Crawford Market, Mumbai

Crawford Market, Mumbai

Our taxi stops in the middle of traffic and we step out into the mayhem of Mumbai at rush hour. Across the pulsing artery of cars and pedestrians, I see the ruddy stone exterior of Crawford Market with its clock tower silhouetted against the hazy blue sky.

Crawford Market opened in 1865 and in 1882 it was the first building in the city to be lit by electricity. The market goes by two names : Crawford Market (the original name, afterย Bombay’s first Municipal Commissioner Arthur Crawford) as well asย  Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Market (the current name, after Indian activist and social reformer Mahatma Jyotiba Phule).

There’s a bust across from a small shop in the market where we stop to buy water. I have no idea what the inscription on the bust says, but I think this is Mr. Mahatma Jyotiba Phule himself.

The order and color of Crawford Market is a nice relief from the chaos just outside the entrance. Fruit is arranged in piles, big and small. A pineapple vendor is totally surrounded. Which ones are new? Which ones are old? It’s a secret only he knows. The watermelons are bright green and stacked with such precision it seems like removing one would release the whole pile into a rolling mess.

Betel nut seller, Crawford Market, Mumbai

Betel nut seller, Crawford Market, Mumbai

Behind the fruit stalls, the betel nut seller sits on a stone step with his basket full of concoctions. He’s a willing subject when I motion with my camera so I crouch down and see the leaves, the white lime residue and the intensity of his stare. Even now as I edit these photos, I’m struck by the directness — not only in his eyes but in the eyes of a number of men in these photographs. Sometimes people smile with uneasiness when photographed, but in Mumbai there is fearlessness… a willingness to engage. He asks to see the photo and is happy with the result.

I watch the porters who work for hire carrying heavy loads for shoppers and shopkeepers. Dressed in plaid sarongs and sandals, they come and go with their big circular baskets — hoisted up high with one hand, placed on the top of the head or at rest on the ground.

Crawford Market, Mumbai

Crawford Market, Mumbai

In between loads, the porters hang out together. Maybe he’s checking the score of the cricket match.

This is a spice market, too, where we find jar after jar of exotic smelling masala and curry powders. There is no such thing as a teaspoon here. The spice sellers place heaping scoops in shallow dishes and we inhale the complexity: vindaloo curry, chicken tikka masala, green curry, madras medium curry, tandoori chicken masala, hot curry and even just “normal curry.” And then there’s the Special Spice King Masala 96 — a proprietary blend. With their intense, earthy hues, the spice powders look as rich and powerful as they smell.

We leave Crawford Market. The displays of fruits and vegetables continue on the street. We wander through Mangaldas textile market (where a female officer warns me that I can’t take photos) and emerge on the other side. Cows wander the street, a guy roasts peanuts over a fire on a wooden cart, and another guy stirs the pot… making big swoops with his ladle through a steaming pot of dahl while he stares at me with all the intensity of Mumbai.

Flower Market, Mumbai

Flower Market, Mumbai

Big, beautiful baskets of color greet us at the flower market. We duck into a narrow alley where men sit on elevated platforms, fulfilling orders for customers. They string flowers together in fragrant garlands used for festivals, marriages, rituals and to honor deities at temples.

Bees buzz around the piles of blossoms, the aroma of jasmine lingers in the air and life in Mumbai carries on.

Selling Roses at the Flower Market, Mumbai

Selling Roses at the Flower Market, Mumbai

42 comments

  1. This post was so fantastic! And the photos were spectacular you have genuinely captured the culture through pictures and words. Indian culture is quite gorgeous indeed.

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  2. I was just thinking that the order and arrangements of the watermelons and fruits was a major contrast to the city and then you wrote that ๐Ÿ™‚ Great photos. Mumbai is such a fun place.

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  3. Your photos are FANTASTIC and I love the way you have arranged them in such interesting collections….The flower baskets for prayer all lined up in a row, the spices, the intensity of the place, the people….I feel like I am right there with you on this post. I like this sentence so much…”while he stares at me with all the intensity of Mumbai”… it captures the essence. The collection of all the basket photographs ~ simply fabulous.

    We spent about three weeks in Mumbai but were in a totally different part of town and had a very different experience. Such a big busy bustling city!! We opted to stay in our little neighborhood around our accomodation at the Hare Krishna hotel, no less!

    Peta

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  4. Traditional markets always present not only authentic vibe of a city, but also inspiring colors to those who are willing to jostle with local patrons. I find the smells of spices, fruits, flowers, and everything else really want to make me linger. Great shots from one of the most crowded cities on the planet, Kelly!

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    1. Hey, lindseylivings! Thanks for the compliment! For these photos, I used a pretty standard lens — 18-55mm. Nothing special. But I always shoot in aperture priority mode so that I can control the depth of field which is my favorite thing about photography. Thanks for reading and getting in touch!

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    1. Thank you Alison! So cool that you liked the photo of the betel nut seller. I think of him now and I wonder why I didn’t ask him and pay him to roll up a leaf for me. It would have been a really cool series of shots of something most people haven’t seen and don’t know about. Oh well — next time. I’m still learning!! Thanks for your comment and for escaping to Mumbai with me in this post. Namaste! K.

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    1. Hey Tonkin Travel! Yes, same same like the markets in your country of Vietnam. I recently included the markets of Sapa and Bac Ha on my list of top 12 travel experiences — you can find the post on my home page. Both markets were incredible! Vietnam is such a fun place to explore. Thank you for your comment. Hope to return to Vietnam someday! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  5. I not only love the photos; I love the way you grouped the photos! Making order of the market, which was itself making order out of the chaos of the city. Such an intense place – can’t wait to go someday!

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  6. this post makes me almost miss India. I love the way they do things. Some things. Not others, but even if I don’t love them, I love looking at them. Love your photos…some are incredible. The one of the spices with it’s depth of field!!! The betel nut seller! Reminds me of a shot I took years ago of that guy’s father who sat in a wooden stall the same size as your guy’s area…tiny. But awesome!

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    1. Hey pjmarie! Wow, 1977! Bombay must have been even more amazing back then, and how great that you were able to spend six months! Any favorite memories or things that you enjoyed? Happy to hear you enjoyed my photos. Thanks for your comment!

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      1. The color of skin against a bright sari -so many colors! The smell night blooming plant called Queen of the Night or Raat Ki Rani. The food – yum! A fruit called chickoo. The smiling people. Riding the train from Churhgate to Andheri (at night it was nice and uncrowded). So many good memories ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. Hey chefkreso! Happy to hear I’ve inspired you to get to Mumbai ASAP! If you enjoyed the photos, you’ll probably find the real thing endlessly fascinating. I hope you have a wonderful trip whenever you go! Safe travels!

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  7. Kelly, we haven’t been to India in a few years, but your post and excellent photos are a vivid reminder of what an “in your face” place it is. The intense smells, sights, sounds and colors border on overpowering sometimes, and yet, it’s exactly what India is. ~James

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    1. James! Exactly! India is overwhelming in the most terrific way. You just have to take it all in, good and bad. Thanks so much for your comment and sorry for the delay in responding. Just returned to Vancouver after two weeks in Lake Tahoe, where it’s Snowmageddon!! ๐Ÿ™‚ Hope you and Terri are well. ~K.

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  8. Wonderful, wonderful snapshots from Crawford market Kelly! Love the way the betel seller’s striking a pose for you ๐Ÿ™‚ My favourite is the candid shot of the porters hanging out together.

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    1. That betel seller — he was quite intense. I loved how open people were in India when I approached them with a camera. So much pride, followed by total enjoyment in seeing their portrait. I just returned from Morocco where it’s completely the opposite and very hard to photograph people. Posts coming soon. Thanks for your comment, Madhu!

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