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.