with streets often encroached upon by migrants & the informal sector). It is never about “doing nothing”. It is not a concept associated with our urban spaces. We do not have planned urban spaces. We have streets that flow into each other and life flows in these streets.

The pushcarts inside the market buildings create an informal environment for shopping. Faneuil Hall marketplace was the first in the country to introduce pushcart shopping providing entrepreneurial opportunity to New England artisans.
As I walk the streets of Boston and absorb the marketplace experience at Faneuil Hall, I realize that there is so much to appreciate here and to learn from and simultaneously know that the complexity in the streets of India has its own place. It is yet an unplanned complexity, one in which there are many who participate, knowingly or unknowingly. Of course, the mind goes back to India and to Russell market in Bangalore which a friend tells me has been buzzing with Ramzan festivity in the evenings.

A sign that we'd like to see outside the many, many historic market buildings in the cities of India conserving architectural heritage and our urban heritage.
I sit down a second time now to continue writing this post, now at the Coop Store at Harvard Square, away from the sunny marketplace environment of the Faneuil Hall and the Quincy market. The Coop, founded by Harvard students in 1882 and established as a cooperative is open to the public offering four floors of books and a cafetaria. The Coop is a store where you browse books with greater leisure than you would in a library, sipping your coffee and knowing that the Coop Store like the Faneuil Hall is designed for you to contemplate about life and all you want to learn from it.

Related Posts:
The Marketplace: Lonely Planet Blog Carnival #23

Friday, July 27, 2012

Stolen Coffee Room

The ‘Stolen Coffee room’ is a coffee shop which has most of its furniture and the art that fills its walls from Chor Bazaar. Now, that is something new, but that this coffee shop with the ambience and charm of a European café is in Nerul, that is “most unusual”. If you’ve lived in Bombay 15 years before or if you grew up in Bombay before then, you would know what I mean!!

It was a complete revelation to visit Nerul this time I went to Bombay, having lived away for many years now. It’s a relatively new suburb of Bombay. I grew up in Sion and for many living in South Bombay then, Sion was a suburb they had never been to and Nerul is further North! Today, Nerul has modern residential complexes and interesting restaurants that you would want to travel through the city’s traffic to get to (from South Bombay!) Thanks to Anjali who invited me to lunch at the Bangali Mashi's kitchen off Palm Beach road and then to coffee afterwards introducing me to two great places in one afternoon and simultaneously to the changing landscape of the city! You can already read Anjali's totally absorbing post Friendly Neighbourhood Bangali Mashi's Kitchen at her blog dedicated to food Anna Parabhahma. I also liked what Anjali has to say about the Stolen coffee room, to read more on that, you can go here: Lost my heart to the Stolen Coffee room

I’m happy to write this post and include it here on this blog because the ‘Stolen Coffee Room’ has a connection to the Bazaar. As it’s name suggests, it has been designed and put together from selecting objects from Chor Bazaar, which supposedly had stolen items for sale in the old days, though today it is the place to buy antiques in Bombay. I’ve written earlier about Chor Bazaar at Bollywood Posters and Bazaar Tour 2: Antiques Mumbai

Coming back to our coffee shop with its chor bazaar ancestry, it’s design concept is interesting. Not every table at the Stolen Coffee Room looks like another. Each table is a different one. The chairs are all different. As you sit in the café with your cup of coffee, you wonder where that chair has been before, did it belong to another café or was it a family that used it in their home before it was found at Chor Bazaar. There is history behind each painting on the wall, inside every kettle in the glass cupboard.

The other day, a friend who has grown up in Bombay but now lives in Bangalore talked of her excitement at seeing the new “high-end” coffee shop come up opposite her parents’ house in Hill road. “You know, the kind where you get a pastry for Rs.150!” she had said. She was so surprised to find how this once simple Hill road lane had changed with these “high-end” coffee shops coming up in locations where there had once been businesses with “immoral” activities; where brand showrooms had been willing to pay exhorbitant real estate prices for a space in a building which she so clearly remembers from her childhood to be a “panvati” building (That’s Bombay terminology for a building with a curse on it). These changes in old neighbourhoods were becoming more frequent and quite drastic.

Here, in Bangalore, we have been closely watching the changes that have been taking place in the ‘Adigas lane’ – that’s the lane off Bannerghatta road, close to the Arakere gate signal junction. Most of us here call it by this name because of the fast food restaurant ‘Adigas’. It occupies a place close to the corner property. Beyond that and away from the main road were independent houses. It was a quiet lane when we first moved here five years ago. Then, gradually, a Baskin Robbins came up, the vada-pav chain – Goli Pav, the Juhu Bombay Naturals Ice cream parlour, the Lakme Salon moved here. Further down, a gym has opened up and the library chain Just Books and now the Cuppa coffee shop which will be ‘opening soon’. All of this in the last five years.

There is so much that is happening in our lives. There are the old neighbourhoods that are changing rapidly and the new neighbourhoods that are leaping forward. We are becoming a consumerist society and our streets and neighbourhoods seem to mirror it all. You can look into this mirror and think 'our cities are changing' or you can look into it and think 'we are changing, did we want to?'

Related post:
Design Inspiration from the Bazaar

(Anjali, thanks for letting me take pictures with your camera and for your photograph of the blue facade!)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Marketplace as an aesthetic urban experience

Every marketplace in India is an aesthetic urban experience – whether it’s a flower market, a wholesale tomato market or a temple bazaar. I recollect and share here my experience of the flower market in Bangalore. It is an informal market that takes place for two hours every morning in the vicinity of the Krishna Rajendra market. The K.R. market zone is one of the most chaotic, congested and noisy neighbourhoods in the city of Bangalore. The city’s main intercity and local bus terminal and the main railway station are located within a radius of a kilometre from here. However, there is one time of the day when you would go there even if you had no task or purpose in mind, in the early mornings, just to enjoy the visual experience of the flower market.

The place where the market happens is not a street, it is not a square and it is not within a building. The market comes into being at an extremely busy traffic junction, a crossing of roads, a space just below a flyover. It is difficult to imagine this urban space as a flower market because it is not designed as a place for flowers and neither is it an organised traffic junction. It is simply a point in the city where the most number of cars, people and goods cross paths. This is where flower vendors gather every day and where business is brisk as retailers and individual customers buy flowers for consumption.

If one thinks about the edges of this urban space and of the flower market, one realises that it has no defined edges. The market stops where the last flower vendor sits. When there are no more flower vendors, there is no more flower market; until it appears again in a small lane much further away from the central location under the flyover. But, these small flower vendors in the small lanes continue to sell flowers throughout the day; whereas the main flower market opens at 5am and closes at 8am.

The visual experience of this market depends on who you are and why you are here. If you are a temple priest and have come to buy flowers for the rituals of the day, you may or may not take note of who sells large garlands and who sells small garlands. You may simply go towards the vendors who sell loose flowers and perhaps directly go to the vendor who knows your daily requirement of the golden yellow marigolds.

If you are a flower retailer and have come to pick flowers that you will sell in another part of the city, your experience of the market is an ‘everyday’ experience but you may want to look for the unusual and the exotic, your eyes searching for that which you have not seen the day before or the week before. Just as your eyes search for a special buy, your ears listen intently to the prices being shouted by the vendors as they deftly move their hands and raise their voices to attract customers.

If you are an individual visiting the market for a regular, weekly purchase of fruits and vegetables, you may walk through the paths that meander between flower vendors, partly just to enjoy the visual and the sensory experience of the morning and partly to choose which vendor has for you the best flowers at the best price.

If you are a tourist, a first-time visitor to the city of Bangalore, the visual and spatial experience of the market will be completely different for you. The colours of the flowers will make you walk this way and that in a marketplace that has no straight lines and no defined routes within it. On one hand, you will smell the roses and the jasmines and wafting through the same air will be unbearable smells of goods that have gone rotten and drains that are overflowing. Inspite of everything that doesn’t seem right, this walk can be a beautiful experience and one that you will always cherish!!

Related Posts:
Flower sellers: To create, to forget
Dadar Flower market, Mumbai
The Garland makers in the Bazaar