City Market is a sensory explosion. Produce and bodies mingle, weaving in and out of every space in innumerable ways. Near the toilets on the west side, there lies garbage and coriander—a heady mix confronting your brain, one that you don’t know how to react to—repulsion at the garbage-sewage or gratitude that the dhaniya masked it, somewhat. You come away from City Market feeling like it was all too much—either wondrously all too much, or overwhelmingly too much. And you are right. There’s garbage, sewage, hawkers, carts, fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, paper, plastic recycling, implement shops, vendors, buyers, middlemen, stray dogs, cows in basements, and even history. Newer visitors to the market and its surrounding areas may find it hard to realize that here lies the origin of Bengaluru. The Pete first began as a two criss-crossing streets that expanded under various rulers, and was not only the commercial engine of the nascent town of Bangalore but also of military importance to its rulers. The Market sits on a battle site—a liminal space, and point of war between the British and Tipu (in his fort). To a large degree, the shape of the Pete can be traced still. It has expanded and diversified since then, although many of its traditions and communities remain behind, having evolved their occupations to suit more modern needs. Now, K R market is surrounded by important transport hubs, and you need go no further than the image below to see how close it is to many important Bangalore landmarks. The Market itself is unevenly occupied—overcrowded on the lower levels and barely occupied in the upper two floors. Hawkers and garbage claim spaces that are left over, and they are not entirely to be blamed.
The Market as it stands today doesn’t address the needs of its occupants and visitors, nor should it be expected to given the last renovation took place over a decade ago. Bangalore has changed immensely since then, and with it, the number and kinds of people who go to the Market. What we need now are new visions for our City Market. Visions that not only address its present, but also make space for a different future than we can imagine now, constrained as we are by memories of garbage and cobwebs.
City Market after all could one day look like this:
Or all of these:
All we’ve done is re-align traffic, clean up the thoroughfares, designate spaces for hawkers, and bolster the older buildings. We have some ideas about how we’d like the Market to shape up in the future–but let’s not look at them just yet. We’re still waiting for yours.