Juna Bazaar’s value is set in the collector’s eye
Juna Bazaar or old marketplace sells the proverb, sometimes at throwaway price if one can cut the deal, someone’s scrap or trash could be another’s treasure. The 70-year-old shopping spot in Mangalwar peth has seen the city grow from a mofussil to an emerging metropolis. As the market sprawl, held on Wednesdays and Sundays, cover half of the road, the authorities have put up barricades to free the pathway. With stall owners fighting for right to sell their goods at the designated space in Juna Bazaar, collectors and conservationist architects feel that it is one of the best treasure troves and a place to chance upon antiques and heritage goods
Any curious passer-by will be drawn to take a leisurely tour of the market. “When you visit the bazaar, arrays of goods set on foldable beds greet you. It is the right place for those who have an eye for antiques, as sometimes even the seller has no idea of the object’s worth and is willing to give at a throwaway price,” said Pradeep Sohoni, 71, president, International Collectors Society of Rare Items.
According to Sohoni, the market’s treasure is hidden within the bylanes lined with small stalls, where antiques are the biggest pull.
“My grandfather DG Kelkar often used to visit Juna Bazaar. There is a mention of it in his memoirs where sometimes, just walking past these stalls, a thing that he was searching for would be hidden among a lot of things. A few of the betel nut cutters on display at Raja Dinkar Kelkar museum on Bajirao road were actually found in the bazaar. It was a place where for years people would discard old furniture, utensils, knick-knacks and unwanted clutter of their house. These stall owners would also pick up goods from different cities and sell it here, often after repairing and cleaning it. My grandfather was lucky to find in this market some rare artefacts that adorn the museum. This bazaar carry forwards India’s traditional art forms and is a cultural heritage that connects generations,’ said Sudhanva Ranade, director, Raja Dinkar Kelkar museum.
Sohoni, before shifting to Pune, used to travel from Mumbai to visit the Juna Bazaar on Sundays. “The kind of treasures hidden in plain sight at this place, on stalls and ground, is unimaginable. Time flies when you enter the bazaar and it takes me around two hours to roam around until I find something of interest. Always visit this place with an open mind, as you never know what you might find,” said Sohoni, who found an exquisitely carved ebony walking stick at a throwaway price. The seller had kept the antique with other walking sticks. Among Sohoni’s collection, on trips like this to Juna Bazaar, he has found a ‘ganga jamuna’ (a brass-copper flask ), a mint condition army canteen water bottle, an old copper rice measure (map) and rare utensils.
Sohoni also bought some rare books at Juna Bazaar. “I found a collection of National Geographic magazines in good condition for which once I paid more than ₹4,000, for ₹200,” he said.
Real estate agent Shyam Mote, 58, is a regular visitor at the Wednesday and Sunday market. His routine visits have made him friends with stall owners who keep aside goods of his interest. “I began my journey of collecting rare items 25 years ago. While travelling towards Camp, I always found a crowd at this place on Wednesdays and Sundays. I was surprised to know that one could get anything from a pin to a war tank’s parts at Juna Bazaar. It aroused my interest and ever since that day, I try to not miss my visit to the bazaar,” said Mote.
The first thing that Mote bought at the bazaar was an old railway kerosene lamp, followed by collecting lamps, wall clocks and rare instruments. His collection includes a 100-year-old lamp of Victoria Buggy, made in Germany. “It was in a bad condition, but I got it repaired. I also bought a foot harmonium made in Paris from this place, and wall clocks each chiming different sounds of church, palace, theatre.”
Juna Bazaar also attracts foreigners, though Mote feels that stall owners are not keen on making an effort to keep the traditional value of goods alive. “The new generation is keen on making fast money and are also selling electronics. One should be careful before buying gadgets as you may end up buying a fake product,” said Mote.