So I was in Delhi last week(end). Darn. I loved it all over again. It was a veritable pleasure to be out on the roads. People drove in lanes and did not honk quite as much. And....the traffic moved! It moved at a pace of 60kph and above. God! Ive missed that in a city for some time - that too in peak hours. And the roads were heaven ^^
As part of my trip my Mom and I went shopping, and I insisted on going to some of the intrinsic old-time markets of Delhi. Malls be damned - bloody clones. On my list were Sarojini Nagar Market, Lajpat Nagar Central Market, Karol Bagh, Connought Place (the quintessential CP) - or at least as much as I could squeeze in one day.
So off we went to Sarojini Nagar and kick-started our expedition with some Papdi Chaat. Yum! Been ages since I had a decent plate of chaat. In Mumbai they add sweet and hot chutney to everything and Delhi knows the right combination of bhallas and imli with some magic masala to make it delightful. My mom, however found it a trifle sweet and bland. Well, lucky she, eats in Calcutta the haven of good food >.< However, she liked her plate of Alu Tikki, so that was that.
(These Bombay ppl dont know what chaat means! grumble grumble grumble)
Then the market. A huge circumference, with the true old-India style inner and outer layers in an almost-circle, with each arc dedicated to - well, anything and everything under the sun! We started off with the portion which sells food. Hence the chaats. But soon we meandered on to the interesting knick-knacks that you get. My mom bought a few wrought iron candle stands (exactly like the ones Ive shown) for Rs 16 each after a little bargaining. It was the sellers "bauni" and so he agreed on the price soon. Quite a steal if I may say so. Then there was the usual array of wedding stuff shops - the chuda shops, the bling, fake jewellery, mehendi, varieties of bindis, chudis... you name it. A segment of home stuff - with everything from ready-made curtains in linen, brocade, thick cotton, lace; cushion covers, lampshades, and lots of them. Well crafted by workmen who also supply to big brands in India. There was even an area where you get groceries - including imported chocolates.
The interior is almost an all-women area where you get amazing bargains for western wear. Everything from shorts to frocks for daywear. and more. Oh! you do get a zillion track pants in a gazillion varieties for Rs 150 each. I remember in my IMI days they cost Rs 80 or so, and everyone in the hostel owned a pair - and we had all gone and bought Rs 30 cotton pants for Holi only to find the quality too good and wore other older stuff that day for the colours!
There was a lot more there, but I will not bore you more. Suffice to say it was an overload of senses, in the heat and sun. The Banta we had refreshed us. Banta is essential in Delhi summers. ^_^ (see theguyinallblue)
We polished off the morning with a typical dilli ka chhole bhature at Lajpat Nagar - because that was our next stop. One word? Yum! And the juice after that was pure 100% no-sugar added freshly squeezed, served with a pinch of rock-salt mixture. Delightful.
An introduction to LPN? Its the God of all Salwar-kameez markets. You can start off at Rs 100 per ready-made piece and go as far up as you can imagine (many bridal dresses for high class weddings are made there).
So we waded through the market (which also sells many other things) and looked at the juti/ mojri shops, the not-needed shops of plastic ware (water resistant white lace tablecloth anyone?), shops selling wooden buttons for kurtas for men and women in different shapes sizes and dimensions(!), shops selling every conceivable lace, buttons, clasps, thread, hooks, zari, ... the list is more than what the shopkeepers can remember (but I doubt that). After many trips to the outer and inner layers and crossing the central courtyard several times we finally found the salwar-kameez stretch.
Its after a long time that I found the fun in buying something where its the common dresscode. Hence the quote above. The people here make the best in cuts and dont skimp on material - they dare not. Their regular clientele will not buy them else. The salwars have a good cut, and the kurtas have the correct flair for the cloth. Here you dont need to go back to the tailor for unsatisfactory tailoring. The top shops in Mumbai and Calcutta will charge a hefty premium for the kind of tailoring on offer there for measly amounts. And the designs and colours are rare and exciting and new. And, so, needless to say, I shopped. And...I later discovered my salwar came pre-nada-ed. So I dont need to sit with it and feed in that length of cord!
After months of wandering through malls, and so called shopping stretches with stand-alone wannabe brand shops, and not finding anything worth buying, getting good quality stuff was nice, and I dint need a second offer. I bought.
I realised its been a long time since I went to Delhi. I missed the open spaces. The guest bedroom in our house there is the size of my main room here in Mumbai. The cranes for constructing a building stand on ground surrounding the building and are then built in height, not on top of the building like in Mumbai. You have houses with gardens - front and kitchen. Everyone has parking space - in proper garages. Things people in over populated Mumbai dont even dream of.
The markets I mentioned are one-stop-shops where you get quality products with returnable guarantee and personal tailoring if you want. They may not all be air conditioned, but they are a relief because when you need to shop you dont need to worry about where to go and where not to go next. And you dont need to think whether the brand is a quality one or not - its all about the person selling you the stuff. His word is a guarantee which he will stand by. And I havent even mentioned the CO with its inner and outer whorls and grand columns and the Nirula's hot chocolate fudge.
I miss such markets in Mumbai. Forget the area they span, the shops here store low-end craftsmanship in stand-alons shops in so-called shopping areas (which are roads). So in a particular road you will have roadside vendors selling poor quality products for a medium price, and shops which are trying to brand themselves by selling branded stuff from many other shops, at well, branded product prices.
The older markets with a minimum degree of sophistication are what makes shopping fun and easy. These are the true Indian malls, without the cool air, replete with the fast food (which, incidentally, are healthy too). And I miss them for my casual shopping.
I cant imagine Calcutta without New Market and Gariahat, College Street and the likes, and definitely not Delhi without CP and Karol Bagh and Sarojini nagar and Jalpat nagar. (Imagine Lucknow without Aminabad market and Hazratganj...and Tunde ke kabab)
Oh! and of course, the "Budh Bazar" at the local market near your house in Delhi. (The original 'sale' markets held every Wednesday, with special discounts on given months/ weeks).
Yup, its been a long time to Delhi - and till you go out on the road, past the nice architecture of buildings on MG road, past the AIIMS flyover, past the parathe-wala at Gurudwara, and go to an intrinsic Dilli market, you will not know it. Not for all that 1sq-km per floor space mall, not for the best of malls in any city. I still prefer the South-Extension part II market and Saket market with Hari Chutney, to the Sahara Malls.
*Bauni is the first sale for the day. A traditional affair where the shopkeeper believes even selling at cost is fine, since it kackstarts his day. There are usually two bauni's per day - one in the morning and one in evening, after the evening lights are lit. For places where you have to bargain, this is the best time to go, because then the prices are not that inflated and you dont have to bargain much. Traditionally, the buyer also pays a nominal extra sum to round off the amount.