Sunday, December 11, 2011

Shop Hopping in Delhi

Delhi Ishtyle shopping

For a shopaholic, Delhi is manna from heaven, a shopping list reads more like ….handmade glass bangles near Hanuman Mandir, shoes from Connaught Place (a.ka CP), handicrafts and handloom from Baba Kharak Singh Marg, Cottage, ethnic silver wear from Dariba Kalan, gold jewellery from Chandni Chowk or Gold Souk at Gurgaon, browse through Hauz Khas Village or Khan Market, bargain wear from Janpath, pottery at Hauz Rani …. The list is never ending. For an outsider, Delhi in its first avatar seems more like a city of shops. Yes, there are shops everywhere, every locality has a few shops, there are shops in the basement, the ground floors, on the foot path…. Even in popular markets, shops housed in residences begin much much before the market. But despite the omnipresence of shops, each shop is a discovery in itself. No two shops sell the same style or design. Each offers its exclusive piece, so one can get different prints in furnishings in the most basic of corner shops to some extraordinary ones in well known label shops. With such a variety available, Delhi is one big bazaar shopping for most. And residents have their die hard favourites and do not mind travelling more than a few miles to shop at what they consider their favourites.

Delhi is famous for a number of crafts which flourished during the Mughal Rule and were later patronized by British. The by lanes of Old Delhi and certain parts of New Delhi still thrive in these traditional crafts. The areas around Jama Masjid, Darya Ganj, Kamra Bangash, Lal Kuan, Turkman Gate is home to many craftsmen who do dedicated work as their forefathers did centuries ago. Many of these craftsmen are award winners for their chosen craft and take veritable pride in their work. The crafts include Zardozi, Meenakari (enamel work), copper metal ware, Silver ware (called sheet metal work), jaali work in wood, bone carving, sword making, making of silver sheets for paan, sandalwood work, pottery..... Not only that many traditional craftsmen from other parts of the country have today set shop in Delhi and continue to ply their trade. So it is not uncommon to see a traditional Kantha embroiderer from West Bengal or Madhubani painter from Bihar or Potter from Manipur working out of their home in Delhi. It however, goes without saying, the shops around these area together with the inimitable by lanes of Chandni Chowk are simply a delight to meander through. 

For crafts, one of the most interesting of shops on Janpath is the Cottage Emporium at the Jawahar Vyapar Bhavan. The new cottage as it is called has a range of craft objects from the entire country. It stocks an excellent range of paintings, saris, silverware and objects d art. There is so much available that one visit cannot do justice what with new stocks coming in ever so often. Another place for getting a good range of handicraft products is the Emporium Complex at Baba Kharak Singh Marg and Dilli Haat, opposite INA Market.

Going by the niche, a market for antique furniture is the Amar Colony Market situated next to the Ring Road near Lajpat Nagar. A cluster of 30 odd shops, it is an antique hunter’s paradise. Each shop is stocked with boxes, chairs, chests, ottomans, odd pieces for the home, most of the shop keepers are also adept at recreating reproductions from pictures or drawings.  Sundays are special when tourists, celebrities descend to browse and the shopkeepers bring their wares out to display. Though to pick up genuine pieces, more than a few visits are required. Another up market place for beautiful pieces for the home is Sundar Nagar Market. Both these places are the proverbial shopper’s Achilles heel.

Another niche market, this time for books is the Darya Ganj book market. A Sunday foot path market it offers thousands of books, covering all possible subjects. Open from early morning to late evening, it is one stop sourcing place for old books, new books, out of print books and more…what more, most shopkeepers are familiar with the titles and can even scout it for you in later trips.

No account of shopping is complete without referencing CP and Janpath. Both have an innate charm and are an essential part of Delhi’s shopping vocabulary. CP has some very old shops sharing comfortable space with the contemporary – art, craft, apparel, bags, shoes, interiors, branded products…..there is something for each.

Two places for un-hurried shopping are Khan Market and Hauz Khas Village, both have an interesting medley of shops selling good products. The Hauz Khas market with its setting near the Deer Park and the monument makes for a wonderful laid back shopping sans the hustle bustle. The quaint shops offer a wide range and well, not all are expensive! Santushti complex also affords similar browsing and is stocked with designer boutiques as is the Hauz Khas Village. Both the G K I & II (Greater Kailash) markets have held their snob value and offer some wonderful avenues to shop for apparel, furnishing and silverware. 

Last but not the least, the omnipresent Malls have brought in a new dimension to shopping in Delhi. The Malls abound – Mehrauli Gurgaon Road, Gurgaon, Lajpat Nagar, Rohini, Pitampura, Noida….each has its pet peeves which is a must hangout. Though the four Malls at Saket which are the cynosure of all eyes!!  One last word though on shopping, bargaining is de rigor and even in the best of shops, you can try your luck for a discount!!  

The above is just a “tickle your palette” kind of version of markets. Some other markets include:

Nehru Place – Nehru Place is a computerwiz’s paradise, the range offered is mind boggling. Hardware, software, computer accessories, electronic products….. prices wholesale. It has a range of both branded and unbranded outlets. Another product it is well known for is is a must visit for exporters and garment designers as it offers following International forecast.

Lajpat Nagar  - A good shopping adda which offers almost everything be it in apparel or for the home. The range in Indian ethnic wear and furnishing is what it is well known for.

Sarojini Nagar Market – It is also in the same genre but the prices are more economy or budget class.

(A portion of this appeared in Discover India, October 2010 issue)

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