Trucks in India do more than just carry loads. These eccentric vehicles double as mobile canvases for outrageously colourful paintings of deities, lotus blossoms, village scenes, mangoes, movie-stars, you name it. For many travellers, this is the first introduction to Indian kitsch.
Indeed, it’s debatable whether India would have developed quite the same love affair with flamboyant colour without these rainbow-coloured warriors of the road. This endless pool of bright, over-the-top imagery – inspired by themes from Indian daily life – has inspired a whole aesthetic movement, adorning everything from furniture and fashions to laptop cases.
With its growing pool of hip young citizens, Bengaluru is fast becoming the capital of Indian kitsch, where tantalizing flea markets are crammed with retro treasures and arty one-offs, and designer boutiques infuse their collections with borrowed truck-art themes. Here are our top tips for lovers of all things kitsch.
Shopping with soul at Soul Sante
Bengaluru has a string of markets where you can rummage for retro relics. Taking its name from the Kannada word for market, Sunday Soul Sante is piled high with vintage, contemporary and classic kitsch clothing, plus all manner of accessories, furnishings, art and collectables. Held five times a year at moving locations, the market promises a field full of stalls and plenty of music, food and drinks for non-bargain hunters. The fair-like vibe is captivating but the flea market kicks of in the early afternoon and the heat can be wilting if you don’t find a shaded spot to park yourself. Evenings promise a more pleasant time with an Indie-band (or two) taking the stage. Browse the website for details of the next gathering.
Cool couture at Kitsch Mandi
Soul Sante was just the start for Bengaluru’s burgeoning alternative scene. It was soon joined by Kitsch Mandi (named for another Kannada word for market). This half canopied, half open-air flea market crams in creative wares from local designers, furniture makers, artists and photographers. Come for creatively original clothing, unique accessories, funky footwear and cool independent eateries. A small stage pops up in the evening, with local bands belting out boisterous numbers to a swaying crowd. Prices reflect the attitude, but you’re sure to take home some very cool things you never knew you really wanted. For the location and timing of the next event, follow Kitsch Mandi on facebook.com/Kitsch.Mandi.
Off-the-wall art at Chitra Santhe
Draw a circle on your calendar for this annual extravaganza, held at Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath, Bengaluru’s oldest art college, between June and July. Less flea market, more art fair, Chitra Santhe fills the Art Complex at Kumara Krupa Rd with some 1200 stall-holders, artists and craftsmen from all over the country. The quirky offerings here will inspire even the most jaded shopper, and dates are posted annually on the college website.
Raise the bar at Levitate
Browsing the goods at Bangalore’s original boho beacon can be a squeeze; you'll find practically a warehouse-load of unique apparel, kitschy knick-knacks, silver jewellery and flip-flops crammed into a cosy room on the first floor of the 100 Ft restaurant at 100 Ft Rd, Indiranagar. Founded by biker, traveller and aficionado of all things handcrafted, Meghna Khanna, Levitate specialises in statement jewellery pieces, rainbow-coloured shoes and unique accessories, sourced from artisans spread the length and breadth of the country. Khanna’s taste is still influencing Bengaluru style 14 years after Levitate first appeared on the scene.
Art by Aarohi
Not so much a shop as a working art studio, Art by Aarohi at C-44 Diamond District Apts on Old Airport Rd offers a dizzying introduction to the artist owner's stunning world of colours. Her work in oil, acrylics, watercolour and pastels adorns a wide variety of canvases and accessories in paper, canvas, metal, cardboard, wood and fabric. Aarohi’s kettles, cushions, trunks, bags, plates and paintings have earned her enthusiastic followers from all over the world. The pooch-inspired Poonchh collection and Kathakali vignettes from Kerala are amongst her most popular creations. Call or email ahead to arrange a studio visit.
Get your gypsy on with tribal Aztec patterns and bold colours on handcrafted clothes and accessories or go the whole hippy hog and top it up with a dream catcher. Beside the Garuda Mall on Magrath Rd, Psybaba follows a philosophy rooted in environmental activism, so there’s plenty of eco-conscious booty to rummage through - think products made from found seashells, bones, horns, feathers, wood, geodes and hemp fibre.
For a change from the standard souvenirs, choose from heaps of ingenious accessories and home décor bric-a-brac at Fancy Chilli at 3353, 5th Cross, 12th A Main, Indiranagar. Vintage metal signs, quirky mugs, clocks, jewellery cases, lampshades, bags, postcards, cushions and many more accent pieces cater to a wide range of taste and budgets.