Thursday, August 14, 2008

The perpetual meena bazaar

The perpetual meena bazaar
Tulshibaug, Budhwar Peth

Dibyajyoti Sarma & Maneesha Singh

This is the one place where you get everything you fancy, from a tiny safety pin to a sieve, from handbags to hoops, imitation jewellery to designer watches...
There are times in life when it’s not glamour and glitter that a woman seeks. It is a sense of ease and familiarity that she craves for. The quintessential question has always been, what women want? Diamonds and cars and all things expensive. But can anything ever replace the excitement of receiving fresh flowers? That’s just how you can describe this little market tucked away in the heart of the city, your very own, Tulshibaug.
This is one perpetual meena bazaar, with the difference that you don’t need to be royalty to enjoy this place! Here at your disposal are everything you may fancy, from a tiny safety pin to a sieve for your kitchen, from handbags to hoops, false hair to toothpick, imitation jewellery to designer watches, fancy belts to women inner wear, hairband to knickers, you name it and it’s here...
Without going deep into its rich history going back to the Peshwas, when there was a small temple around which the market started to bloom, you know that the place has always been there. A small eatery in one of the gullies here, sadly, they don’t serve tea, you can read the date of establishment, 1942. As student turned professional from Assam, Manasi Hazaria, says, this is the place every Puneri woman knows by instinct. “I don’t remember who introduced me to Tulshibaug when I came to Pune in 1992. But the first place I visited in Pune was this, and it’s always been my favourite haunt. There is a charm here that nothing can replace, not to mention the unbelievable price range, and the unique things you get here, like those many-sized bags.”
After the city turned into a hub of IT and BPOs, spending power of the people have gone up. So are the malls and specialised boutiques catering to specific needs of people. Going by the crowds that these establishments attract, one would think today the lustre of Tulshibaug is on the wane.
Ramesh Uthara, who runs a glass bangles shop here bags to differ. “I don’t think I can complain I don’t have customers. They are always there. I don’t think the malls sell the stuff I keep.”
He explains. There are several Punes, with different tastes and different spending capacities. This is one place that caters to everyone’s needs. A high-end customer may come here for a designer vase, while a low-end customer may come here for pair of salwar kameez at a reasonable rate. Uthara gives example of his own wares. “Women buy bangles to match their dresses. So, for every new sari bought, there must be new bangles and we supply them.”
Just for the sake of history, Uthra’s shop is around here since 1930, started by his grandfather.
Compared to this, S.V. Mohal’s shop may not be very old, but the rent he pays for his small cabin is unbelievably less, Rs 60 per month. And that’s exactly is the average cost of the bags he sells. If you haggle a little, he may even lower the price a little. No, they are not Luis Vuitton or Gucci, but design-wise, they are very much in competition. And, what the hell, they are cheap and useful. Mohal gets his stuff from either Delhi or Bombay, like most of the other stuff stocked in the market. Every month new shipments arrive with newer designs, and Mohol does not have to worry about his customers!
Talking about customers, Mohol says, “For working people, shopping may be a chore, but for housewives, especially, it’s a source of recreation.” He explains. What can be better place than coming there and stroll around, spend some time, probably decide what to buy in the next month and probably pick up an item or two without actually spending a bomb.
The familiarity this place offers is incomparable. As Sam, who has been selling imitation jewellery in a make-shift shop here for the last five years, says, he knows people who come here often, not necessary to buy stuff, but just to be there. He know many of them by face.
You enter the market, and you have to trust Sam. The crowded shops with their wares spilling over the road attract people like bees to flowers — from middle-aged single women to giggling college girls to newly-wed couples to mothers with babies on their arms — everyone’s here. The atmosphere is that of village fair, anything to catch your fancy... If shopping is what your heart desires, than this place is the heart of shopping places in the city. And like a real heart, the place is linked by arteries of lanes from all sides, Bajirao road, Mandai, Laxmi road, all lanes filled to shops of varied items, beauty products, dress material, cooking utensils, plastic stuff, accessories, the list is just endless.
The point is, if you are in the area, the visit to Tulshibaug is a must. As they say, seeing is believing.

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