Thursday, September 29, 2011

Territoriality in the Indian Bazaar

I had been going to Gandhi Bazaar and wasn't tiring of it yet. There was so much going on there. I wrote about the Bazaar tour in Bangalore soon after. I think it was the flower sellers that I kept going back for. The making of garlands happened while the buying and selling took place. It was quite fascinating. We all know that there are many festivals in India. I had decided to be at the bazaar on every festival and they were coming faster than I could cope! I wrote later about an afternoon in festive Dussehra.

I had come across a paper 'Territorial Complexity in Public spaces' by Mattias Karrholm and it had set me thinking about Territoriality in the context of what I had been seeing at Gandhi Bazaar. Eventually, when a paper had to be written for a Symposium on Urban Visualities in Chennai, I chose to write about 'Territoriality in the Indian Bazaar'. The blogpost Art in Urban spaces has some of the photographs that were part of the Exhibition that accompanied this Symposium. However, I continue to think about Territoriality some months later and wonder why some questions seem more interesting than others. 

The human mind asks questions such as ‘why do birds fly?’ or ‘why do we yawn?’. We are intrigued by the phenomena that surround our everyday existence and look for answers. Often, there are no answers and sometimes an answer serves no other purpose than to satisfy our yearning to know. I ask myself, is the question of ‘Territoriality in the Indian Bazaar’ one of intrigue or of purpose?

a Vendor selling Cut-fruit marks his territory near Brigade road in Bangalore and also personalises his territory with a stuffed toy that potential customers can spot from a distance.
In our man-made environment, a spatial order is as important as a social order. There is a co-relation between the two orders located within a geographical context. What behaviour is socially and culturally acceptable and what is not? Which spatial configurations are changeable and which are not? Does the distribution of economic benefits take place in a balanced way?

We find that there is a continual effort to bring some semblance into our lives on the social and economic front in the many circles that we create in our existence and in our habitats. We have in our cities, the circles of living, the circles of work and the circles of commerce. In the circles of commerce, where we buy and sell goods for consumption, the place of exchange or the marketplace becomes a point of study and observation that draws us to explore questions of both curiousity and purpose. One asks therefore ‘Can a deeper understanding of Territoriality benefit the making of a shop, the design of a street or the planning of a city?’

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Keswick market in Cumbria

GUEST POST by Radha Vijay. Keswick is a quaint market town in the Lake District, Cumbria in the UK.  Its name originates from an Old English term Cese wic meaning ‘farm where cheese is made’. The origin of the market town is said to date back to 1276 when Edward I granted a charter to hold a market and the practice continues till today, well over 700 years later. 

The Market square with the Town hall in the background. 

We were in Keswick on a Thursday, it is a day they have a traditional market with local produce and a few international crafts on sale. It is different from the main farmers’ market (which is held here on Mondays), but is something similar on a smaller scale. The farmers’ market concept is popular in the UK. This is where farmers, growers, producers are allowed to sell their produce directly to the public. While the idea is to encourage the farmers to market their products without the middlemen, they still need licences to sell and have strict food laws to adhere to.

Located in the centre of the town is a pedestrianized market square. There are tents pegged in the middle of the square selling a variety of wares. The produce looks fresh and tempting. The market square is itself very quaint. With the hills in the background it makes a pretty sight. Cafés and stores line the street. Within the square is the Moot Hall, an old grey stone building, used in the past as a prison, courthouse and a town hall, and presently housing the tourism centre.  Look closely and you will see a one-handed clock in the building. It is said to be the oldest in the country.

A stall sold jams and preserves in different flavours.

Farmers can market raw produce or processed food. But it needs to be from what was produced on their own farm. They need to be manning the stall too.  It had the look of a homemade product, so different from the slick packaged bottles that are sold at the supermarket.

There were baked goodies like muffins, gingerbread and carrot cake.  The muffins were a meal by itself.

Homemade toffees and wooden cutting boards from local timber!

Others had cheeses, meats and ice-creams. Bite-sized pieces arranged for sampling. No pressure to buy, no glib sales talk…Few local artists and photographers were also selling their work.

Very familiar Indian handicrafts. But the banner said it was a charity stall in aid of Nepal. Far away in this little town in the UK!

Away past the Moot Hall, the square lead into another lane and there were more shops.  So many outlets with varied goods in Keswick., And considering it has a population of about 6000, you wonder where the sales come from! Tourists?

It was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. But like the stores across the UK, closing hour was 5.30 in the evening, despite daylight lasting upto 9.30 in the night in summer.  It had something to do with the labour laws in the country. For us it seems strange, after all, isn’t that when shopping/spending begins in India?

I would like to thank Radha for writing this post and for sharing her photographs! You can visit her blog at: Musings of a Night Owl

Read about: 
Fish Market Mumbai
Tibetans at the Cliff Bazaar in Kerala

Friday, September 02, 2011

The Indonesian, the Dutch and the Indian experience

This blogpost is an interview with Hasti Tarekat, a Heritage professional from Indonesia now based in the Netherlands.

1. What parts of a Dutch weekly market do you find most interesting and different from the Indonesian experience?
Mostly, I visit the weekly Dutch market near my house in Amsterdam Southeast which is not more than one kilometer long. But, in this one kilometer market, one finds variations of vegetables and fruits from almost all parts of the world. It says a lot about multi-culturalism in Amsterdam in particular and in the Netherlands. There are about 187 nationalities in Amsterdam and I think it is reflected in its markets.
Markets in Indonesia generally have more local products. This is good from the  sustainability perspective, that we should go local as much as possible to reduce import activities.
2. Could you share your observations on marketplaces in Indonesia that are informal, chaotic but with cultural and social richness?
Markets in Indonesia are less organized than markets in the Netherlands. There is insufficient infrastructure such as water supply and waste management. Some vendors have to put their stuff on the ground. Fish and meat stalls are wet. Many corners are dark. Cars can park on walking paths. So, comfort is not the strong point of markets in Indonesia.

What makes markets in Indonesia interesting is: (1) There are a lot of homemade and handmade products (2) Many of the products are fresh because markets start very early in the morning (3) It is always possible to bargain and this opens up contacts and communication (4) The markets are pillars of informal sectors which are very important in national economic development.
3. Can a bazaar in India be compared to a marketplace in Indonesia? What are the commonalities? What are some of the differences?
To be honest I went to bazaar in India only for a brief visit but from that short moment I enjoyed tremendously the atmosphere, colours and hospitality of the vendors. Bazaars in India have more colours than markets in Indonesia. I think it is related to the flowers, the spices and the textiles in India. The commonalities are the organic nature of the market itself, most part of the market grows itself without too much regulation. Differences are not so many except for the size of the market and the number of people. Bazaars in India are much larger and busier.
 4. Are there ways in which a traditional market environment can be included in Heritage Education for Inner city revitalisation?
I think markets are an important element of a city or a village and should be encouraged to develop and flourish. It is fine to have markets for tourists, but it is more important to keep markets as part of the local economic development. With this idea, we should put markets in the agenda of heritage conservation but unfortunately until now this is not the case. It is an ideal point for discussions about heritage – the social and the economic elements.

I would like to thank Hasti for taking out the time for this and also for writing the previous blogpost on the ‘Albert Cuyp market in Amsterdam’. In our informal interactions with Hasti at the ‘Urban Heritage Strategies’ workshop in Rotterdam, Hasti always had two different perspectives for us, one, the Indonesian one and the other, the Dutch one. It made our understanding of Heritage and Culture so much richer having these multi-layered perceptions and explanations.