Amidst the narrow lanes, flanked by antique and vintage items are mostly window shoppers that stop, stare, touch and leave. An involuntary action that has become a ritual for the countless visitors of the streets of Bhendi Bazaar and the city’s most prolific market — Chor Bazaar.
A treasure hunters paradise Chor Bazaar is maze of several streets that sell antiques, furniture, auto parts, film posters, vinyl records, lamps and even television sets from the 80s for Rs 500, among other curios. “What’s one man’s garbage has become another man’s treasure here,” said Sunny Shyam, who owns a shop that sells antique telephones in one of the city’s most loved tourist spots.
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With no sign of modernity since pre-independence, an unrefined network built between customers and dealers is one of Chor Bazaar’s most charming attractions besides the actual items sold.
On his maiden tour to India that included a short visit to Mumbai, Stephan from France ensured he, his wife and his daughter got a glimpse of Mumbai’s iconic “thieves market”. “We heard about it from friends and made a detour to check it out. The lamps and the bronze items are fascinating. It’s like no other market that I’ve visited,” Stephan said.
Shahid Mansoori who owns an antique shop says tourists come to Chor Bazaar in bus loads. “With one main guide holding a numbered placard and 50 people following him in a single file. While, they click our pictures and move forward it makes me think like we are animals in a zoo,” owner of ‘Mini Market’ Mansoori said.
The tourist circuit usually starts from antiques’ street then moves to the parallel street that’s called the car bazaar. Following which it is cloth market and and finally the leather market.
Business is booming, shop owners claim, as there has not been a shortage of footfalls, mainly made up of loyalists and those curious about the market.
“Over the years, there are many other ways to earn revenue other than sell. Many films such Raees and Bombay velvet with period settings have borrowed items off these streets. It brings great authenticity to their sets and another way to spread the word of the items found here,” Mansoori adds.
Originally, the market was called Shor Bazaar, meaning “noisy market”, but “shor” became “chor” because of how the British mispronounced the word. Eventually stolen goods started finding their way into the market, resulting in it living up to its new name.
But Saquib and his family from ASH Shastikar that deals in furniture dismisses this folklore behind the name.
“My grandfather had told my father Shahnawaz that during British rule this area was relatively noisier and was hence known as Shor bazaar. One day during the 40s, Mutton street here had an incident where a man stole chicken from a handcart and the entire street started to shout ‘chor’, hence, the name Chor bazaar stuck through all these decades,” Saquib said.