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Even as our shopping styles change with the advent of shopping malls, supermarkets and e-commerce, our city still holds on to traditional trading places. Whether it is the neighbourhood stores, vegetable markets or street shops, they are adapting to co-exist in the changing consumer milieu.
These markets typically spring to life in the morning and are open all through the day. Apart from local retail shops and markets, the city also hosts larger wholesale ones in places like KR Market and Russell Market.
By nature, these shops and markets bring a lot of chaos into our localities along with convenience. They overflow the allotted space (or unallotted in case of street markets) into pedestrian walking areas and roads. Garbage is another perennial problem – especially in the larger markets around festival time. But very few can live without them. Metros and Big Bazaars have their place and need, but for a quick dash to pick up veggies, fruits, snacks or even festival items, the local markets are a must.
These shops have very small spaces but fill up amazingly with everything that you ask for. It is nothing less than a Houdini trick as they reach into nooks and corners to fish out items. Most shops also tuck in a television set blaring out a Raj Kumar or Rajanikant movie or perhaps a cricket match when the Indian team is in action.
Krishnarajendra (KR) Market is still the hub for flowers, fruits and vegetables from neighbouring farms and villages. Early mornings, retail vendors dash to this place for the pick of the produce. It is a common sight to see autorickshaws bursting with gunny sacks leaving for other parts of the city from the wholesale market. The colors are a photographers dream with the frenzy increasing even more ahead of key festivals.
Russell Market built in 1927 by TB Russell was initially meant for the shopping pleasures of the local British population. Some of the shops carry such items like porcelain or glass cutlery even today. Most shopkeepers have continued businesses started two or three generations earlier. You can get all kinds of produce here – from artichokes to zucchini.
Bargaining is the name of the game in these trading places. It is quite amusing to watch the experts in action. The shop owners – particularly fruits, vegetables and flowers – quote an initial price that is countered with one that is about 75% less. It is not uncommon to start with a Rs 100 asking price and then buy it for as little as Rs 30!! Also interesting is the method of measuring flowers as most sellers still use a ‘traditional’ way of ‘maaru’ or ‘moLa’, the distance from the elbow to the palm. The garland is held up against the arm to measure the length. One can frequently witness furious arguments about how the seller bent the arm or the flower garland to cheat.
Digital payments are slowly creeping into this business and many now transact with PayTM, an online phone-based payment service.
Just as markets are losing share to malls and supermarkets, books are also slowly giving way to the digital wave. Now everything seems to be either in a Kindle or a phone. But there is still a small but thriving market for academic books. Most of these are around the central part of the city like Avenue Road and surroundings. Again like other small shops, you can find a great bargain or even perhaps an out of print edition if you look hard enough.
A visit to these markets and shops can be fun and frustrating at the same time. But no one can doubt that they are full of colour, energy and life. Like it or not, they are truly part of our heritage.
Vegetable Bargains, Books, Early morning KR Market – Copyright Denis Vostrikov | Dreamstime.com
Garlands at Street Shop – Copyright Rajesh K N | Dreamstime.com
Small fruit shop,Arhishina and Kumkuma – Copyright Jean-jacques Serol | Dreamstime.com
Flower Garlands – Copyright Lazar Adrian Catalin | Dreamstime.com
Russell Market Fruit Paradise – Copyright Jean Claude Toung Cheong | Dreamstime.com
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