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Bhuleshwar a visual continuum across time zones

Bhuleshwar As a child once I had lost my way in this area of South Bombay called Bhuleshwar. The occasion was shopping for diwali and the immense variety of what was on offer in that market stunned me to a point where I was too consumed to realise I am not with my elders anymore. Such is the classic cacophony of this place. What I learnt in Indian Thoughts and Traditionsright from what is India’s material culture to the fact that forces create form finds its physical parallels here in this temple dominated area. This Ward C of the Charni Road area, has about 54 main temples and several small shrines. Wherever you look, from the corner of an eye, at the end of an alley, squeezed between chawls, from between the shops one can see a temple. And the whole culture as well as geography of this place seems to have evolved around these temples. Without touching them, In the course of development and modernization. The temples seem to have been left unquestioned since times immemorial because the whole city has evolved around it in such an organic manner that its difficult to tell where public property ends and private property begins. Negotiating space in this neighbourhood are, the temples of course, the cattle, vehicles, people- shop owners, children, people staying nearby, street vendors selling fruit , flowers, vegetables. As well as those selling pots, utensils and these days a lot of them selling toys and

utility products from China.

Indianess and material culture A mere look at the market tells us how very many things from across time zones and cultures coexist together. They not only survive but they thrive. As was discussed in first class on Indian Thoughts and traditions, Bhuleshwar is a quaint place where Indian material culture from across 5000 years coexists. Visually its quite a constant onslaught, whether its the temple architecture across communities, the shop signs, modern day institutions like banks, their buildings etc and chawls of yesteryear and more. Its like travelling to and fro on a continuum that spans centuries. Its also a continuum that ties tradition with modernity, religion with commerce, residences with market spaces, humans with Gods and animals, smallest alleys between chawls with vehicles. Few metres away from Bhuleshwar and one reaches a South Bombay which is very western, very “globalized“ as the cliche goes with its McDonald’s, malls, swanky pubs, businesses in UV tinted glass covered high-rises. A stark contrast from Bhuleshwar. The earlier supposedly planned and designed and latter which evolved on its own.

Formless to form, forces create the form No one person designed Bhuleshwar like one would a city but then why is that Bhuleshwar with its dingy un-negotiable lanes is far more

Indian and exciting than the so called hep and very upmarket Bombay? A mall with its air-conditioning and luxuries say for example Inox at Nariman Point starts to seem boring after a while. But no matter how many times one visits Bhuleshwar, it never gets boring. Its labyrinthine allies add to a flavour of the place. Why is that so? Is it because as a space it evolved from the needs of people who lived there than due to some design that was imposed? I think so, if one was to apply the thought that forces create the form it would be very clear that initially there must have been temples, houses and a few shops selling Pooja-samagri and groceries, which must be getting people from near by places as well here. Seeing the proximity to temples and anticipating more visitors perhaps shopkeepers/ owners saw the opportunities and eventually a larger market evolved which sells everything from fruits, flowers, vegetables, pots and pans, sarees, bhel-puri , zarree shops, bead shops so on and so forth.

Design of unknown Indians As a student of visual communication the sights, sounds and smells of Bhuleshwar are extremely stimulating. Even the objects that are bought and sold in the markets their add to one’s understanding of visually what is Indian, culturally what is Indian. It’s an inspiration how each shop tries to negotiate its identity in a very chaotic and competitive market place. Be it shop signs, arrangement of goods, locally made Point of Purchase displays, branding and communication for the smallest of

shops is a great resource for understanding of visual and cultural idiosyncrasies of the locals. Even the temples with their variety of Gods and Goddesses across communities, each varying in their style of architecture etc are a visual spectacle and none of it can be attributed to one particular person. It pretty much operates in an open source fashion and hence is easy to adopt and adapt to.

Conclusion: Indian Thoughts and traditions are more like a means than an end in iteslf- like mantras that can be applied across situations to sort thoughts and actions out. Here I have touched upon those which touched me most in the context of Bhuleshwar.