Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Monday, Jun 10, 2002
Industry & Economy
A heritage town waits for the tourists
These signboards and the handicraft shop on Otha Vaadai Street in Mahabalipuram reflect the street's unique mix of the East and the West.
CHENNAI, June 9
SMALL businesses in the tourist town of Mahabalipuram are in hibernation as they wait for the season to open.
The garment shops have their usual eclectic collection of spaghetti strapped dresses, short kurtas, jamies and T-shirts which seem to be the costume favoured by the back packers.
Mr Mohahmed Razack from Kashmir runs the Bizarre Bazar, which has a similar collection and an assortment of handicraft, more kitsch than art, from all over the world. The brassware is priced for the mid-market. For instance, a pair of brass African figurines cost Rs 300.
There are a number of these Kashmiri handicraft shops with a similar offering. Mr Razack said the Kashmiris were the first to open shops in this town. The men came alone, leaving their families behind, and set up these businesses. Bizarre Bazar, like the other shops, remains shut most of day now, but from September to March there would be no time to eat or sleep, he said. For tourists, the type of product offerings available in this town is quite interesting. There are shops selling hammocks, wall hangings and potholders, besides stone carvings. There are a number of sculptors who chisel out statues for the export market. Statues of Buddha seem to be popular.
The bookshops in Mahabalipuram offer a fairly sophisticated collection of books, which range from Herman Wouk to Thoreau to Erich Segal.
Mopeds and four-stroke motorcycles are available for hire, while almost every street seems to have a foreign exchange dealer. The small kirana shops have product categories such as toilet paper, pouch tobacco, cigarette lighters and mouth fresheners. At the premium end, Hidesign has an outlet here, too.
If business is dull for the small enterprises, it is worse for the beach side vendors. The old women who sell cowrie shells and coral on the beach near the Shore Temple find that even domestic tourists are not buying anything. Even small items such as penholders, chains, key chains and shells on which one's name can be inscribed find no takers.
The German pastry shop on the rooftop of the Ramakrishna Lodge will open only during the high season from September to March. Some of the eateries have set the tables on the roadside.
The schedule for the World Cup games is pasted on the wall at the Moonraker restaurant, a happening place, if any. The crowd starts drifting in as the day draws to a close. The entire street is quiet but for the music from the nearby Sai Baba Music World.
Besides a range of seafood, continental and Indian, freshly fried jalebis and samosas. Outside the Panchayat office stands a cartman from Rajasthan handing out these delicacies, his prime customers being the Northern Indian travellers.
Also, one notices that not many children's homes and orphanages are there as earlier. May be the result of the recent crackdown by the police on an alleged paedophilic racket in this town.
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