A Visit to Chor Bazaar

Chor Bazaar for me was a beautiful silver framed mirror that hung against a bright green wall in my sister’s apartment in Bangalore. My first reaction to the name was ‘is it all stolen? How can you buy stolen things?’ Never the less the name was registered and the place was added to a list of places to see and go to when in Mumbai.

After 3 years the opportune moment did arrive towards the beginning of the month. I was to accompany my friend who is well versed with shopping on the streets of Mumbai, and she’s one of the best people to go with considering she never tires of looking at things and walking around. Can’t say the same about me… but it helps to have someone who urges you to walk just that little bit more.

I was instructed to take the train to Mumbai Central and to get a cab to Mutton Street. The street name sure did play up the drama and add to the character of Chor Bazaar. Being a Saturday, getting to Mutton Street was rather hassle free. A large part of the drive is through a Muslim locality that has such a distinct look and feel to it. Smaller buildings all tightly packed together, men wearing kurta pyjamas, flags of emerald green colour fluttering in the evening breeze, the smell of the afternoon Biryani still lingering in the air, hand pulled rickshaws lying around, dairy shops and poultry shops all bearing a deserted look. I was dropped off on a decently big sized road and was asked to walk a little ahead and take the first right.

As soon as I took the right it was like I had stepped into a completely different world. I felt like I had entered an old store room that belonged to a Nawab! The street got a little wider and was not so crowded, and every other shop was full of furniture, curios, ceramics, chandeliers and more.

All the shops have a shop no. so it’s easy to locate them. The owners sitting outside seemed to be sizing passers by, almost like with that one look they wanted to decide whether its worth their while to grab your attention or not.

At first I didn’t even enter a shop. I was so overwhelmed with what I was seeing that I just wanted to spend more time taking it all in. I eventually met up with my friend and we started entering shops to see their wares. The shops don’t sell only old stuff. A lot of it is remakes of antiques. I kept asking the shopkeepers how old things were and most often was disappointed that things were only a few decades old and not hundred of years old as I had imagined. But it didn’t take anything away from the mystery surrounding the objects. Family heirlooms and objects from ships were aplenty. Let loose a collector and they would go crazy in the place. Antiques of every kind and size from an old half broken kaleidoscope, to kettles, to film posters, to used Blue Chinese crockery, to strange locks and keys, it was all there. Majority of the shops were packed to the brim with hardly any place to walk around, with layers of dust adding to the aura of the place.

But none of this comes cheap. That said, they would be far cheaper than what you would get at an antique dealer’s shop anywhere else in the city. Bargain hard and you might just leave with some treasures.

Another distinct thing about the place is an entire row of shops selling junk. Each shop specializes in a particular object such as drills or instruments. I can’t help but wonder how much of it is stolen!

Finally after spending a good two hours walking around I left empty handed but very pleased with having visited a truly interesting and a very different kind of place, nothing like I have experienced before.

1 Comment

  • Reply
    Still Searching
    May 30, 2008 at 3:08 am

    Cool new blog!! Lovely description of the place, it came alive in front of my eyes!

    Waiting to see you!!

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