I recently found myself in Mumbai for work. I go there about every 4-5 months. Usually I go Airport > Hotel> Jobsite> Hotel> repeat next day, until it’s off to the airport. As such I know very little of the city. This time, I manage to book to arrive on Sunday to have one day to explore. I had read about a place called Chor Bazaar. A mish-mash collection of streets where you can buy anything and everything. They were not kidding. In particular I wanted to visit the metal street and find a Elephant Bell, to add to the collection. The area is mostly a Muslim area and known for being a little consserative and when I asked the hotel concierge about getting there, he seemed concerned at first. He asked, “Who is going with you?” which I thought was a strange question. When I said just me, he seemed to relax some and say that was fine, he was just concerned if there were any women going because it’s a “conservative area” A shame it has that reputation, I was lucky to be exempt from concern.
I got a taxi, who spoke no English, and after some Hind-Hindi-Hindi from the head guy at the Hotel driveway, we seemed to be off. Of course, just because something is famous on the internet, does not mean Unlce Taxi driver knows where it is…. I will say we have seen this multiple times, and it always surprises me. But in India, drivers will just pull over, stick their heads out and ask for directions. And strangers will help them! So, my taxi pulled over and did just that. After a few back and forth, we turned left, took a right, went straight and then suddenly he pulled over to the side and said here. Full stop. Cash was paid, I found myself on the street, taxi left and that was that. I’m here. Now what?
Well, with a little walking, I found my way and yes, I had been dropped at the correct location. Now, here I was at Chor Bazar. Streets lined with shops, pilled with junk, with stray dogs, goats (yes, goats!), kids playing cricket, tuk-tuks, taxis, cars, scooters, and people all sharing the same road going about their business. Here I was indeed. Here I was, dress in shorts, feeling ever so Caucasian/Western, standing in the midst of this chaos with what seemed like every eye on the street upon me. Let me just mention, that it was hot that day, not crazy hot, but hot none the less. Indians don’t wear shorts. If my white skin made me stand out, then the addition of the shots only compounded that problem. It was all I could do not to say OK, I saw it, now take me back to the hotel. But I was on a mission. So I started wandering. A few nervous smiles and some hellos soon revealed that while a curiosity, aside from that, people could care less. People were happy to show me their wares and have me stop in the shops to look at the trinkets. It took about 2 blocks, but once the initial overwhelming chaos moved on, it did not seem as intimating as it had. They had a business, I had money, there are fiends to be made here.
The street I was walking was the metal street, which if you went one block left was then the tire district and one block after that became the market district and so on and so forth. I also found the “architectural salvage, wood carving, and antiquities” area, which I immediately fell in love with. After some wandering, it seemed it was not in the cards for me to find an elephant bell, but I did not walk away empty handed. I did find two lovely wooden carvings. One is a parrot from an area in India called Kerla. The other is a wooden bracket from a building (unsure where) from Tamil Nadu, another region in India. The bracket is a horse and a lion combined. Funny enough, I was walking past the temple near my office in Singapore and looked up and saw the same type of figure! I’ve walked past that temple for 2 years now and never noticed. Small world.
All in all a great trip and I look forward to visiting the area again, who knows what I might find.