Feeding Mumbai

A bustling market in Mumbai does business in the middle of the night

James Roper

In the middle of the night, when the sky is pitch black and the rest of Mumbai is fast asleep, the wholesale produce market in the neighborhood of Byculla is a hive of frenetic activity. I first discovered it at the end of a long night out, but each time I return, its rhythm is the same. Trucks loaded high with watermelons, eggplants, and long beans rumble by, their hauls to be unpacked by an army of workers, like the men pictured here, who carry woven baskets overhead. The deliveries, hailing from Nashik, Maharashtra's agricultural heartland, about 100 miles away, supply this city of 20 million people. By 3:30 a.m., vendors have said their daily prayers and are on to a brisk business, selling fresh produce to middlemen for neighborhood markets and home-delivery services. Damaged goods don't go to waste—they are fed to the cows ambling about in return for good karma. As the sky brightens, the din starts to fade, and by 10 a.m., it's a leisurely murmur.