Street shopping. Photo courtesy: Baishampayan Ghose, Flickr
Text by: Dr Rohit Shah
It was a lazy Sunday evening, I was just about getting comfortable on the couch with a drink, a bag of popcorn and planning to call my friends to watch the India- Pakistan Twenty – 20 match finals. Just then I heard the (dreaded) words, “Rohit, its Sunday evening. Let’s go street shopping! Remember, you promised me a week ago for a shopping trip to Bandra?” This effectively crushed my dream of enjoying the Sunday evening match with my friends at the comfort of my home.
My unwillingness to go and her willingness to travel was easily seen on our faces and our body language. Reluctantly I got up from the comfort of my couch, got ready and dragged myself to a shopper’s favourite destination – Linking Road, Bandra. The other usual options for shoppers are Hill Road, Fashion Street, Colaba Causeway and they still remain every shopper’s delight and hideout. In fact, the streets leading to Borivali Station are also catching up to this reputation.
History bears testimony as to how Linking Road got its name as it was one of the first primary roads that linked Bandra and Juhu in the 1940s. Formerly known as Dadabhai Navroji Road, Linking Road and Hill Road gradually evolved as two primary shopping spots in the city.
Since decades these areas have been nurtured by active and energetic hawkers trying to sell their wares to their eager customers at throwaway prices. In fact, Linking Road too, has evolved over the years as a destination to buy almost anything right from personal items to home decor and hence a proven a landmark street shopping destination.
Street shopping usually defines local culture, the best of current fashion trends that you buy at dirt cheap prices; and the best part being, you get to haggle! These are precisely the reasons which make street markets a hit amongst local shoppers, domestic and foreign travellers alike. It works on the concept of low pricing, easy availability, a variety of choices and the thrill and experience of bargain hunting and getting your hands on ‘value for money’ deals. Street markets are a huge business now with thousands of people shopping on the streets of Mumbai every day.
With the rise in the demand of the street shoppers, hawkers are now sourcing abundant variety to cater to the needs of their buyers. This further propels their business and new sellers get added to the list every year. In fact, a wide variety of fashion and home accessories now available has added to its popularity which further reflects in the growing numbers each year. I have personally seen the growth of this place from just a few street shops in the early ’90s to more than 200 now vying for our attention.
Finally, we started our journey of street shopping at Linking Road. It surely had its own charm and bargaining seemed to be a fun experience, with the ‘who blinks first’ strategy being effectively employed by my smart wife.
The hawkers were trying their best to woo potential customers by offering discounts, outshouting the others to get our attention just so we would drop by at their stalls. It was really amusing to see women haggling over small discounts and deals getting deadlocked in the process. I remember my wife becoming rigid over not paying more than 90 rupees for a small pair of earrings while the hawker was not willing to sell it for less than 100 bucks. After 10 minutes of bargaining, finally the deal got cancelled over a difference of 10 rupees leaving me surprised in the process, as I would have paid the meagre difference long time back to buy a product I liked.
It is not uncommon for girls including my wife to go crazy and confused at the variety on display and often, they are usually unable to make up their minds on what and how much is to be purchased. The confusion stemmed from the fact that outfits and accessories in almost all possible colours were available for sale. From different patterns to lacework and embroidery, we were spoilt for choice. The variety and prices available could beat any mall collection and any shopping destination by a huge margin; however, when it came to quality, I doubt how much anyone could vouch for that.
The reason for this craziness was evident. It was easy availability of a huge variety that didn’t cost the earth, and they were mostly ‘use and throw’ stuff. The colourful variety was mesmerising, inviting, matched every outfit we possessed, suited every occasion like casual and daily wear and even formal festive wear!
Evenings at such places starts to resemble a mela. Weekends are a bit of a stampede since the entire city descents on these streets looking for stuff to update their wardrobes. Festivals are also a big business boom time opportunity and the amount of people thronging the streets looking out for festive discounts and collections of artificial jewellery is huge.
Time and again while my wife was shopping, I kept checking the live scores of the match over the internet which really irritated my wife and she thought I was crazy for getting obsessed over a sport like cricket!
Occasionally, I also did some internet research of this crazy mecca of shopping. A search on the internet revealed some interesting stories such as the garment trader Ramji Patel who started off with humble beginnings with a streetside stall next to the Khar-Pali Road Telephone Exchange. I was amazed to read about this real rags to riches story of how Ramji Patel is a proud owner of showrooms named Om Collections and Tilak Enterprises in the same location. Then there’s also an incredible story of Krishna Tamang, who started out with a small stall in Khar several years ago and is now the owner of China Gate in Bandra!
My online research and cricket scores had to be abruptly stopped. After scanning through every inch of Linking Road and spending a couple of hours, my wife was pleased to oblige a couple of hawkers by purchasing a couple of outfits. However, much to my amazement, her list still remained unfulfilled and we moved on to Hill Road for another two hours of a painstaking shopping experience for her, and a painful one for me. In our earlier experience we found a tear in two of the outfits purchased from a similar place and hence my wife was extra cautious in looking for similar defects in her purchased outfits resulting in more shopping time this time than usual.
My prayers were answered when she finally found what she was looking for and we could finally head home. While she was thrilled and happy with her shopping loot and a spring in her step, I came back home tired and exhausted after a long journey and not to forget a bit miserable for missing out on an exciting match.
Dr Rohit Shah
Dr Rohit Shah, BDS MDS PGDMLS is a senior Periodontist and Implantologist based out of Mumbai. He is also a Teacher, Consultant, Clinician and a Surgeon by profession, specializing in Periodontal surgeries, Dental Implants and a foodie by passion. He is a part of the Editorial Board in a few national dental journals and has numerous publications to his credit. Currently, he is working as an Associate Professor in Periodontology at Terna Dental College, Navi Mumbai. He is one of our esteemed students at The Lifestyle Portal Online Writing Program.
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