Okay, so we young guys love the malls, the multiplexes and the food chains. That's New Delhi for you! But somewhere in the bylanes of the 'have money, flaunt it' Delhi, obscured by the skyscrapers, lies a more exciting Dilli that's nostalgic and real. And if you are one of those suckers for nostalgia it's time to get street-smart. Yes, we are talking about the famous patri bazaars (pavement markets), where if you are a cool customer you can bag a Gap sweater or a UCB sweatshirt at dirt-cheap rates. And if you are really a clever chooser you can even pick up something truly antique for your house or a first edition of Coolie — all for a song.
So you see, there was life before malls. "These bazaars have been around in the Capital for well over 50 years," says Ramesh Kumar Rajput, head of the Thursday Market at Rajinder Nagar, who has been associated with the bazaar for 33 years. Small they may seem but together these bazaars form a world of their own. "While in small bazaars about 300 stalls are set up, in bigger ones the number can go up to 1,500," says Pawan, who sells jewellery in many of these markets.
On any given day of the week about 10 such bazaars can be found in the city. You just need to find them. Harish Kapoor, a bangle seller and Aswani Kumar, who puts up a plastic-items stall, have been into the profession for 25 years. Over the years, both agree, the crowds that throng these markets have never dwindled. "All kinds of people come here, even college youngsters."
Don't show me the money
The good news is that you don't need to walk around with a big fat wallet. You can easily impress your girlfriend provided you don't tell her that you bought that Valentino jacket from the heaps found on Janpath (else, you will be out of her door and heart before you can spell Valentino). Purti Kaushal, a first-year student at Kalindi College, says she regularly frequents these markets "to pick up good quality stuff at reasonable prices". Pretty hair clips and rubber bands (Rs 5), plastic items (starting at Rs 10), artificial flowers (Rs 35), fancy handbags (Rs 75), intricate jewellery sets (Rs 150) … these bazaars have something for everyone. "I make it a point to go to the Saturday market at Janakpuri, even though it is not near my place," says 19-year-old Tannia Behl.
Is it any wonder that these bazaars have survived the onslaught of the mega and hyper malls?
Grubshup and more
Once you are done with stuffing your polythene bags with books, clothes, soft toys, bedcovers and even fresh fruits and vegetables, it's time to stuff your tummy. Street bazaars take care of your hunger pangs as well.
You can take your pick from mouth-watering aloo tikkis, chaat papris and gol gappe, or dig into a plate of scrumptious chhole bhature. For those who like to munch while they shop, there's enough candyfloss and fried papads. All this for as little Rs 20. So dig in buddy! A warning though: you could get addicted to this food. "I wait eagerly for my holidays, so that I can come to Delhi and visit the Thursday market in Rajinder Nagar to feast on the lip-smacking chhole bhature," says Nishant Khullar, a final-year engineering student at Manipal Institute of Technology. It is not just Delhiites who are captivated by these markets. "I have customers who come from abroad. Some even remember it after having been away for 13-14 years," says Rajput of Rajinder Nagar market.
Now are you ready to get street-smart? It pays!
Email Sakshi Ojha: firstname.lastname@example.org