A walk down Colaba Causeway will pack in almost everything a tourist would want to take back from Mumbai. Teeming with pocket-friendly street shops, restaurants and pubs, the causeway is a must for shoppers coming to the city. From souvenirs, clothes, jewellery, antiques, bags and footwear to first copies of expensive watches – those with an eye for cheap bargains are sure to find a steal.
A hop, skip and jump from the Gateway of India, Colaba Causeway has been popular with tourists for decades. The attractive prices have been drawing Mumbaikars as well. The cacophony of vendors wooing customers and the hubbub of people bargaining brings the market to life every day 10 am onwards.
While Middle Easterners are the most common tourists in the market, Europeans, Africans and Americans are not far behind.”I came across this place on the Internet. While it is difficult to converse with the shopkeepers, we know enough Hindi to quote the right price and get the best deals”, said Solene Bertaux from Spain.
For Rathath Sayeed from the UAE, the plethora of options for shoes, bags, and makeup is what brings her here every year. Moreover, she never forgets to take back goodies from the market for her friends back home.
The shopkeepers, through the years, have learned different ways to woo customers. From introducing pop music in the shops to communicating in multiple languages, they have done it all.
Bhavesh Kalapi, from Cotton Color, a garment shop, recalled an unusual incident. “A few years ago, a backpacker from Europe visited our shop. He was low on cash so he exchanged his bicycle for a few items from our shop. From then, we have allowed such kind of a barter system as well,” he said.
“I learned Arabic just to speak with the hundreds of tourists who come to my shop every year. They prefer embroidered or plain kurtas in silk and cotton. So we make sure to stock them up well in advance,” said Salim Merchant, the owner of Kanis Garment.
“I just type down the prices on my calculator and show it to the customers. It is up to their discretion to buy a garment or not,” he laughs.
With stories of cultural exchanges abound in every nook and corner of Colaba Causeway, some tourists claim that it is also tainted by episodes of cheating. “I refrain from buying from street shops because I have often been quoted higher prices,” rued Jamie Qaitz from Spain.
Although, Luis Pinar from Italy has a different opinion.”I feel the sellers here are extremely friendly and the products sold are worth the price,” he said.