In Shahpur Jat (SPJ) village, south Delhi, the turbaned elders smoke hookahs in street corners, while perfectly primped mannequins gaze out through glass windows. More than a 100 stores — from those selling high-end designer gears to those hawking imported paraphernalia — are clustered on the periphery. The alleys are lined with tailoring sweatshops and hole-in-the-wall vendors selling beads and baubles. Unpainted brick buildings, overhanging wires and rudimentary stores sit next to shops with contemporary design that would not look out of place on the London High Street.
Go to Bookwise (125a), if you love books (which could be expensive) or coffee (which is free). Spacious and stylish, the book studio serves walk-ins with coffee and cookies. Another reason to hop here: the coffee table volumes (one is priced at R64,000!).
The husband-wife team, who run the place, are chatty. The bookshop also holds book-reading events. Call them (Ph: 26499568) for schedule. When we went there, the place was empty and we suspected its survival. Maybe it was just one of those lighter days.
Eat and wear
The young crowd is regular at Shoe Garage (118-B), one of the village’s oldest stores. It is packed on Saturdays; college-goers picking peep toes, pumps, strappy sandals, boots and wedges in leather or suede — all smart and affordable. The Bags Garage in the same complex have evening clutches in black and maroon, some are beaded with silver embellishments, and some are too Sarojini-types.
The Tan Him store is worth the climb to the building's first floor for its cartoon-print pillows (R550) and uber chic bags (R950). Apart from the Slice of Italy in the vicinity, Cafe Garage (part of the Garage empire, it has tolerable sandwiches) and grubby tea stalls, there is nowhere to eat in Shahpur Jat. Old-timers swore by Pam's Breakfast, but it has shut down. One pencil-thin boutique-owner told us that she simply skips lunch.
Poke-marked with gutters, the Jangi House lane is Shahpur Jat's high couture street, lined with high-end as well as affordable fashion labels. Maya (5-I) deals with wedding trousseau, customised outfits, as well as kurtas and tunics. A lilac-coloured tube dress cost R2,500.
At Maximum store (5-J/1), we fell for the painted kettles and coloured flower pots called 'Gifts that grow'. Apart from renting out space to art exhibitions (R5,000 for 10 days), the store also sells maternity wear. Home Linen (5-K/1) has introduced Pakistani cotton suits (price starts at R1,000), which, we understand, are fast catching up in the city.
Trinkets and more
To get a Dilli Haat high, dig through odd-and-cute bracelets and pendants at Amaatra (120). Every Twilight-reading girl must stop here. Ranging from R50-1,500, the gold-plated silver jewellery has traditional Indian designs interpreted in modern styles. Its sister store has funky colourful flip-flops, all made-in-Bangkok fakes of Kappa, Roxy, Havaana and American Eagle.
Quirky and trendy
Installation artist Puneet Kaushik, who bought original Kappas from Tokyo, rues when told that he could have got the 'replicas' for R550 in the village itself. His store, Alter Ego (87-B), has hand-woven saris, cute creepy plastic bugs and many other ‘add ons’, including this must buy: thread lampshades done on whiskey bottles, price at R500.
One trip will not be enough to fully explore Shahpur Jat, but we did discover our favourite store: Just Around the Corner (36). Small but quirky, it has a collection of dizzyingly coloured canvass shoes and a big Bollywood influence. The Bobby Tee has a bikini-clad Dimple Kapadia on it. If you are a Naseeruddin Shah fan, ask for the Ishqiya bracelet, a beaded bangle that the actor wore in the film of that name. We, however, bought a fish-shaped pendant.