Monday, November 19, 2012

The Sunday Market at Bangalore

Photo Credit: Akash Bhattacharya
It took me almost four years in Bangalore to hear of the Sunday Market for the first time. I stumbled upon a reference in a blog post and googled it out, curious. Many had blogged about it, and all said the same thing -  a paradise for bargain hunters on the lookout for old stuff. The market apparently starts in BVK Iyengar Road, and extends all the way to the KR Market Bridge. 

And of course, Nikhil and I had to go. Nikhil's heart starts beating wildly at the thought of anything old, even if it would be better labeled 'rubbish' rather than 'antique'. And me - I'm a bargain hunter of renown, though I stop being one just before the actual bargaining has to start. 

Sunday dawned cold but sunny. The market starts at seven-thirty and goes on till dark, the blog posts said. We got there around nine-thirty. 

And found - nothing. No bustling street, no stalls, no bargain-hunters. 

Puzzled, we asked around, and were told that the market starts further down, not actually at the beginning of the road. So we walked on down, and soon enough, were rewarded with the distant sight of a busy market. Harried shoppers, wandering cows, loud vendors; autos threading their way through the crowd; the road paved over with straws and cow dung; the wares displayed on open tarpaulin sheets. The very air was different over the market - dim and dusty and yellow.

The market begins with the clothe stalls. Almost right away, we figured out that we weren't the target audience for these shops. Most of the clothes were so shabby we couldn't figure out if they were second-hand or not. There were also plenty of colourful blankets, jackets, kids' clothes and towels. I wouldn't have minded a second look at the jackets; they looked good, with nice colours and fur-lined hoods.

Next up are the stalls selling old hardware - gears and spanners and nuts and bolts and other things I can't even name, most of them rusted and with their edges worn out, but cheap. For some reason, many of these stalls had old dumbbells of all shapes and sizes and colours. 

There were plenty of stalls selling kitchenware - old appliances, steel utensils, plastic containers, aluminium vessels. Cheap electronics stalls were common too - everything from phones to memory cards. The place is a true heaven for a technophile, especially somebody who likes putting something together from old pieces.

Unfortunately, we reached the end of the market without seeing anything we wanted to buy. There were some brass articles of questionable provenance, which I spent some time examining. They would have cleaned up well, but we felt it was likely they were stolen.

Refusing to be discouraged, we decided to strike off on one of the side streets leading off the main road. Ignoring the stink and jumping across a large dirty puddle, we entered a shady lane with stalls selling a variety of electronic devices. We spotted everything from old mobile phones to card swiping machines to non-digital cameras. 

And then we spotted the clock. Nikhil had been wanting to buy an antique clock for some time, and had been scouring e-bay looking for one. And here it was. A tall black wind-up clock with a pendulum, covered by a hinged front panel of ugly plywood and glass. The front panel had stickers of a colourful Hanuman and an Om symbol. When we asked the seller the price, he put up two fingers. And we were so clueless we couldn't figure out if that meant two hundred or two thousand. Turned out he meant two hundred. But of course.

We spent some time examining the clock, figuring out the extent of repairs needed: the mechanism would have to be replaced, as would the front panel. But in the end, we decided not to buy it. Nikhil's problem was that the clock wasn't antique-y enough. My grandmother has the real version, and it's a huge heavy one, nothing like the cheap plywood contraption we were holding.

We also spotted some nice-looking wall lamps. When we start on the interiors phase of our flat, we're definitely coming back here to score some knock-offs. 

And that was it. We told each other we weren't part of the target group for this market, and walked back leisurely, stopping at random stalls, enjoying the sights and sounds, avoiding the wandering cows. 

So overall? The Sunday Market is worth a dekko, definitely. Don't go there hoping to find anything you want to buy. If you do find something, consider yourself lucky and hope that the damn thing works. 
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