Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hampi - the bazaar

We were at Anegondi. The coracle was waiting. It took us along. It was like being inside a sculpture, a sculpture that flowed by the water. It was of course peaceful, no people, stone and its own ways. As we shored, it seemed like we were entering Hampi from its back door. A winding path through the overpowering stones and we were suddenly onto the street that led to the temple. This had also been the street where the main bazaar had once been. It was today also a bazaar, but a half bazaar. One end was deserted.

It should be possible to experience a historic place in its 'as is, where is' condition. We often crave to know the history before we reach there, or when we are there. Without the stories of the past reaching us, how much of the present of a place is still there for us to experience?

The Hampi of today has people who belong to an India that has changed. It has people who live here with their families and it has people who visit as tourists. The shops that line the bazaar of today sell T-shirts and Pepsi. There are internet booths. There are craft shops. As UNESCO brings in its Conservation experts, there is work also on the contemporarising of this beautiful old bazaar.

Friday, November 16, 2007

In the mind of a child

In THE HINDU – YOUNG WORLD painting competitions, school students express themselves in colour and form.

What impressions do bazaars leave on children . . .

Venkatesh lives in a “big” town. Maybe, his family usually shops at this enclosed market. It is different from Lathika’s cart vendor and Siva’s open market place. In ‘big’ towns, the municipality has provided a covered area for a bazaar. What one sees in this painting is that Vijayawada must be a cosmopolitan town. The vegetable vendors are not all Telugu-speaking. There is also a Sardarji. One woman vendor is selling her wares in a basket. Who is the man with the trolley? The foreground is coloured green. Could it be that the bazaar is not paved?

I look at the painting by Siva Sankari. His ‘Bazaar Scene’ is filled with so many people. Bazaars are always crowded. But, why are they so? If the bazaar at Teppakulam were made larger, would it still look like this? The advertisements loom large. Everyone is offering discounts. It must be DIWALI time when Siva made this painting. They are diwali offers.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Bazaar on Konkan coast

In Maharashtra, the coastline belongs to the Kolis or Fishermen. The men go out to sea to catch the fish. The women sell the fish at the local bazaar. Koli women focus on the quality of the product. That is all that matters. And, if you don't trust them when they say the price is good and the fish fresh, you can go take a walk!!

There are no "circulation paths" in the Maasali bazaar or Fish market at Murud Janjira, which has today become a weekend getaway for Bombayites and where the Janjira fort stands in the waters of the Arabian sea. You "circulate" without a plan. You "circulate" without a thought. You "circulate" as if you are in the waters of the ocean. With every wave, you change where you are and what you do.

There is an indoor market and an outdoor market. Inside, there is tranquillity. Outside, chaos reigns. The market structure has little openings in the walls and some places in the roof, that bring in the sunlight beautifully. The vendors here have time to chat with you as you stroll around the few lanes within.

There is the countrywood jali which generates good cross-ventilation within the bazaar building. The walls are white. The sunlight is a serene spotlight from above that sometimes puts the women on centrestage and sometimes the fish.

Other posts on Fish Bazaar:

Fish market at Sassoon Docks

Friday, August 31, 2007

Miracle boutique

In India, we have always, always been fascinated with miracles. There was a time when they actually happened, with the tapasya of the Rishis. Later, we lived with the epic tales told at home by our grandmothers and the miracles were almost a part of us. Then, and also before, came the movies, that depicted these tales of hanuman flying in the air, of krishna and arjuna. There were television serials soon after, that brought the miracles to every home, in every town.

When we walk into the Forum mall and see the "Ponds Miracle boutique", it gives us a "good feeling". Then, there are the showrooms that offer all that you need for the gym evenings. Today, lifestyles and malls are about "LOok good, FEel good"

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Forum Mall at Bangalore

One walks into Forum mall wanting not so much to "buy" or to even "windowshop" but to find out why everyone in Bangalore recommends 'Forum mall' as THE mall to go to. So, you go in there, and tell yourself, "this must be good, because its the Forum" Quite like when we went into the Louvre in Paris, with little time on hand before the museum closed for the day, we headed straight for the 'Monalisa'. Stood before it and stood before it... and like everybody else does, told ourselves, this is a very good piece of art, because its THE Monalisa, it is Da Vinci's most famous work.

We had been told that Garuda mall was good to visit as well, and that there were many malls in Bangalore, that Bangalore was a "city of malls" . Its always good to first check out the best. So, we enter into the Forum, the backlit floor plans attract attention.

Its the corner spaces in the mall that are designed very well. In one of the corners, is the Cafe Coffee day. Its not so much how the spaces within the coffee shop are, but what the lively corners do for those who stroll in the mall. The coffee shop would pull you in, even if you were not at that moment considering a cup of hot or cold coffee! In the Irani cafes of old-time Bombay, it was this cornerness that was the most remarkable feature. The corners of streets were always taken up by an Irani shop. Its charm did come from its mirrored walls, its marble-top tables and round-seated wooden chairs. The black of the chairs, the mirrors, the bun-maska and the man behind counter were what made the place what it used to be!

Read about:
The Mall: where is it going?
Designing an Indian mall
a Mall for Home Interiors
Spencer's Plaza: the mall in Chennai

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Decongesting the Jagadamba Junction

Our objectives
To decongest the area to allow it to function efficiently as a transition zone, linking different parts of the city centre
To provide better environment for shoppers and cinema goers

Reduce pollution in an area frequented by large sections of the public
Improve accessibility to Poorna market

Possible Causes of Congestion

Increase in shopping activity at Jagadamba Junction – esp. Chandana Bros. & Bommana shops
Location of a Cinema hall (Jagadamba theatre) at the Junction and four other cinema halls in the by-lanes behind the junction.
Lack of adequate parking facilities for shoppers and cinema goers
Implementation of parking regulations not strict enough

Experiments to determine the extent of change required

Pedestrianise the area for one-day by stopping traffic into the centre
Seal access to Chandana and Bommana shops from the Main road
Strict enforcement of parking regulations in lots available currently
Survey staff to be positioned at traffic junctions, parking lots and strategic points on the footpaths to observe the movements of vehicle owners, pedestrians, shoppers, and public using the area as transition zone.
Plugging of access to different combination of roads to be tried out.
Conduct a meeting of Shopowners, Petrol bunk owners and Users of the area to know their views on pedestrianisation and day-to-day problems that they think the government can help solve.
Seek comments and suggestions from the citizens of Vizag, through market survey, which may be conducted by the management students of GITAM college.
Conduct an exhibition of the Pedestrianisation draft proposal, which would be open to the public. Invite their views in a visitors’ book or in a follow-up workshop to be attended by organisations and old residents of Vizag.
Conduct a meeting for the Press & invite them to open a debate to allow citizens to send letters to be published in the daily newspapers during the public consultation period.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Entrepreneurs, Municipal authorities & the Public

Whilst developing new ideas for petty trade activities, we need to know why the prevalent conditions are unsuitable and for whom. According to the entrepreneur, there is some uncertainity in the business activity due to the lack of permanence of shelter. When there is sudden rain, some part of the activity must be stalled until such time that sunshine returns. Most of the petty traders who operate from a baddi, use it mostly as a store, for example, a cycle-repair shop or a mechanic uses the stall / baddi space to store his tools, tyres, etc.

Almost always, the business activity stretches beyond the stall onto the open space available just outside. Either a wooden counter or table is pulled out every morning when the shop opens or a raised platform in concrete exists that serves as an extension to the stall. So, the space requirement for the business activity is very flexible and always more than 6’-0”x 6’-0”. This outdoor space may also include a waiting area for the customers which may consist of a rickety wooden bench put out onto the footpath itself.

Some of the already existing baddies serve also as residences. The few belongings of the individual or family are stored inside the baddi and his workplace and sleeping quarters have the sky for roof. So, as far as the petty trader is concerned, there can be no better option than his present baddi and its outdoor extension, because it is sure value for money. He gets space free of cost outside of his 6’-0” x 6’-0” stall. In terms of facilities, the petty trader may want a toilet in the vicinity and also water supply, especially if he owns a snack or a juice stall. He, therefore needs a planned bazaar only if these facilities are provided and also if he can be better sheltered from the weather.

As far as the municipal authorities are concerned, random growth of small businesses can create unhygienic conditions for the public due to the lack of proper drainage facilities and thus increase the health problems of the city. The footpath is not anymore just a circulation space; it also becomes a business or commercial space.

From the point of view of the public, a planned bazaar will be more efficient to carry out shopping activities; more hygienic, at least partially sheltered and therefore shopping may be done with better protection from the harsh sun. It is possible that a new bazaar may be located further away from the buyer’s home than an existing baddi cluster. There is often a single baddi located at almost every street junction. It keeps in mind the walking distances to be covered from the buyer’s home. However, these street corner baddis are often only paan-shops stocking limited items. Other needs must be met with at shops which may be located further away. Usually, the informal growth of baddis is found to occur near a bus-stop or sometimes a temple.

It helps if the municipal authorities survey well the physical aspects of already existing petty trades such as spatial requirements, low-cost construction materials, and the unconventional servicing and infrastructural facilities in use. In the end, the designed space and shelter must be priced correctly, or else, the exercise tends to fail due to lack of interest from the petty traders in the new project.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Understanding the informal sector

In Visakhapatnam, petty trade flourishes at street corners, on the footpaths and on small pieces of Municipal Corporation of Visakhapatnam (MCV) lands that are unoccupied. The petty traders use tree cover or a baddi i.e. a kiosk for a shelter. They are increasing in number, causing congestion and occupation of lands that can be more suitably used. The Corporation felt the need to relocate these traders to alloted spaces. Initially, more than 15 sites were identified by MCV for a bazaar that provides spaces for petty trades.

It was necessary to perceive the problems faced by Petty traders in the city and those faced by the Municipal Corporation due to the existence of petty trade activities. The initial observations showed that Cost is a major factor in selection of the type of stalls that are seen at random locations all over the city. Twenty years ago, a baddi of size 6’-0” x 6’-0” could cost Rs.5,000. Today, the same baddi can cost upto Rs.20,000. Having stood the test of time, these baddis are probably the most appropriate and cost-effective solutions as shelters for business. The spontaneity of the entrepreneur and his family in creating a suitable work environment results in individualistic designs.

The infrastructural costs are kept low by occupying street junctions, footpaths and vacant lots, instead of purchasing regular shops. The hawker uses sometimes a bedsheet to spread out his wares, or a few wooden crates that make a small platform or a kiosk (these are made from wooden planks from used cargo crates for the walls and asbestos sheets for the roof). These baddis or kiosks do not require lengthy procedures for approval by the authorities. A shop constructed in brick and plaster with an RCC slab roof can be built and occupied only after submission of architectural plans to the Municipal Corporation. This can be time consuming and of course more expensive.

The design for the petty traders project took the form of a tree, a pergola and a barrel vault.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

no "shop window"

There is no "shop window" anymore. In the old days, there were shop fronts that had mannequins that had to be dressed up every day or at least once a week.

Now, printing technology allows us to have a large screen in vinyl that has life-size pictures of men and women in just the clothes we aspire for. Lighting technology now allows this screen to have a special accent and to highlight that which must attract us, most hurried customers.

In Bombay, in the 80's, Benzer, the super store happened, at Warden road, which was by then, renamed Bhulabhai Desai road. It was the place to go to shop. There were no malls then. Benzer had a "shop window" It also had a small "landscaped" area at the entrance with sculptural blocks clad in granite stone.

There was an outside to the store and an inside. You stepped in to see what was possible, at what price. Today, in the mall, you often see the whole store from the outside. All the T-shirts racks, all the discounts being offered... It is like having a walk-in closet.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Spencer’s Plaza – the old mall in Chennai

Spencer’s Plaza has always been ‘the new within the old’ – a new building within the memory of an old one. Until Citi Centre opened to the public some months ago, Spencer’s Plaza was “The Mall” of Chennai. There is the atrium with the circular arcade in brick, constructed anew on the old design.
In the malls, the parking space is always your first experience. In the old days, you always walked to the bazaar. Today, you can still walk or take the car to the bazaar. Because it is almost a pedestrianised zone i.e. it is flooded to such an extent with pedestrians and hawkers, nobody takes a car in there. You park in the side lanes in and around the main bazaar streets. There is always a small street nearby which becomes a parking lot.
In Georgetown, you are in one street for clothes, in another for electronic goods. Here, at Spencers' the clothes and the electronics are a shop away from each other and the expensive eateries abound. The spaces are clean. You do not jostle in a crowd. The noise levels are different from the bazaar too. You cannot buy your fresh limesoda or your sugarcane juice here. But, there is the “Fruit shop on Greams Road” outlet which sells ‘Pineapple Mint’ for Rs.40 or the Orange Tangerine for Rs.30. Sugarcane juice in the Bazaar is Rs.3 for half glass and Rs.6 for full glass.
At Spencer’s, you come out of the parking basement into the brick-lined circular atrium, take an escalator up to the shops. It’s a centrally air-conditioned mall – the atrium, the passages, the shops. The maintenance costs are high and the goods always priced high. There are large chain stores like West Side and Music World housed here. There is “sweet corn” and “subway sandwiches”.
And as one of the storefront sign says you “Rediscover yourself”. A mall is just different from a bazaar…

Read about:

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Citi Centre - the mall in chennai

It is a shopping centre with an ornate fa├žade on RK Salai, in Chennai. You pay by the hour for parking. The entrance is grand and they sell expensive coffee and snacks in the lobby. The most attractive is the third floor, with its medley of restaurants, from Saravana Bhavan to Gangotree to Subway. You get here from one escalator to the other. You don’t walk a few yards from a bhelpuri kiosk to a 30-year old Saravana Bhavan as elsewhere. You use the escalator to reach the space that has it all, amidst a lot of light.

Evenings at Citi Centre are about good lighting. Eating in a street bazaar is also about an experience in light, but they are rarely floodlit spaces like this one. Here, you are on the stage. In the old bazaars you walk, sometimes as spectator and sometimes as actor. You choose when you want to be what and move in and out of the light.

The great thing about the food floor at Citi Centre and this really is the greatest thing, is that you can dine with your family in four different places but at one table. One person picks up a subway sandwich, another mexican food and the other a mini-tiffin from Saravana’s. You don’t travel miles between these places in the city’s traffic to get this experience.

The next great experience at the Citicentre is its Landmark bookshop. That experience is also possible at Spencer’s Plaza. In a Bazaar at Mylapore or Triplicane or Georgetown, you don’t encounter a Landmark in any case. If you need to go to a bookshop in the city, you go to Landmark or Odyssey’s independent stores. These are great shopping experiences in themselves – the standalone book bazaars. In Bombay, the book lover goes to Strand Book stall – a space smaller than Landmark and Odyssey. Strand is a small space and always a memorable experience. Other shops in the Citi centre seem expensive, but people come to the mall to eat, to spend time and money. So, the shops have some window shoppers and some who are there to buy for real.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

about this blog

This blog has been writing about and photographing bazaars. So, many of the posts are about experiences in the bazaars in Kerala, in Chennai and in Vizag. Its at the moment just fascinated with this part of our living heritage.

In the month of April, the blog has focused on how in India, Art is a way of life and that one does see this in our Bazaars everyday. In this april section and also in a few posts in the end of March, bazaars were seen not only as spaces for everyday but as creations of the people to whom they belong to. Art is seen for a while not as a "representation" of the real world but as a "way of seeing" that is photographed for that moment in time. The creation continues to be where it always was.

In May 2007, the blog will go back to the bazaars as a spatial experience, since this research must go on. There are for now, thoughts that belong to the bazaar, which are here at INDIAN BAZAARS and those that belong to experiencing architecture, experiencing life which are in the blog a way of seeing

Monday, April 23, 2007

Colours of a culture

spice art

Light in the Scrapyard

“The uniqueness of every painting was once part of the uniqueness of the place where it resided. Sometimes, the painting was transportable. But it could never be seen in two places at the same time. When the camera reproduces a painting, it destroys the uniqueness of its image. As a result its meaning changes. Or, more exactly, its meaning multiplies and fragments into many meanings.”

- John Berger

In his book ‘Ways of Seeing’, John Berger went on to illustrate what happens when a painting is shown on a television screen and how this painting then enters each viewer’s house. Because of the camera, the painting now travels to the spectator rather than the spectator to the painting.

It is interesting to see what happens when something real is captured for that moment on a digital camera. It is a digitised image that is “loaded” onto your computer and that can appear simultaneously on a million computers when put into a blog or into a website. Now, you not only see this image as you did earlier on a television screen and begin to interpret it in your mind, each differently. But, you also begin to exchange these interpretations. You begin to exchange other images that remind you of this image, or meanings that generate other images.

Today, the camera has not only made something from the real world reproducible many times over, but it has allowed this reproduction and its original meaning to be discovered on “the net” or to be “googled”

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Bundle of something

You see a bundle of cloth and nothing else for that moment. And, as you photograph it, the bundle has eliminated that which you have seen the moment before and also the moment after, the next bundle of yellow cloth and the man who sells the cloth and the chappals that lie on the floor next to bundle.

The pile of brass pots is a picture too. It is moved into the shop when it is time to go home and close shop. It is picture during day. Brass, steel, aluminium make the picture. Light falls on brass. It does not fall on aluminium. The photograph catches the sun at four o'clock in the afternoon. The picture of pots continues to be there when the sun goes down. Only you are now not in the bazaar.

There is a bundle of coco-cola and pepsi crates. Yellow public telephone booth, red coca-cola crate. This is not art. Is it articulation? Articulation is defined as 'the manner of joining or interrelating'. It is also 'the act of giving utterance or expression'. These are by people who bring this articulation into their work, people who link creativity and entrepreneurship.

art and daily commodity

There's a painting with 'puffed rice, parboiled rice and chillis'. There is another painting further down the market which is 'small lamps and big lamps' This one is different also because the sunlight has changed the way it looks. There is painting with 'marigolds, betel leaf and coconut'. There is also painting with 'heap of tamarind and block of jaggery'. These were people whose livelihoods were in the bazaar and creativity was a small part of it.

people and places

Christopher Day in his book 'Places for the soul' speaks of photographs as fragments of experience. I agree with him in that art and architecture are essentially much more than what the eye can record. It is possible for us to develop a way of seeing and then, in some days or years, to change that way of seeing within ourselves.

People photograph and people paint. They make "representations" of life that we term as art. These are people who see life as art. There are also others who see as much, but do not record. The art continues to flow outside of the artists, in life itself.

women in the bazaar

In October 2006, it was the Festival of lights all over the country. That Diwali, as in the Diwali the year before, there were more flowers in the bazaar than everyday. In Vizag or Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, there were marigolds everywhere. Poorna market and the Rama Talkies junction were crowded with people and with flowers. There were women selling flowers and women buying flowers. There were heaps of marigolds and strings of marigolds. Poorna market is primarily a fruit and vegetable market but had created spaces for flowers for the week of diwali. The visual landscape of Poorna market was different that week.

Vizag does not have an art plaza like the one outside the Jehangir Art Gallery at Kalaghoda in Bombay. But, Vizag, like every town in India, has a street bazaar. And, all of us go to the bazaar, whether we are art lovers or not. There is much to see. At diwali time, there were flowers here, crackers somewhere else. Only, each exhibit was on display for only one day. And, the exhibit diminished in size as the day moved on. Especially the flowers. The hands of the women sometimes created a new heap, sometimes emptied it in parts, sometimes wove the flowers into a string and at other times, separated the yellow from the orange.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Art _ a way of life

An earlier post "Art & Representation" is about looking into a "painting".

One may read a little about why art is, what it does for man, why it still lives and so on. Understanding art can be a long quest. Experiencing a painting is also like reading Roald Dahl's "Charlie Wonka and the chocolate factory"

The painting 'Annunciation' is an assignment that was done for an elective course 'Architecture & Representation' at Cornell University, 15 years ago. Today, when you look at Bazaars, you know there is art there. It reminds one of the journey into the annunciation painting. You wonder why the Bazaar is not also "painting"

Many years ago, an american art historian who was in Bombay for her continuing research on the Elephanta Caves, asked us if we had seen and understood India the way we ought to know it, that "in India, one does not visit museums to see art, because, here, art is a way of life"

what we see, what we know

in the bazaar, space is ...
what we see
and what we know

it is not known
what is private
what is public
space is eternity

you sell, you buy
you occupy, you vacate
you give, you take
you include, you exclude

People come
People belong
People form society
Society within nation

All in the 'Everyday space'

an art installation

How did "art installations" come into being? Where was its birthplace?

What did an art installation do when it first appeared? What does it do for us now? Do renowned artists make art installations?

Is art for the common man? Does common man make art?

In the bazaar, "there are cities within cities" as they say. What is the smallest atom of this city? Is there a DNA helix also in the city of people and goods?