The Fabric Maze That Is Mangaldas Market



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Mangaldas Market is a colourful, chaotic maze you’ll want to get lost in.
Indian weddings have a strict dictum: the wedding extravaganza should last at least a week, nothing less than a seven-figure budget will suffice, all the guests should pile on a minimum of two kilograms and everything must sparkle. For almost everyone involved, there’s another little truth: the lead up to the wedding is guaranteed to be a crash course in All The Textiles Of The World!
“You must attend a big, fat Indian wedding!” was my bucket list advice to every expat, globetrotter or backpackers I met on my journeys. But what about the anticipatory frenzy of preparation and planning that precedes the celebrations? It’s not just the bride, the groom and their families – everyone remotely associated with the wedding starts shopping months in advance. And if you live in Mumbai, chances are all the regalia on display at the wedding will have been sourced from Mangaldas Market.
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It’s like the ad for the bhool bhulaiya (maze) in Esselworld – a man lost in the labyrinth, the tagline “Esselworld mein hi rahunga main, ghar nahi jaunga main,” (I’ll just stay in Esselworld, I won’t go home) in the background. Rendered slightly less sinister by metres upon metres of red velvets, white appliqués, flimsy chiffons and other fabric, the maze of Mangaldas Market is as likely to make you want to stick around browsing a little longer.
The narrow alleyways contain the best from the length and breadth of this country – there is phulkari and chickankari from the North of India, kanjivaram and chanderi from the South, sambal silks and ikat prints from the East, gotta kor from the West – and abroad.
The first time I visited, I plotted the six entry and exit points, each so narrow you could blink and miss it. I was startled at the massive world inside, with more than a hundred shops and stalls. Each outlet, big or small, was a Hindu Undivided Family business, signboards bearing the names of their forefathers, stores manned by at least three generations of the family, even today. Signs of the closely-knit network of the cotton trade days were evident; the textile merchants worked closely with each other, separated by not more than the thinnest of walls, or even just drapes in some cases.
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A trip to Mangaldas Market teaches you about fabric, maybe a little bit about history, but also busts some myths about men. Defying the viral meme #MiserableMen chronicling partners and spouses, dull, apathetic, waiting for their women to finish shopping, the shop owners at Mangaldas Market are a different breed. Here is one telling you the difference between chiffon and georgette; there is another quoting couture trends for this season. They’ll find you the perfect dupatta for your salmon pink kurta, discuss a pattern that will suit you best, suggest embellishments, give you styling tips and the number of an excellent tailor. No extra charge.
Mangaldas Market is always brimming over with people. It’s not just women looking for a bargain as they create their trousseaux. The market attracts wholesalers, retailers, designers and fashion students along with the usual wedding shenanigan suspects throughout the year.
This trip to Mangaldas was like so many before, hard bargaining with the vendors, interspersed with socialising with distant aunts. Pammi Chachi went on and on about the absolutely perfect age to get married. I’d already bought what I needed and half listening, I realised the way out of the labyrinth was, as always, to follow the aromas of the delicious Punjabi samosa toast that is a special at Santosh Sandwich Stall near the back gate.
Mangaldas Market, Janjiker Street, Lohar Chawl, Kalbadevi, Mumbai 400 002. 
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