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It’s a Curio case

Around since the 1950s, Sunder Nagar Market is best known as a hub for handicrafts and Indian art.

art and culture Updated: Jul 10, 2011 01:17 IST
Damini Purkayastha

There’s something about Sunder Nagar Market that makes you feel like you’re the first person to discover it. Tucked away in a sleepy colony, it’s one of the few markets in Delhi where you can still enjoy a quiet afternoon. But don’t go with your usual shopping list, unless you’re shopping for curios or jewellery. From old chakkis from Gujarat restored for drawing rooms in Delhi to giant bronze vases and hand painted door knobs — this place has it all.

A curious history Founded in the early 1950s, most of the 34 odd shops here have been around for at least three decades, if not more. “Everyone has been around for years, and all of us know each other,” says Karan Backliwal, the owner of Poonam Backliwal Arts and Jewellery, which opened in 1965. On display outside the shop is old Indian furniture like chakkis, swings and stools, while inside is a trove of curios, from miniatures to colourful boxes. Curio Palace, which you will find a little further down, has a large collection of glass lanterns. Right next door is another shop, Quation Exports, which has giant vases on display outside.

To understand the importance of curios to this market, just take the case of Friends Electric Co. Opened in 1957 as a store that sold electrical items, they decided to branch completely into handicrafts 10 years ago and now they are known for their lampshades. “We decided to change to suit the customers. In fact, we make our own lampshades and people come from far away for them,” says Jagdish Anand, the owner of the store.

Foodie bay
One of the most popular hang outs in the area, the multi-cuisine restaurant Sweets Corner, has been around since 1954. “We are famous for our chhole bhature (Rs 60) and chaat (Rs 60). We get people from all stratas and all age groups,” says Hemant Gupta, the owner. The restaurant is most popular with visitors to the Delhi zoo nearby. Two of the only new restaurants here are Baci and Spaghetti Kitchen — both which serve Italian cuisine. Baci is also known for its wine collection. Another draw for the foodies is Bombay Bhel Puri Waala, who serves different flavours of bhel and is open around till 11pm.

Those who love to have exotic tea must drop by at Regalia Tea House, where you will be greeted by the warm aroma of tea leaves. You can buy tea in different stages — first flush and second flush. Also, keep an eye out for unusual finds like Hibiscus Tea and Lily Tea here.

The real jewels
Kumar Art Gallery, which is at the center of the market, is one of Delhi’s oldest art galleries. “We opened in 1955 in Connaught Place and moved to Sunder Nagar in 1958-59. Those days, it was a much more exclusive and non commercial area, with close to 50 families of expats and diplomats living nearby,” says Sunit Kumar Jain. Another shop that’s been around for 50 odd years is Moti Jewels Palace, one of the many jewellery showrooms here. Others include Leela and Mayur. Also interesting is Mascot’s Book Shop. Around since 1973, it sells coffee table books on everything, from India to the history of fashion. “Even today, our clients are mostly foreigners and we deliver anywhere in the world,” says Chetan Chopra, the owner.