Sarojini Nagar Market in Delhi

Sarojini Nagar Market is the all-weather all-season market that caters to the needs of the entire South Delhi.   If there is one market that can satisfy Delhiwala’s appetite for shopping, it is this market.

Sometimes I have a feeling that people come here with the sole intention of testing out their negotiation and bargaining skills.   I used to hate bargaining and would simply feel quite magnanimous in handing over the price the vendors asked for.   But some of my visits with my husband, a hardcore bargainer have made me realize that the vendors kind of look down upon people who do not negotiate because as the norm goes, they hike up the price by atleast twice or thrice the original price so that they would still be left with some margin when the deal is finally done.

However, there are fixed price outlets and wares where you can select garments in the same range starting from Rs. 100, 150, 200, 250, etc..

I have been visiting this market from the time I got married about 20 years ago and came to settle down in the south side of Delhi.   From then onwards, if I have anything to buy from children’s clothes to shoes, bags, undergarments, hosiery items, bed sheets, covers or even curtains, etc., I head to this haven.   There are even shops for buying vegetables, grocery items, household items and kitchen utensils in case you need such items.

 
Babu Market is another complex that lies in the same vicinity and has approximately 4 rows of shops that again caters to mostly garments with some jewellery shops and accessories and all women’s stores thrown in.
 
All said and done, this market offers decent products at affordable rates.   You can find things you would not find anywhere else – children’s fancy dresses for their school competition, from paalak to a fairy, these shops can change their personality.  They can even loan you these dresses for a day or two!  What else would you need.
A word of caution though – On Sundays, only those who have some really good patience, focus and crowd management skills should attempt to attack this market.   On Saturdays and Sundays, this market can be so crowded that you just need to stand at one place, the crowd will pull you to all directions.
Recently there has been an addition of a multi-storied parking plaza which has turned out to be semi-modern building in the vicinity with Haldiram’s and other food joints like McD and Subway catering to the hungry public!

Lal Quila – The Red Fort of Shah Jahan

Lal Quila or the Red Fort was the official residence of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan built about 200 years ago in 1628.

For me, the whole experience of visiting Red Fort was like peeling off an onion.   The more you move into the inner realms of the fort, the more beautiful and whiter the buildings and structures would get.   Finally, it came to the one building that I admired the most in the whole complex and Amir Khusraw had most aptly described it as the paradise on earth.   His inscription is written on the walls of this white marble structure- If there be a paradise on the  earth, it is this, it is this, it is this – Diwan-e-khas!  I am still wondering what resplendent, what exciting and what colourful life it would have been then.

The boundary of the Fort and some of its buildings are built with red sandstone and the name Lal Quila or Red Fort comes from there.   It is a well built, massive structure that encircles and secures the entire surrounding of the complex – the official palaces, mahals, gardens and the many other small and little buildings it ensconces.    There were trenches and channels of water all around to give the added security to the fort.  The gates are massive and built to protect the citizens inside the walled city.   The walls are built with holes in it for firing arms and ammunitions.  The four posts at the four corners were used for keeping a vigil.

The front façade is used right now during the Independence Day celebrations by the Prime Minister to address the nation.   However, the fort is just much much more than the front façade!   There is another huge and massive gate as soon as you enter from the front with a metal door called Lahori Gate.  This leads to a long covered path with arches and arched bays on both sides – more like a market place where you have shops on both the sides of the road.   It is called the chatta chowk which means covered bazaar.   Even today there are shops where people are selling all kinds of wares – jewellery, clothes, handicraft items.  It was said that this used to be the case even during Shah Jahan’s time.   He started this concept after he saw something like this in Peshawar.     During his times, the market would be engaged in luxury trade  of the imperial household and used to sell silks, brocades, gold, velvet and other expensive stuff.


After the Chatta Bazaar, there is yet another gate which takes you to a red building – the Diwan-e-Aam which means the ‘Place of Public Audience’.

There is a long rectangular lawn with a water body in the middle that runs across to the Diwan-Aam and paths cutout on both the sides.  This is a place was used by Shah Jahan to meet the common public and hear their grievances.  The structure was made in red sandstone and in the centre  is a raised platform with the Emperor’s throne with a canopy all made in Marble with exquisite handiwork of floral designs inlaid with semi precious stones.

After the Diwan-e-aam lies the little gems of beauty –  domains where Shah Jahan and other successive emperors used to actually live and spend time. You would be greeted with an expanse of garden and green lawns and water canals with white marble structures spread across the expanse.   The water bodies at that time was an important part as they provided the needed water and air cooling for the entire place.

Three white marbled palaces are placed in close proximity to each other at the other end of the garden – The  Rang Mahal (also called Shish Mahal), Khas Mahal and Shah Mahal (or Diwan-e-Khas).

These were like 3 little pieces of jewels in that whole area.   Built completely in marble, they are a sight to behold!

Rang Mahal was the place where Shah Jahan used to entertain and be entertained.   It was painted in different colours from the inside and therefore derives its name from there.  It also had mirrors fitted on the top and therefore it was called the sheesh mahal though right now there is neither colour nor the mirrors.  This one actually looks faded and is the drabbest one out of the three.

The next one is the Khas Mahal where Shah Jahan had his bed chambers and the dressing room.

Diwan-e-Khas next to it was the place where he would meet people close to him.  This palace was truly amazing in its architecture and the structure.  Though faded and greyish and yellow in colour, the structure speaks of the glorious past.   The peacock throne was removed from this place by Nadir Shah who attacked Delhi and it is said that this throne is somewhere in Iran right now.

The opulence and the extravaganza was clearly visible in the luxurious setting of the entire structure.  The richness of the designs and the work on the structure was truly marvelous.  I was wondering if these structures look so good even today after the wear and tear of the last 200 years, then what would it have been when it was pristine white colour of the marble resplendent with all the other colours the buildings would have been painted with, the coloured drapes, the carpets and all the precious stones that were embedded in the building design.  It would have been truly mesmerizing and therefore What Amir Khusraw said about this building would have been completely true at that point of time.  It would have been a paradise to behold!

It is said that Taj Mahal was inspired by the Diwan-e-khas and its architectural designs.

There are other buildings too like the Mumtaz Mahal which is now converted to a museum and does not look like anything that was in the earlier days though one can see the arches and the carvings on the roof that are reminiscent of a celebrated past.

Then there are gardens and pavilions which would have been used by the Emperor, his wives and sons to relax during leisure times.

Nehru Place – The IT Hub of Delhi

If you are a computer geek, then you definitely can’t miss being in the middle of all the cacophony of Nehru Place.   From a high end computer and laptop to any computer or mobile accessory, you can find solutions from company owned retail outlet to distributors to shady underhand pirated and cheap illegal stuff.  In short, there is a solution to everyone.

As we approach Nehru Place from the South side of Delhi,  we start seeing the high-rises of Nehru Place from the overbridge that starts from Sarovar Portico in Pamposh Enclave.

Nehru Place is a cluster of old buildings with outdated lifts and outdated structures which houses some corporates and business houses.

In the middle of these huge structures is one of the most happening  central plaza where you can find shops selling computers and mobiles, stationery items, computer accessories, printouts and photocopies, banks punctuated by some food joints and other facilities for people working around this place.

In the central arcade, we can find all sorts of small vendors with their different kinds of wares from belts, purses, bags, computer and mobile accessories, clothes and fabric items.

It was a pleasant surprise to find a section of the market dedicated now to garments and fabrics. There are more varied set of consumers who would be flocking to Nehru Place. As a woman, I used to find Nehru Place quite boring with only computer stuffs, but now there is more to look forward to during a trip to Nehru Place!

Nehru Place is now beginning to be more than just an IT hub.  It has multiple other options like Cafe Coffe Day, Epicuria food court and Fitness First gym giving multiple options and products for consumers to experience and shop.

There are big buildings of Microsoft with multiple hotels around Nehru Place.

A metro station with a full fledged food court has also come up at the other end which has made commuting to this hub quite an easy task for people working and shopping here.

Christmas in Delhi

December is a pleasant month in Delhi though it can get to be a little bone chilling towards end of December around Christmas and New Year.  The trick to beat the winter is to keep busy, get out in the open and enjoy the sunshine whenever possible!

Christmas time can be lot of fun.  For Christians in Delhi, it is one of the busiest time of the year.  From learning Christmas carols to baking cakes and going around door to door singing, wishing people Christmas, and looking around at the Christmas decorations!

These days, Christmas has come to be recognized as a common festival. Festivities and decorations are done in quite earnestness by malls, hotels, airports and even small shops.  They compete to stand out and attract attention by placing a Christmas tree, have Santa cutouts, and hang stars all around.  

The Christmassy red, green, white, gold and silver colors make the whole place look cheerful.   The celebratory mood is visible though this time I should say the mood for spending has been a little less because of the demonetization problems.  People are only spending for what is the basic!

Celebrations, therefore are a little restrained but there!!

Delhi Winters and Moongphali Wala’s (Peanut Vendor)

As the winter in Delhi progresses, moongphali wala’s (peanut vendor) ubiquitous presence is welcomed across the nooks and crannies of the city. It is virtually impossible not to find it at a stone’s throw distance from where people congregate in public.

It is a common sight to see a peanut vendor with his various offerings in a cart standing near the bus stops, railway stations and almost all the crowded joints selling his provisions. It is a favourite pastime of Delhi wala’s too to munch on their favourite snack in the form of roasted peanuts that is available in different forms and sizes with these vendors. The vendors put an earthen pot with hot coals in the middle of the groundnut heap to keep them warm and hot. Sometimes I have a feeling that it is the warmth that people appreciate more than the peanuts itself.

It is also a physical activity that one enjoys – breaking the shell open with a bang and fish out the one or two or if you are really lucky three little peanuts from inside the protective casing and pop them into impatient mouths. After opening some, they get the knack of correctly opening the shell by pressing at the midpoint where the pods are joined at a beaky angle, so it pops out at the first instance.

There are different ways to eat the peanut as well. Some are so hungry that it goes right into their mouth as soon as it bursts open from the shell. But some who have all the time in the world, take their sweet little time and tease their appetite with some playing around with these peanuts before it finally reaches their ravenous mouths.

The young kids can even have a funtime with these little nuts as they make it their toys and try to throw them all at different angles and catch it with their open mouth.

The Moongphaliwala sells all the versions of these nuts – Peanut with shells, without shells, unroasted ones, roasted and salted ones, etc. Another interesting option that he stocks are the Delhi wala’s favourite chikkis.

Chikkis are a kind of a peanut bar made with jaggery. The chikkis can come in different shapes – round and flattened, rectangular like a normal granola bar or small round balls. The texture can be from anywhere between hard to soft with slightly crushed peanuts or finely powdered and blended with other ingredients. These are all kept in different polythene packs and sold at different prices.

Winters in Delhi and chikkis are inseparable, and so are the moongphali walas!!

Delhi Haat – Chaupal at the Town Square

Delhi Haat or “Dilli Haat” as it is popularly called, is an interesting amalgamation of a set of people coming together to buy and sell fabrics, crafts, art, food, and small things that are cute and interesting.   There are 3 of them in Delhi but I have visited only the one near INA and as far as I have gathered from my friends and colleagues who have visited the other locations (Pitampura and Janak Puri), this one is the best.

The concept is taken from the traditional form of village haats (market) that was assembled once a week at a village site.  Here the change is that the market is a constant while the vendors keep changing every fortnight.  The authorities have put up a notice at the entrance that every 1st and 16th of the month is the time when this change takes place and therefore the stalls look deserted while the vendors are moving out and new vendors coming in  and placing their wares.  So, everytime we go to Delhi Haat, we find different things and different vendors.   There are small artisans and craftsmen from different states and different art faculties showcasing their wares.

There are two rows of shops where these craftsmen display their wares and the lane in between that leads to the end would be flocked by various other people. Sometimes you can find someone sitting there sketching a face or write names on a rice grain and box it in a glass container.  In the evenings, there will be vendors luring small children by playing and then trying to sell flutes and small instruments like ektara.

I love visiting this place, sometimes to shop, sometimes to just look around or sometime to just enjoy a bit of peace and spend the evening with family or friends.  There are some very good and interesting eating joints from different states – Momos from the north eastern states, Gujarati food, Punjabi Thali, Andhra food, dosa and idli  from Tamil Nadu, appams, puttu and kappa from Kerala.

The red brick buildings are made to give a very ethnic and traditional feel and care has been taken to give the ambience a traditional and yet premium touch.

During festivals and special occasions, this place gets decorated and various cultural programs are organised which are usually conducted in an open air theatre platform and is free for all who visit Delhi haat. But generally people flock here to look and buy things which are a little out of the ordinary.  These are people who believe in a little different, a little ethnic, a little chic and a little stylish pattern of lifestyle.

Timings : 10:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

An auto ride in Delhi

Riding in an auto has become like the most frequent thing I do.  Every morning and evening I get into one of them and off I go.. to the destination that keeps changing.  Vehicles keep changing, drivers keep changing and conversations keep changing!

To say that I enjoy these rides would not be an exaggeration.  Auto Rickshaw simply called autos are the most common transport that we would easily get to go from one place to another.   It is available almost everywhere in the city, whether you are travelling to a market, mall or a residential area.  You get out of your house and you can see a whole lot of them standing outside the colony.

There would be lots of them standing at every bus stops, to lure travellers who are endlessly waiting for the bus.  It does definitely cost a bit more than the normal Delhi Transport Buses but gives the convenience of travelling on your own without jostling for space inside crowded buses and it can be hailed from anywhere you are and you can get down anywhere you want.

For a person like me who has tried learning to drive a car but not been able to get out of the fear of banging into someone, auto comes as a boon.   Taking a taxi is far too costly and therefore an auto ride is justifiable to one’s conscience.  We can consider ourself prudent when we are taking an auto than a car.  A taxi or cab would cost almost double of what an auto would do.

But there has to be a word of caution, though.  If the driver is clever enough to understand that you don’t know your way through Delhi, he can take you for a ride!!   Also, there are others who would fix their own rate depending upon the circumstance.  If there are less no. of autos available, they would increase their rate and if they feel that the customer is likely to get out of their hands, they might just reduce to close the deal.  It is usually safe to take the autos that run on meter.  However, if we are confident of the route and are clear on the approx cost, it could be a better fare to arrive at a mutual consensus on the rates.

For an outsider, it would be preferable to carry a GPS and make sure they stick to the meter fitted on the sides.  In Delhi, the fare starts from Rs.25/- for any distance of travel upto 2 kms. After that the meter starts ticking!

Every auto ride is an experience in itself.   Some auto drivers can be very talkative and you can gather as much information about the city, the government and the various happenings while you are on the go.   They kind of know the pulse of the city!

Travelling in an auto has a charm of its own.   In summers, one can enjoy the breeze that will wipe off the sweats and give goosebumps.  When it rains, we can enjoy the showers falling on both sides with some even hitting us from both sides.  Though the driver will pull down the shades, it would not be enough to stop the onslaught.   The winters are the toughest though… the cool breeze can be freezing and chill you to the bone!!

No wonder the Mexican Ambassador prefers to ride in an auto than a luxury sedan.  You can read the news at http://www.thebetterindia.com/54699/mexican-ambassador-to-india-auto/