Julie Andrews trilled in the evergreen Musical The Sound of Music, Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens….. these are a few of my favourite things….. if it were to be sung again in Delhi, every word in the list would be shopping, shopping and shopping. Yes, it would be mild to call Delhi, a shopper’s paradise, it is a shopper’s addiction binging on the almost maniacal. Unlike other places, Delhites do not need an excuse to shop, it is almost a habit, be it the wedding season, the festival (and there are more festivals in a year than the number of days!!!), birthdays, marriage days, rituals, ceremonies…….shop Delhi must!! And to give indulgence to this craving are well stocked market places, from the ever popular nukkad (corner mom pop stores) markets, the upscale Khan Market, Connaught Place, Malls (Saket, Ansal Plaza…), South Ex, G K I & II.., to the weekly – Budh bazaar, Shukr bazaar (Wed or Friday markets)….the wholesale markets of Chandni Chowk, Sadar Bazaar, Karol Bagh, the evergreen Lajpat Nagar, Sarojini Markets….the list is never ending ever increasing. In these markets, the supremely expensive sits very comfortably with the dirt cheap bargainable, contemporary modern pieces are as much sought after as antiques, bargaining is a compulsive habit and reveled in and not considered infra dig. And everything is bought, cushion covers from the designer outlets to cushion covers from the footpath weekly bazaars. Delhites do not distinguish between upmarket or downscale, an average shopper is as comfortable shopping in the swish environs of Malls as bargaining hard at the Budh Bazaar.
The variety in each of the shops is mind boggling. Try this, despite shops selling same products (jewellery, shoes, sarees….) no two shops stocks similar products or prints, one is awed with the design availability everywhere. So here’s a recce of Shopping in Delhi.
One of the most comfortable places to shop is the Khan Market, the nice leafy avenues, controlled traffic, enough space to move about and the swish crowd makes it an excellent place to stroll and indulge in. Similar areas for quite browsing include Santushti Complex, Hauz Khas Village and Rajiv Gandhi Handicrafts Bhawan. Connaught Place aka CP, always holds a special place in the hearts of everyone coming to Delhi. Sensuous silks, stylish bags, custom made shoes, jewellery…
The college goers, backpacker tourists paradise is Janpath. The main attraction is the small bylane selling export reject fashion wear at dirt cheap prices. The best of Western fashion can be accessed and good brand names at a mere fraction. No, they are not rip offs but a consignment meant to be shipped abroad at times gets rejected because of time delays or minor quality problems, this finds it way to the portals of Janpath. A fashion savvy individual can pick up the best at affordable prices. It attracts tourists and even fashion divas. The main shops on the street also stock some beautiful stuff, the antique textile sellers from Gujarat in another inside bylane also offer interesting patchwork and furnishing pieces. Craft pieces, metal wares, footwear are all must do here. A similar place for such affordable wear is the Sarojini Nagar market where nearly two bylanes are full of excellent T-shirts, skirts, Kaftans…cushion covers a plenty on the foot path and shops selling beautiful sarees and woollen products. In the same genre is Lajpat Nagar which though was a middle class market today offers an excellent range in fabric, stitched garments… it stocks Lucknowi Chikan, juttis, kolhapuri, printed Jaipuri Cotton and loads of Fabric.
The bylanes of Chandni Chowk pack in so much of nostalgia and variety that one can spend decades browsing it and still come with surprises. Each of its bylane is devoted to a particular product. The fact some shops are centuries old simply adds to the flavour. So the Kinnari Bazaar offers zardozi work, woven laces, worked pieces, Dariba Kalan is well known for silverware, Kapda market for clothes, fabrics, Khari Baoli for dry fruits, snacks, sherbets.., Nai Sarak is a book lover’s treat while Lajpat Rai market for electronic goods, the main road houses plenty of gold and silver merchants…One can discover niche shops selling pure zari work, selling itar or hand made perfume.., Sadar Bazaar is a wholesale market and stocks everything from shoes, silver, clothes, kites, books, lace, borders….The famous place in Karol Bagh is the Banker’s Street which has rows upon rows of shops selling gold ornaments. Nearly every gold styling from the country can be found here, Konkani, Marathi, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Bengali…The Gaffar Market is excellent for rip offs and fake electronic items.
The Malls changed the way many shopped atleast during the summer months, where else can one get an Air conditioned market. The Ansal Plaza which was the first soon had competition from the DLF Emproio, the Saket Malls – MGF Metropolitan Mall, Select City Walk (it is a must do place!) are today “the” places to see and shop. The Flea Market Night organized attracts its fair share of visitors.
The biggest attraction and shopper’s indulgence is the humungous IITF – India International Trade Fair held from the 14th to the 30th of November every year at Pragati Maidan. With participation from almost all states and foreign countries, it is a gargantuan enterprise, offering excellent bargains and plenty of freebies. The display of gems from Burma, Rajasthani & Gujarati wear, Hyderabadi pearls, Carpets from Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Saffron, dry fruits…..
They say shop till you drop, in Delhi there is no drop it is only shop shop and shop!!!
Handicrafts and handloom hold a special place in India and there is much experimentation on to create contemporary pieces using age old skills. For excellent craft picks – Baba Kharak Singh Marg (all State Emporiums are located here), Rajiv Gandhi Handicrafts Bhawan where Tribes, Kamla, Industree stock some very beautiful products. Cottage Emporium in Janpath. To buy straight from the craftsmen - Crafts Museum shop and demonstration area and Dilli Haat (INA Market & Pitampura).
Fab India outlets, Khadi Bandaars, Soma, Anokhi, Neemrana Shop….are others offering excellent ethnic stuff.
Interiors – The Bamboo Store, House of Istavam, Zara
For T-shirts – Tank Road for wholesale and Tantra outlets, Tribes
For silverware – Amrapali (Khan Market), Silverline
Antique Furniture – Amar Colony market, Puratan
Darya Ganj Sunday Market for books especially old.
(This article appeared in Discover India October 2010 Issue)