Shivaji Market is a heritage building. This became known to the average citizen when some enthusiastic corporators in Pune wanted to tear it down, to build a modern market, in order to house more vendors.
It is situated in a very crowded area with narrow streets that do not allow for any parking. Part of its charm is the surprise, coming across a large building with high ceilings in a place you'd least expect.
There is nothing beautiful about it. With solid grey granite rocks heaped together in a Victorian Gothic 'Pune jail' style typical of public buildings in Maharashtra dating from the 19th century, its great saving is its stability.It looks like it will last forever.
A 5 by 5 foot space in the market would be worth a small fortune today.The allotment is passed down from generation to generation.The boy who sells dried fish on the outer square of the market says the small sales area he has was his "baba's' (grandfather's) a hundred years ago.
The vendors sit cross legged, high above the eye-level viewpoint of most of the shoppers. And their attitude is similiarly elevated; they are very uppity with people who find the vegetables overpriced. They dismiss all attempts to bargain by looking down their noses, literally and figuratively. One particularly intimidating woman of substantial girth sells the "foreign" vegetables, such as asparagus, zucchini, baby corn, pak choi, red and yellow peppers, zucchini and brussel sprouts. She also has a mobile made of bags of fresh basil, thyme and rosemary. Dripping gold and surrounded by her treasury of vegetables, she is royalty here.
Become a regular buyer, and many of them are friendly, in fact positively expansive, throwing in a potato or two above the balance of their scales.
Yet the problem is, as with all allotments here, that there are far more candidates for spaces than there is space.
Now the market itself is surrounded by more vendors outside than those inside, doing a brisk business in fruit and vegetables, catching buyers before they enter the building.
Altogether one gets a fair choice in vegetables, fish, fruit, chicken, mutton and beef.
The central and largest area of the building is for vegetables,the outer ring for poultry and dried goods, with separate buildings for fresh fish, lamb and beef. There is a little shop for Irani and Parsi specialities, another for dairy and Jain foods,a third for rice, lentils and wheat, and finally at the exit a gaggle of bangle wallas. At one time and still today, a womans shopping wasn't complete without an wrist covered with bright and glistening glass bangles.
When it was built in 1885, by Lt.Gen John Ross to a design by Gen Cecil D'Urban LaTouche and W.M Ducat it cost Rs 1,23,800.
Over the years, many of the vendors have become familiar faces; that, and the daily chit-chat, are some of the perks of living in a small town.(Yes,with a population of 3 million and still growing, Amche Pune is still a provincial, small town at heart)
As I was taking photographs, I asked the fruiterer at the entrance to smile. He said "yes" brightly but continued with his work seriously. "Smai-ile", I sung out, anticipating a warmer response. "Ye-es!" he returned, and kept stacking the apples with a dour mein. Again I said, "smile", encouraging him with one of my own, thinking he might not understand what I was saying. He turned to me, and, with a barely concealed chortle, affirmed: "Yes! I Ismail. "
We both burst out laughing together.
Another nice post about Shivaji Market by a fellow Puneite