You know Diwali is approaching when you see colourful stringy paper lanterns adorn Mumbai’s tiny balconies. As the city decks up for the second most important festival of the state, one community gets down to work to make Diwali colourful for all. The residents of LJ Road in Mahim for the past decade have collated efforts to turn the stretch between Mahim station and Citylights cinema into Kandil Galli. The paper lanterns, locally known as Kandil, turns the street into a magical stretch resplendent with glimmering lights.
The residents set to work one month before Diwali preparing the heptagonal lanterns. While retailers sell Chinese or plastic lanterns, these residents stick to traditional paper lanterns sold on the main road for 8-10 days. Rutuja, 15 and Prachi Patil, 19, help their father build close to 40 designer kandils each year, working in a 4X4 feet room after school. Their highest bid this year was a lace draped kandil set in hues of pink and white.
Rutuja and Prachi race to finish the last Kandil before they close shop for this year.
“This was initially made for our home but one buyer loved it and offered Rs 1500. He was adamant that he gets this one only,” says Bhupesh Patil standing in front of his stall which sees passersby stop from time to time to adore his creations.
Every family has a patent pattern modulated each year, but to a large extent the paper folding remains the same. For most of the residents, kandils are a seasonal income as each gets sold in the range of Rs 250-800 depending on their size.
“I work as a receptionist and these kandils are a labour of love. I come back home and set to work. This year I was forced to hire help because I received a huge order,” says Shilp Khopikar as her three tier cylindrical kandils sway in the musty autumn air.
Despite the traditional implications of a paper kandil, retailers seem keen on plastic ones due to their durability. “Customers are preferring plastic kandils this year because of the rain. The rains have brought down the sale of paper ones,” says Rahul Gupta, a regular retailers in Kandil Galli.
Kandils on display.
For those refusing to shell out for the kandils, a simple stroll down the street will might change your mind. “This market started around 10 years back. It was an initiative by the localites to protest against the Chinese kandils which were so prevalent then,” says Mukul a local customer as he was handed over his newly purchased kandils.Traditionally, kandils are built in homes for Diwali décor and they continue to be art projects in schools before Diwali break. For the kandil’s evolution from a front door home décor item to a street market, we are sure mesmerized by its colourful twinkling.