The market of thieves

Tired of our monotonous stay-in-bed Sunday mornings, me and my roommate decided to visit Chor Bazaar, literal translation being ‘Thief’s Market’. The tiny cluster of streets just off Bhendi Bazaar in South Mumbai seemed intimidating at first. Though, it wasn’t as crowded as a market should be on Sunday, the area felt strange…well, until, one of the shops started playing ‘Gazab ka hai din’, the 80’s classic from Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak and we found our feet ambling down the lanes with more ease. The small alley at the entrance was lined with men sitting behind mats which had the most peculiar assortment of objects – from earphones, data cables, rings, precious stones to nails, hammers and sun-glasses of all sorts – and as you keep walking deeper, the shops display a wider variety of the same.

While Chor Bazaar is meant for hoarder’s of all kinds and every shop has its own charm to it, after a strenuous morning spent in and around the market, here are three places that encapsulate Chor Bazaar for me.

Shop no. 135

There is no board or hoarding for this shop so you would have to ask around a bit but if you see a lane decorated with antique-looking stuff, know that you are close. Mustafa, who was sitting at the shop when we visited, is the fourth generation of the shop owners. His father, grand-father and grand-grand-father have been running the shop before him. The approximately 80 years old establishment, funnily, doesn’t have a name of its own. Here, you will find rings, necklaces, small chandeliers, brooches, old posters, photographs, a collection of fountain pens, snuff boxes, hand-written letters in Urdu, old coins (we found one which came out during the 25th anniversary of Indian Independence) and the cutest collection of buttons!
The price quoted was from INR 250-1000, which doesn’t sound expensive but I’d suggest you practice your bargaining skills before a visit.

Interiors of Shop no. 135
A collection of buttons found in an old box

Haji Ebrahim

The only shop that gave us a business card, Haji Ebrahim deals with old radio sets, gramophones, phones, records and record players. This shop is approximately 50 years old and had a simple looking exterior stacked with old radio sets. When asked how the business works when technology has moved far ahead, the current owner told us “People buy radios and gramophones as showpieces now, I also get a lot of record collectors…Of course, we don’t sell as much as we used to but kaam chal jaata hai (it works out)”
The records here cost around INR 250-300 whereas the gramophone begins at INR 2000 and a full fledged record player costs INR 9000.

To call: Remove receiver, listen for humming sound, pull dial around to stop and let go (Instructions on one of the phone dials)
From Kishore Kumar and Mughal-e-Azam to Tina Turner and Jim Reeves

Noor Sweets

This 90 year old sweet shop is your spot if you are someone who needs sugar rush while shopping. This is located very close to ‘Noorani Sweets’ so don’t get confused between the two.
The old uncle sitting at the counter dismissed us when we asked what their specialty is by saying “Kuch bhi le lo, sab special hai (Have anything, everything here is special)”. Eventually he asked someone to bring us ‘Mawa Khaja’, which are these huge sweet balls made of maida, milk and sugar which have a crunch but at the same time, melt immediately in your mouth. We were also asked to try ‘Roasted Almond Barfi’ but we saved it for next time. ‘Mawa Khaja’, however, gets our complete recommendation. In fact, I am munching on it while I write this.

The entrance of Noor Sweets
The beige and orange delight – Mawa Khaja

Image(s) Courtesy: LoiterToiter

P.S. – None of the shops above admitted to stealing of any kind.

Explore Chor Bazaar based on above instructions and if you have any feedback or shops at Chor Bazaar that you would like us to know about then, then feel free to drop comments.



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