Monday, October 27, 2014

Tourist in my own city-2 : Russel Market

This part of the city is relaxed in a way that shows that it just doesn’t care whatever is happening on the other side of Bangalore. In other words, it has remained nonchalant all these days. This is the primary reason why I often deviate from my usual road and take a ride around cantonment area and Shivajinagar while going to office. It reminds me of old Bangalore.
Front entrance of Russel Market
Bangalore in 1920s had only two major divisions. One was called the pete area (which I’ve already written about) which had a majority of kannadigas and the other was Cantonment which had a western influence; thanks to the residents from Britain and other parts of the world. While pete area was administered by Maharaja of Mysore, the influence of British was more in the region of cantonment.  Thus the old cantonment area saw a rapid development. This also saw a need for a bigger market area for people to buy their daily essential commodities. Then, South parade (now called as MG Road) was meant only for expensive shopping. That is when the then municipal chief of the cantonment area T B Russel (later it was named after him) came up with the plan to construct a market.

Fresh dates sold - Ramzan special
Construction of Russel Market began in 1927 and was inaugurated in 1933. The specialty of this market is that it was constructed with keeping in mind the religious tolerances of people; for it had separate entries for vegetables and fruits, meat products and groceries. Even for today, one can experience this by entering the market from different sides. While the front entrance greets you with the smell of fruits and vegetables, the meat and poultry entries on the other are hard to breathe at.
The deserted arena of Russel Market building's first floor
I gaze around the whole market and the freshness of fruits and vegetables amaze me. A wide variety of fruits and vegetables, Arabian dates and dry fruits, flowers are stalled. I couldn’t resist buying tapiocas after realizing how fresh they are. Being a vegetarian, I was forced away from the meat and poultry sections for obvious reasons, but I’m told by friends that Russel Market is one of the few places where one can find even the meat afresh. Chicken, duck meat, beef, pork, crabs and prawns are among the other varieties one can find in there. It is a one stop shop for all the meat buyers. The iftaari delicacies during Ramzan here are so awesome that your palate just doesn’t want to get rid of them!
Vegetables - As fresh as it gets
I start conversing with a few old merchants who still have shops in there and they opine that it was a lot better during olden days. They say that they miss the beautiful view of St. Mary’s Basilica and wide open space from its front entry. A few also talk about its calmness until late 70s and 80s and express blues of how choking and grimy the place has become. They also miss some old parts of the market building (tea house) which caught fire in 2012 due to a short circuit. But for most of them, no matter what course of changes they’ve witnessed, it’s about moving on because they do whatever they do in Russel Market, for living.
Fruitseller chacha - He does it for a living
I wish I could get deeper insights of this place, but unfortunately, there is not much recorded “authentic” information. I would recommend you to just pay a visit to Russel Market and its surroundings just to get that feel of old Bangalore. I’m sure it enlightens the many facets of old world charm in you. If you are the one who give more importance to the coffee than the cup, then you’ll unwarily enjoy shopping there.
The "always bustling" shivajinagar street
As I take one last sip of the flavorsome Sulaimani chai in front of Russel Market, as I take one last pic of its old tower, a thought hits me hard – I wish the phrase “Bangalore has changed” is just euphemistic.