Delhiwale: The joys of signage art

A stroll through the world of old-fashioned shop advertising in Sadar Bazaar.
By Mayank Austen Soofi | Hindustan Times
PUBLISHED ON NOV 10, 2020 05:03 AM IST

Here’s a delicious assault of the shop signages. New Fashion House has “parde hi parde,” boasting a great choice of curtains. Sudhiksha Beauty Parlour also happens to be a Training Centre (presumably for aspiring beauticians). And Kavya Collection is stocked with “fancy kurtis, slex, top, leggings, etc.”

These vital infos are screaming out from the shop hoardings in Yasin Plaza. This ramshackle multi-storey shopping complex is nothing like the glitzy malls that this part of the National Capital Region is known for. It’s a shabby building, in old Gurugram’s Sadar Bazaar, faces the Jama Masjid and a grassless park. It has many tailoring establishments, plus a popular eatery serving passable chhole bhature.

It would be fair to say you won’t miss much by never stepping inside. In the old times.

But now you ought to drop by.

After months of staying home due to the coronavirus pandemic, of making online shopping a habit, and of succumbing to all sorts of snazzy ads popping up on your Instagram and Facebook feeds, entering Yasin Plaza is like stepping into a museum. Here’s a world of archaic advertising, and of small businesses tempting customers with small hoardings announcing their shop names and specialities in multi-coloured Hindi and English fonts.

Think of it. Increasingly, as independent shops turn into retail chain outlets, their hoardings have become uniform in all cities—all showing the same brand names in the same aesthetics. But a walk inside the Yasin Plaza forcefully transports the viewer to the shrinking world of early visual advertising. Simply mulling over the eclectic names of the shops gives a sense of the aspirations, identities and diversities of the place, its store owners and customers.

Start with the huge column on the plaza’s staircase that is decked with banners. Among other things, it champions interfaith tolerance—Om Collection - Ladies Boutique is atop Khan Tailors - Men’s Wear. Other placards evoke other wonders. Does Continental Tailors have European dressing as its ideal? What can Rajput Fashion - Leather Items be all about?

Each signage is a palette of many colours, with separate words done in separate shades. They get more descriptive as you approach the individual shops. The so-named Rafiq - The Tailoring Point is a mishmash of fonts and images. It prominently shows a painting of a safari suit, a dress that went out of style some decades ago.

Delhi Tailors choses to be text-heavy—like those super-confident minimalist book covers, whose publishers think that putting only the title and the author’s name on the page will be enough.

Also check the pillar-length advertisement of the aforementioned chhole bhature establishment. This is a neatly executed geometrical arrangement of dish names in Devanagari, and is more tasteful than the chhole.

In our globalised world, as all of us are being bombarded with the same choices, brands and advertising slogans no matter how disparate our GPS coordinates, here is an opportunity to gaze upon something so hyperlocal that it exists nowhere else. The complex opens daily from 9am to 9.30pm.

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