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March 10, 2009
Our taxi turns off the MG Road and we’re instantly stopped, swallowed by the mass of human traffic. Our driver gamely noses the car forward but not before an old Hindu woman accosts my guide who is sitting up front. It happens in a flash. Through the crack in the window, she pokes him hard in the shoulder before vanishing into the crowd.
“What was that?” I ask.
“She wanted money, abused me, then left,” Ramesh explains calmly.
We continue on our way, and Ramesh tells me a far more interesting story about the eunuchs who “operate” in his neighborhood. Recently, his mother had to bribe them so they would not disrupt his sister’s wedding. The mother gave them each a gold ring as insurance. I wonder what were they prepared to do. Ramesh claims they would have disrobed during the ceremony, causing his family untold embarrassment.
We reach our destination, the Chor Bazaar. Literally, the name means “thieves market,” but the merchants insist that it’s a perversion of the Urdu word “shor” which means “noisy.” Either way, the streets are filled with hawkers and handcarts piled high with Raj-era bric-a-brac, brass doorknobs and silver hookahs.
We forge ahead in the stifling heat—“Mad Dogs and Englishmen,” indeed. Emerging from the hustle and bustle and many darting children, we reach the relative calm of Mutton Street. Although the antique shops here are now filled with ingenious reproductions, I still hold out hope for that rare colonial artifact. Perhaps I’ll find it at the Mughal Bazaar, site of past successes.
Can you discern a real from a fake?