The very first day I came to know that I would be spending atleast the next four years of my life in Mumbai, I sat and jotted down quite a few points on a piece of paper. As the list grew, I started to call it my ‘T.T.D.L.M’, my complex short-form for simplifying my ‘Things to do list- Mumbai’. With things like a night out on Marine Drive, a buffet in Taj, a day in BEST, spotting my favorite actors etc. topping my list (ignore my naivety), somewhere down the list was ‘a visit to the famous chor bazaar’. Just before I started writing this, I crossed off this very particular point from my list.
The famous ded galli (1.5 Street for the ‘Englishperson’ in you) opens on a Friday morning at 4, a 5 minute, Rs. 7 per head taxi ride from the Sandurst Station. Since waking up at 4 is like continuing with a nightmare you were seeing while you were sleeping, our next best option was to do what we are best at doing, pulling off an all-nighter. At 3.45 am, I, along with 4 of my other friends were out of the college gates, with empty bags on our back and a shimmer in our eyes, hoping to fill those bags with quite some stuff by the time we were done with our ‘shopping’!
At around 5, we took a cab to ded galli. On our way, as we tried to gather most of the information about the place from the cabbie and separate the myths from the facts, one of us managed to put up the question most of us had in our minds, ”Bhaiya, police kuch nai kehti kya?”(The police don’t say anything?) The driver seemed to have ignored the question then (Probably as a build up for what was up next!) 2 minutes later, he dropped us at our destination. On the left side was a crowded street, which we assumed was the chor bazaar, but, to our surprise, to our right was a police station! Time for the cabbie to rise and shine with a smirk on his face and his punch-line,”nai, kuch nai kehti!”(No, they don’t say anything!)
Soon, we found ourselves surrounded by vendors, and even more so, by their customers. At 5 in the morning, we could literally see that this city never sleeps (or maybe wakes up way too early!) This was the clothes section. As we steered our way through a Rs. 25 shirt or a Rs. 50 pair of trousers, I came across one of the most interesting bargains. A woman was selling pairs of jeans. As I passed her by, I couldn’t fail but notice her calling out,”10 ki ek!”(One for ten). Are you KIDDING me! Rs. 10 for 1 pair of jeans? (I wonder if they even had zippers!) I turn back, and to my surprise, find her in a quarrel with another woman, a customer. The agenda – she wanted it for 5 bucks!! Really now? By this time, we had enough of the clothes section, and we decided to cater the ‘tech savvy’ guys in us and directed ourselves to barah galli (12th Street) for all the electronic stuff.
After figuring out a maze of roads, we eventually reached our destination, a ground with ankle deep mud probably because of the rains last night, a chaotic setting of vendors and their even more chaotic workplace. At the same vendor, one could find everything from a pair of those stolen Marriot bathroom slippers to a set of computer speakers to a touch screen mobile phone/blackberry to a Hitachi flat-screen 21 inch LCD television! We came to the place under the impression given to us by our friends that we could buy new cheap things at 20% of what is quoted to us which is already 20-30% of the actual market price. But it wasn’t exactly what we had expected out of the place. One, the things are really old/second hand. Two, you have to be really lucky to get something that works in order. And three, we weren’t really the best of the bargainers out there. Eventually, we, a sad band of friends were about to leave the place when we saw something interesting. A vendor was selling deodorant 6-packs, properly packed in a tray and plastic wraps. Aah, something we could consider buying. We walked upto him, picked up a pack of 6 of Lomani, and a pack of 6 of Axe. Initially quoted at Rs. 600/ pack, we finally paid him Rs. 300 for two. Finally, we were happy that our visit to chor bazaar was not a complete failure.
Tired of over 3 hours of walking and not really finding much but deodorants, disappointed of not really getting the taste of a chor bazaar, we finally decided to head back to college. As we headed to the station, in the sole excitement of our new buy, we decided to check them out and, like any other kids, distribute one to each there only. We tore off the packets and handed the not so new looking anymore bottles of deodorants to each other. With confused looks, we decided to test them with a spray on ourselves. I suppose you’ve guessed it right by now, all we did was spray water on ourselves through those bottles of deodorants! We all looked at each other and after a moment of silence, burst out into laugher and wondered to ourselves, so we DID get the taste of a real chor bazaar.
3rd year Undergrad, Civil Engineering