Tilak Nagar Central Market in west Delhi can be regarded as the chicken curry for the desi soul. Congested and cosy — it has the small-town comfort — where shops sell Sikh turbans, tailors stitch denims and mothers shop bridal suits for their daughters. The market has no FabIndia, no McDonald’s and no multiplexes. It retains the feel of a neighbourhood bazaar, the lack of which is strongly felt by old regulars to the upmarket Khan Market and Defence Colony.
Just opposite Gate 1 of Tilak Nagar Metro station, Jolly Book Depot, circa 1959, has an excellent collection of Hindi authors such as Krishna Sobti. The shop also stacks translations of English novels (we spotted Koi Achha Sa Ladka, the Hindi translation of Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy). The bookshop was started by a Partition refugee, who was a timber merchant in present Pakistan; it’s dimly lit interior contrasts the chaos outside. Hop in to find Chetan Bhagat novels, Nita Mehta recipe booklets, O’Henry’s short stories, Hindi crime magazines and school-level Maths guidebooks arranged in rows. Try chatting with Harminder Singh Jolly, the owner. He may offer chai.
Where 47, New Market Time: 9.30 am to 8.30 pm Phone: 9818881559
Tilak Nagar’s streets may not seem very cycle-friendly. Nevertheless, the three-level Gandhi Cycle showroom serves as a landmark here. Established in 1948 by a Partition refugee, the showroom has perambulators (Rs 1,490-10,000) kids’ bicycles (Rs 1,000-15,000), adult bicycles (Rs 2,500-30,000), exercise bicycles (Rs 3,100-12,000) and also treadmills (Rs 16,000 and above). The store’s glass walls look to the busy flyover.
Where: Shop no. 40, near Gate 1, Tilak Nagar Metro Station
Time: 10 am to 9 pm
Anthropologists wanting to study a Punjabi wedding ceremony must stop at Malik Jewellery. The shop has artificial bracelets, kangans and necklaces in bright colours and lavish designs for brides. Ask for the dulhan set — a jewellery hamper for a bride. It consists chooda, mathapatti, hathphool, paasa, jhoomer and kamarband. The price of a dulhan set ranges from Rs 3,000 to Rs 20,000. They are also available on rent (from Rs 500 to Rs 2000 a day, depending on the value of the set). We liked the gem-encrusted little gods available for Rs 150 each.
Where: Shop no. 9, 5/61 Time: 10.30am to 9 pm Phone: 011-45587556
Walk the bazaar streets. Most showrooms sell wedding clothes; a few have as many mannequins as there are customers inside. Outside one shop, six mannequins, wearing nighties, held a placard directing customers inside for ‘bras and panties’. A few sandal stores warn, “No guarantee of Chinese items.” The pavements are lined with stalls selling lacy lingerie (R25) and wedding turbans (Rs 75), lipsticks (Rs 10), nail paints (Rs 15), salwar suits (Rs 150), slacks (Rs 100) and also, wigs (about Rs 300).
For more than 10 years, Jeet Kumar Chawla has been making frames at an alley in Tilak Nagar. “It’s a very artistic job,” he says, while drawing straight lines on a blank sheet. “My aim is always to enhance the picture that has to be framed.” Surrounded by portraits of Sikh gurus and Swiss Alps, Chawla claims to frame a picture in flat ten minutes. Depending on the work, the price ranges from Rs 100-4,000.
Where 17/1 A, Central Market Time: 10.30 am to 8 pm Phone: 9811521565
It’s a 2-in-1 shop. Between 9.30 am and 11.30 am, it’s a free acupressure clinic, run by Dr Inderpal Singh. From 11.30 am to 8.30 pm, it transforms into Galaxy Store that specialises in ‘Fancy, Designer, Embroidery, Ladies Suits, Fancy Kurtis & Tights’. Situated in Metro Bazaar, which was established in 2005 to rehabilitate shops that were displaced during the Metro construction, the store has shiny suits in crepe, ranging from Rs 75 to Rs 6,600.
Where: Shop No. 57, Metro Bazaar, Main Market Phone: 9250164366
For a quick lunch, head to Bhape di Hatti on Gurudwara Road. It serves Tilak Nagar’s best chhole bhathure. The eatery is gallery-like, long and narrow, where shoppers block the entrance while waiting for tables to be cleared. At Rs 20 a plate, the bhathures are worth the price. The ghee does not go off the fingers till the next day.
Where: Next to the Titan Showroom Time: 8 am to 10 pm
End your excursion at Gurudwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha. In the prayer hall, the floor is padded with mattresses, covered with white sheets. The granthi sits fanning the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book, with jothsaheb. Unless it’s a festival day, the hall is sparse.