H.C Bhopal & Co.
The cozy atmosphere, the warm, heavily aromatic and pungent smell of cumin spread all over the place and spilled onto the road made me feel like was nowhere near London but the land of curry and prayer. Before I even noticed, I was surrounded by a handful of textile rolls in H.C Bhopal & Co, a textile, fabric merchant shop located in the historical and multicultural street of Brick Lane.
Running the family business for the last 35 years, owner of the shop, a lovely middle-aged Indian lady, explained briefly about the name ‘Bhopal’ as it was after the capital of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh Bhopal, where she’s come from. Unlike many other curry restaurants or vintage shops, H.C Bhopal has no special feature on its fascia design or any significant decoration on display window. However, according to Hazel Conway’s book ‘Design History’, section 8 ‘Environmental Design’ (1987), the shop, from the outer look, seems to have blended with the scenery of Brick Lane where ancient brick-based houses adjacent to each other creates such a cozy, pleasant and vintage ‘sense’ for the place, and in a way, making it even more outstanding and special.
According to the article ‘The new ‘creative’ Brick Lane’, George Mavrommatis (2006) asserted that the periods of 1970s witnessed a large wave of successive immigrants in London. The case of H.C Bhopal’s proprietress was no exception. The Indian lady portrayed Brick Lane as ‘a bowl of curry’*, referring to the co-existence of ‘the local people’ and ‘the artists’. She refused to reveal her name, however, she was pleased to share the story of how she had ended up in Brick Lane. That dates us back to the 1970s when she moved to London with her husband, who had just been offered a job at the time. Later, they decided to reside in London and have been living in Brick Lane for a few decades since then.
George (2006) also noticed the emergence of an ethnic boundary between the multicultural ‘creative’ professionals and the local Bangladeshis in Brick Lane. Speaking to the proprietress about her experiences of being a ‘local’ resident , it was obvious that the diversity of ethnicity and local conditions of multiculturalism didn’t seem to have any influence on her. From what I observed, the family managed to maintain their traditional lifestyle and religious customs in their everyday life. For example, the shop is relatively small and is stacked to the rafters with rolls of fabric however, a special and scared space for displaying pictures of Hindu deities is still available. Diwali – the ancient Hindu festival of light celebrated in autumn every year (BBC, 2014) was also mentioned in the conversation as she tried to capture her experiences as a whole.
In order to have a further look at her attitude and personal opinion in general, I posed a question to see weather she enjoyed living in the area or not. The answer was uncertain but her son, who was born and raised in London, suggested: “If she didn’t like it she wouldn’t stay here for the last 35 years would she?”.
I assume that what she meant is similar to the concept of ‘salad bowl’ which suggests that the integration of the many different cultures of United States, as it usually takes a lot of distinct components: ingredients, herbs and spices to compose a dish of curry.
BBC (2014). Diwali – 23 October 2014. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/religion/hinduism/diwali.shtml [Accessed on 2/11/2014]
George, M (2006). The new ‘creative’ Brick Lane: A narrative study of local multicultural encounters. SAGE Publications.
Hazel, C (1987). Design History: a student’s handbook. HarperCollinsAcademic.