Thursday, 14 April 2011

"Chor Machaye Shor!" - my guide to the eclectic 'Thieves Market' in Bombay.

I was reading somewhere that 'chor bazaar' (or, thieves market) in Bombay started about 150 years ago and was originally called 'shor bazaar' meaning a 'noisy market'. One would have hoped that things were quieter back then, but no such luck. Anyhow, then came the Brits who started mispronouncing 'shor' as 'chor'. Not only did the name stick, it must have also triggered new business ideas as stolen goods started making their way into the market, allowing it to live up to it's name!

Thankfully all that has changed (except the noise of course) and now it is simply India's largest flea market, offering a fascinating collection of antiques and vintage items. I am no authority on antiques but some stuff out there is so bizarre that there's no way anyone could have thought of them today! That said, you do have to look out for the occasional con job. It can be overwhelming for a first timer, but you can be rest assured that there are some absolute treasures buried in those deep, dark alleys.

It is one of my favourite markets and I never come away empty handed from there. So I highly recommend it to those of you who haven't had the pleasure of going there yet. In case you need a few pointers, here they are...

Tip No.1: Leave your watch at home. If you are planning a quick trip, let me assure you that you will miss out on the best of the stuff this place has to offer. You need at least half a day if you are like me, and want to leave no object untouched!


Tip No.2: Go with a friend, but choose wisely. Don't go along with people who do not enjoy peaking into cubbyholes and walking around endlessly in the dust and heat. If you yourself are that sort, may I recommend staying home with a glass of wine instead? If you're going with the husband, then I feel sorry for you.


Tip No.3: Look once, look twice, and then look again. The shops are stashed up to the ceiling and you will never be able to take in everything in one glace. There's always more than what the eye can see!


Tip No.4: Just because something looks like shit at first, does not mean that it cannot be turned into something priceless. If you like the basic form of it, just pull it out and observe it without the clutter around it. The shop keeper can always help restore it for you, at no extra cost, and it'll be as good as new or old, whichever way you prefer it.


Tip No.5: Ladies, cover up! It's a conservative Muslim area, besides you want to be able to go there and check out the shopkeeper's wares, and not vice versa.


Tip No.6: Bargain like crazy. I've tried everything from claiming that I'm still in college and my parents give me no pocket money (unfortunately I think the time has come to abandon that one) to pulling my wallet out and emptying it's contents in front of the shopkeeper, begging for a discount (make sure no crisp notes come tumbling out at this moment).

So put on a comfy pair of shoes and get started. Here's a sneak peak from my last trip, to give you a sense of what to expect. In case you want to see the full monty, click on Sahana's trip to CB

This is what a regular shop facade looks like...enter at your own risk! Just kidding ;)
Chairs stacked up against the wall...all they need is a good rub down and some  cane weaving
These lights may seem a bit ostentatious, but look closely and you will find a treasure or two
An old picnic basket. The lining is a bit frayed, but 'original' as the shopkeeper claims.
Get one of these for your study to file away those loose papers. Or just use it to keep knick-knacks/ craft items.
Colourful Ganesha masks for your walls
A miniature piano...completely out of tune but I guess you could say it works!
Yes, we all love Fridays!
A Coke flask that can become a kitschy water dispenser in your kitchen
Purple! For the bold & the beautiful
One of the best shops for old movie posters and ads
These can become funky measuring cups for the times when you're baking/ cooking...or just something to pep up your kitchen!
Spoons for all occasions
Railway clocks are just the best for spots that can be viewed from two sides...I have one between my dining and living areas
Here's my pick of the day! An old lounger that needs a little fixing, but will fit right into my new living room!

Location: Chor Bazaar, Mutton Street, between SV Patel and Maulana Shaukat Ali Road. 
Most taxi drivers know where it is, so the easiest way to find it is to hop on with a cabbie who knows!

17 comments:

  1. Lovely post, felt like I was there. Which is good, since in 11 years in this city I never made the pilgrimage :(

    Loving your posts.

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  2. I did, however, go to Oshiwara and choose a planter's chair - which was delivered last week. I love it!

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  3. Great tips on how to shop and bargain! Amazing how you got the pictures without anybody breathing down your neck! Great going!

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  4. Ro, saw lots of Planter's chairs out there...was thinking of you! :)

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  5. Pavi and me also went once... picked up a lovely chest of drawers. But its these small knick Knacks that are quirky and worth picking up. Great stuff... am i the only guy who reads this blog (embarassed smile follows)!

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  6. Niks, thanks! and don't be embarrassed...you are one of the few evolved men who have good taste! ;)

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  7. just love the way you've written about the place and the pictures. sahnu, I'm loving it.

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  8. LOL the trip with the hubby part--that's never a good idea! Loved the post (I would have swooped down on the trunk(?) underneath the lounger too). This is such a fun blog--I've signed up to follow!

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  9. your house is soo warm and i just loved it and soo is your blog....i behave actually like the last point you mentioned..........i am gonna follow you now..........

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  10. loved the old brass ladles, the measuring cup and all that drool-worthy furniture!

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  11. The measuring spoons, the purple table, the trunk below it....all absolutely gorgeous! Came here via OUATT and am adding you to my blogroll. Lovely blog. Oh and the measuring cups too.....

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  12. Wonderful. Been meaning to go to Chor Bazaar for the longest time and now I can't wait for the weather to cool down a bit to go exploring.

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  13. Hi I was looking up chor bazar on google and I am so happy that I came across your blog. This post, hell this entire blog is brilliant. I have been wanting to buy antique chairs so could please tell me what is the average price range of chairs in these stores...?

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  14. Your blog is indeed a breathe of fresh air.
    Keep it up !!!
    Ram

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  15. This is such a feast for the eye,felt lost amidst these findings.I am your newest follower.It would be lovely if you could drop by mine....

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  16. Gorgeous share.... Thanks for the post !!

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  17. Whoa!! U have put it all so well together... Exactly my take on d place...n one lil info...best to visit on Sunday coz only the antique shops r open n d clutter on d road is off!

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