How we Indians have always embraced and absorbed western culture is not hidden from anyone. From the clothes we wear, the language we speak, to the food we eat, modern India is dancing to the notes of an English Musical. Almost all of us prefer to eat at a fancy restaurant, with an exuberant ambiance, shop in a big, air-conditioned mall, with all the multi-national brands in a row. A place where you can walk in your 5 inch high heels the whole day and not get tired. No pollution, no tanning, away from the scorching sun and taking along at least ten to fifteen bags to deck up your wardrobe.
While an Indian market or as we call it ‘bazaar’ is other side of the coin. The number of shopping bags you take back home might come down to five to ten but, taste the of ‘aloo tikki’ and ‘gol gappas‘ might make up for all the tiredness. And during winters, that ‘bhuttawala’ in the corner of the marketplace makes the evenings all the more romantic.
I’m one of the biggest fans of Indian markets. I don’t shop a lot but whenever my sister is with me, we always make it a point that we eat, pray, love and shop as much as possible. Well, I’m an expert in emptying her account, so, after spending our day in Connaught place, no matter how late we are getting, we never miss out on going to Paharganj Market, which is only ten minutes away from CP if you take an auto.
Paharganj market is definitely an evening place. As you enter the market, the crowded street is filled with the most amazing aroma of ‘garam garam jalebis’ on one side of the street while the spicy ‘paneer tikkas’ on the other. But we would always have a cup of tea first, to energize ourselves and then hit the market.
This market has a huge variety of ethnic accessories, ranging from earrings, bangles, leather bags, jholas, dupattas, kolhapuri chappals and much more. You’ll always find maximum number of foreigners here because this market has a huge chain of hotels where you can rent a room at the cheapest price possible. In the evening, some ‘bazaars‘ light up the incense sticks in their shops, some turn on the instrumentals of Indian Bhajans and some play the jazz music, which altogether makes this place exotic as well as divine. I am reminded of this shop, set on a staircase with both its walls covered with bangles, giving it a vibrant look. At Paharganj some shops sell Indian artifacts, gift bags, ethnic wallets, decorative kites, hand made notebooks, diaries, bags, things you might not find anywhere else in Delhi. I always get flattered on those loose-fit T-shirts with Bob Marley, ‘Om’, Indian Shlokas printed on them, while my sister would fall for ‘Kolahpuri Chappals’. But we both get even more excited when it comes to earrings. We would always buy at least 10 pairs of them and still crave for more. Leather bags win my heart to the core and I definitely put my hand on at least one of them. Rajasthani craft work on jholas, woolen gloves, caps and shawls for winters and what not, this market has got all those tralatatious accessories you’re looking for. And the best part is, when you are in Paharganj market, you’ll never have to waste your energy on bargaining because you get everything at cheap prices.
A few months back, I and my sister were looking for a perfect yet unique wedding gift for one of our closest friends, a stall suddenly caught our eye which had a collection of small books. We picked up a small, summarized Kamasutra for her and we knew we had the perfect gift for the bride-to-be in our hands.
To spice it up, we always conclude our shopping with the savory ‘paneer tikkas’ wrapped up in ‘rumali rotis‘, served along with onion and green ‘chutney’ on platter. Hot, sweet and syrupy ‘jalebis‘ are a dulcet end to our day. We have grown older together, me and my didi(as i love to call her). My sister has been my best friend, an inspiration in this hard life. And ever since she left us for her job, I’ve loved her more, missed her even more. Thus, every time she is at home, Paharganj market always tops the list of our plans. This market has given me memories I always bask upon. This place has a sheer power of turning a cold winter day to a warm one and a hot summer day to a breezy one. I don’t know if its a coincidence, but, it always rains when we are there in the market.
And then back at home, I realize, rust of modernization is somewhere covering the luster of Indian culture. We have stopped discerning the glitter of our traditions which actually unveil our attributes. Well, as they say, “But, the true reason for the success of such new expositions is to be found where they are the most accommodating, least rigid, least severe, most vague, and ready to come to easy terms with the prejudices and weaknesses of the modern world. Let everyone have the courage to look deeply into himself and to see what it is that he really wants.”