Market Under the Over

Update for 10 February 2010

The market under the over has been there for close to a century now. It grew in prominence as the 2 railway lines – the Great Indian Peninsular railway and the Bombay Baroda Rail – converged at this little collection of houses, before diverging to their respective distant destinations. The open ground beyond the railway yard and station was used to unload potatoes, onions, beans, carrots, cabbages and other such vegetables that grew in nearby towns like Bassein and Tanna. The flowers and fruits came in from further ahead – Deolali and Bulsar. The trade was brisk, and started even before dawn broke, and most of the time wrapped up before the sun got hot. The buyers were smaller vegetable vendors who would sell to the Goojratis at Bhuleshwar or Marwarees at Charni Road. As years rolled by, the open ground got covered with tin sheds and the cement platforms for the vegetable and fruit vendors. The business grew brisker as the city grew beyond this little station market, and this continued to be the hub for all trade. Today, when one travels through central Mumbai, you will notice the remnants of this once bustling market, but the tin sheds and open ground are obscured by tall concrete structures, and the only indicators of its past are the few retail vegetable vendors who illegally hawk their wares on the roads leading to this market. And all those in air-conditioned cars that pass this way only sneer at the garbage that is piled away each day, as working class folks jostle in the crowded streets to buy vegetables at ostensibly lower prices than they would have to shell out at the markets near their homes. Never mind the dust, the filth, the lack of space, the long journey to and from the market, knowing all the time that the vendor must have cheated them on the weighing the scales! But few people have options that were at times met by this market – the neighbourhood mall supermarket. So those people have moved to these urban vegetable supermarkets.

When the going was good around the other markets, the D Street Market took heart and the D Boyz saw buyers for their wares, helping to push the SENSEX up. But very quickly, the heat of the day played spoilsport, as their wares lost their freshness, and the buyers disappeared. So the D Boyz had to water their wares, perk them up, sift through to it to discard the “rotting” elements and re-attract buyers. It seemed to work for sometime, until the Boyz figured out that the real buyers, the Fastidious Inquisitive Individuals – FIIs were moving elsewhere for their daily shopping – and so they had to sit in idle shops on D Street and sell their wares at discounts, pushing the SENSEX down 120 points to 15922. I think the Boyz are looking at downgrading to riding motorcycles, so some Mobike company stocks perked up; while their smart MUVs and SUVs and other such jeeps would probably stay at home or go to the sellers, pushing that stock down another day!

The Supermarkets don’t guarantee the freshest veggies, in fact at most times of the day – they sell fruit fly infested, wilting, at times rotting tomatoes, and greens. But if you manage to be there when the fresh produce is being stacked up, you could be in luck to get value for money. Many of these places also offer smart discounts to boost sales – 1 bundle of coriander free with another; and so on; and one can actually pick the plumpest pea-pods and the most tender lady fingers, which is not possible with the street hawkers. So we could see a change in the buyer behaviour beginning to take shape. The GIP and BB rails have changed their names and now also ferry people to far off places like Deolali and Bulsar (now Valsad) – under different names, but somehow, have still managed to offload veggies, fruits and flowers at the Market Under the Over in central Mumbai – despite more spacious and attractive options elsewhere.



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