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

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This was one lovely write up.
Thoroughly enjoyed the flowery post.