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Shortlisted | Roots and Routes: Navigating the Dilemma of Relocating Culturally Significant Food Streets

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Manali Ramchandani explores the relocation discussions and the balancing preservation and urban development of the vibrant Sarafa Bazaar in Indore. The essay is a part of shortlisted entries for Urban Imprints essay writing contest, March-April 2024.


At the stroke of midnight, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom—as rightly said by Jawahar Lal Nehru. This tale is about Sarafa Bazaar, a vibrant and bustling marketplace in the heart of Indore, Madhya Pradesh. The dynamic marketplace transforms almost magically from a jewellery market to a food lover’s paradise as the clock strikes 9, giving freedom to all Indians to shop like a queen in the morning and eat like a king when the rest of the world sleeps.

Sarafa Bazaar is a sparkling gem different from all typical marketplaces. It sparkles as a thriving jewellery market throughout the day but magically transforms into a colourful street food haven after dusk. Each mouthful narrates a tale, intricately combining the diverse elements of Indian cuisine.

Day and night views of the Sarafa market. Generated via Midjourney by the author.
Day and night views of the Sarafa market. Generated via Midjourney by the author.

However, with weighing the need for progress and recognizing the issues faced, the conflict in timing leads to congestion and disorganized parking in the vicinity. Furthermore, the Chaupati’s extended closing time of 11:30 pm to 2 am has resulted in large crowds till the wee hours of the morning, causing inconvenience to the locals. Only 80 of the 280 food stores are officially registered.

Relocation of the famous food street: The nocturnal beauty of Ithe market has been singing its fables for almost 127 years and is set to disappear. Instead, the entire Sarafa market will be shrouded in silence and darkness when the sun sets and the lively setting of Sarafa Chaupati will be lost to history.

Image showing jewellery shops getting shut and food kiosks getting started. Source Indore Talk
Image showing jewellery shops getting shut and food kiosks getting started. Source- https://indoretalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Indore-Sarafa_Night-Food-Market_IndoreTalk-03.jp

The discussion currently under progress centres on the urban relocation of food markets to preserve their cultural and historical significance in their new locations. This conversation explores the delicate balance between preservation and advancement, specifically where the necessity to maintain the essential qualities collides with urban development goals. Markets such as the Devraja market of Mysore and the Victore market of Melbourne have been revitalized and relocated while preserving their historical significance. This topic emphasizes how crucial it is to use creative thinking and involve the community to navigate the challenges of urban evolution and preserve the cultural legacy present in these treasured areas.

In the urban sprawl’s spirit, a dispute takes flight,
Relocate the markets, or clench onto their light?
Conserve their essence, their culture’s trace,
In fresh locales, ensure their historical grace.

Mentors’ Comments

Very interesting idea; started well; well-written as well; could have been done with more idea development.”
– Arpita Das

“The author seems to not get very far, (the short word limit doesn’t help), also crass commercial versus genuine cultural needs to be seen with a fine comb—operating without licenses, operating well beyond permitted time, etc. are serious issues. The author risks romanticizing an activity that has gone well beyond its initial premise.”
– Peeyush Sekhsaria


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