Monday, December 17, 2007

Bhaji Galli

Bhaji Galli takes its name from ‘Nana’ Jagannath Shankersheth’ who owned large areas of land in this neighbourhood of Grant Road (W). It is named Shanker Sheth Lane and Jagannath Lane but, of course, nobody would remember these. They would simply know it as Bhaji Galli. You would be able to buy all types of fruits and vegetables here. Bhaji Galli has three hundred plus licensed vegetable and fruit vendors. Some of them will keep only specific kinds of vegetables. Ten vendors sell only tomatoes, four vendors sell tuberous roots and tubers , more than twenty vendors sell fruits , three vendors sell sprouted pulses , around ten vendors sell ‘kanda batata’ and the rest sell a mélange of vegetables.

So how did this little lane become a vegetable market, popularly known as Bhaji Galli? Well, the genesis lies within the confines of a very big chawl towards the Grant Road station end called Bhalchandra building. In the 1930s, the white Gandhi topi wearing vegetable vendors from Vasai, popularly called ‘Vasaiwale’ used to sell vegetables in the chawl’s courtyard. They used to procure home grown vegetables from the weekly markets of Virar, Vasai, Nala Sopara, Bolinj, Holi and Nirmal, arrive here in the afternoon and go back after selling off their wares. This would ensure that the vegetables sold by them were fresh. Slowly over time more and more people started setting up their shops till they were spread across the whole lane.

Though the “Vasaiwale” coming here have dwindled drastically, one such Vasaiwala, Babu Jeevan Naik has been coming here for the past fifty years. The vegetables he sells are always very fresh and lush green. He says that twenty five percent of the people now telephone him and opt for home delivery. He has customers who come from Colaba , Haji Ali, Walkeshwar and Malabar Hill, apart from the office goers who pick up vegetables on their way back home.

Jerestin Sidhwa , a Colaba resident has been visiting Bhaji Galli for the past 15 years. She says that she prefers this place as many of the seasonal vegetables are available here but not at the Colaba market. “The vegetables here might be slightly more expensive but are better and fresher and I just love the shopping experience here”, she adds.

In one of the arms of the lane, you can identify the East Indian women from Vasai in their traditional maroon sarees who sell specific home grown produce. Jacinta Augustin Burbos is one of the few East Indians left and she sells fresh but small quantities of pumpkins, village grown aubergines, flowers, lemons, snake gourd, lemongrass, ‘alu’or colacasia leaves, bitter gourd, kelful or banana flower and even the wild ‘gavthi’ mushrooms in season.

One more interesting vendor is Kamlakar Karande popularly known as KK. He introduced what he calls ‘Continental’ vegetables to Bhaji Galli in 1982. This was when these exotic vegetables were not as commonly available as they are today. He was the only vendor who stocked basil, thyme, celery, parsley, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, bell peppers, pak choy, avocados (from Ooty),cherry tomatoes,babycorn,leek and mushrooms and sell them at reasonable rates. He was one of the few vendors who called out to you in English “ Want to take some celery or parsley sir” he used to shout out at every passerby. His grandmother Kandabai Khade was one of the four original vendors who set up shop or benches as they were known then in Bhaji Galli in the 1930s.

Octogenarian , Shashikala Dalvi will never forget Bhaji Galli. She resided in this area before she got married and moved to Dadar. “For many years after my marriage, I used to take back ‘fresh vegetables’ from my ‘regular’ vendors whenever I used visit my parents’ home", she reminisces.

If you visit Bhaji galli in the evening, you will find it crowded with hundreds of people buying their vegetables with shouts of ‘Tomato daha rupaye kilo, Batata aathra rupaya kilo’ in different nasal twangs, renting the air. It truly is a one-of-a-kind shopping experience.


Nupur said...

What a great post! I could not take my eyes off the pictures of all that luscious bhaji. Kudos on your work with stray dogs.

Viewer said...

Wow amazing ... i mean i thought all i will ever find is the sad looking dried brocholi at reliance fresh.

bee said...

absolutely love your blog. have added yo to our blogroll

- a fellow mumbaikar who noves lives abroad.

Anonymous said...

thanx abodh! one of my fav pet peeves is the lack of remotely fresh, homegrown veggies in most of bombay.
shall visit soon!

Abodh said...

nupur : thanks . your one hot stove is amazing ... will look forward to your next post.

viewer : yes , thank god for the veggie markets that still exist ... soon they would be all gobbled up by the godrejs and the reliances.

bee : thanks for adding me... hope you visit Mumbai on and off.

anon : do that .. the vasaivale will keep coming.

ggop said...

Lovely post. I used to visit a circulating library called Sunil Book House in the 80s when my parents shopped for vegetables. There was a sugarcane juice stand at one end..

APARNA said...

Hey Abodh, forgot to mention that I read your blog pretty regularly. Great blog. Keep up the good work and hope you like the project I plan to send across to you. Thanks

kkoala said...

Landed up on this topic of Bhaji Galli whilst trying to find a recipe for Amaranth Chiki !! And my God !! Did not realise it was to take me back home to a place I visited nearly every day of my life in Mumbai.. It has brought tears in my eyes. I now live in Australia and have not visited Mumbai since 4 years. Thanks for reviving my memories..My mother and I used to visit the Bhaji galli nearly every day. I distinctly remember the stall vendors in the pictures you have posted .. they had become like friends..rather should I say extended family. They knew my mum and me so well. We had been going there since I was a little baby !! ... that's over three decades now ..and my mum is now resting in her heavenly abode .. that's where the tears come in...once again thanks for taking me back in time and to my roots !! Will once again start missing the fresh produce very much though !! said...

Hi. Nice experience.
Why can't you think about the idea we exchanged - ie, writing for THE VERDICT a regular column?
Keep it up. And do write for THE VERDICT or else confirm, is it possible for you to allow us to reproduce these writings?
Best wishes and hope Chole will get a good home soon.

Anil P said...

Aha, kya baat hai :)

Just the post to add freshness to a routine morning. Cheers to many more from you.

VickyDodti said...

Greast Buddy,

I have heard lots of things From our Grandfathers Who use to come at the same place to sell the Vegetables.The picutres & The Info is perfectly diaplyed on your site.It Seems to be Unique Why dont u Go ahead and Change the Blog to Site.

Vicky Dodti

Anonymous said...

Abodh, your posts are always so full of charm, character and humanity! Love the historical write-up too. Nothing like the smell, texture and weight of fresh vegetables from the street vendor, instead of packed in styrofoam and clingfilm and price-tagged on a supermarket shelf. Pls be my guide when I come to Mumbai! :)
Ee Lynn.