Tuesday, 5 February 2013

“Shut” day shopping: Central Market

(Text and photos by Pupps Roy)

Some work on Sundays and some rest on Mondays. Cycle of life rotates entire Delhi stopping in a loop for a day in our man made seven day week. Business Delhi. Bizzare bazar. Do they actually shut in any day? Every Market area of Delhi chooses to stay closed once a week. Really? Have you ever visited any market on such day and came out lugging shopping bags in two hands? Delhi is unpredictable. This can happen to you if you visit any market which is especially close on that particular day of a week. You can even get better deal specially marked for that day. Yes it happens!

Enter Central Market at Lajpat Nagar? Isn't lajpat nagar only known for Central Market? This phenomenal Market is officially close on Mondays. But the entry area is open and also there is a syndicate for Delhi Police and there are two cops controlling the security measurement and watching every entrant carefully. No there is no restriction that you cannot enter the Market. Why are they entering? What will they do in the market on such day? Is this a residential area? No not at all. Then?

The huge corner shoe shop upon entering is open and is displaying Sale. Two middle-aged women are coming out empty handed. Array of clothing, cheap cosmetics, hair accessories are being sold on the road by the hawkers under kerosene Hazac light. Everything is available here. This market has to offer a lot on Mondays like any other day. Sandals, junk jewelry, skirts, shawl, kurtas, fashionable t-shirts, harem pants, shorts, scarves and lot of inexpensive pretty looking wallets and bags are being sold. You will be baffled exploring the scene on an official close day. Some salesman and hawkers are even aggressive on selling their stuff. The arguments just started between a customer and the salesman. Not much sell happening today so why not trying a bit with the customers? They might end up buying some. Customers won’t give up and hawkers too. This goes on!

So what is the reason? Ajit a local hawker says “The market needs cleaning once a week so we close it on Mondays." He is fibbing or does not know the reason because the market is equally dirty like any other day. Litters are everywhere from plastic packets to crushed coke cans. "This market is actually close today, only we small time hawkers come with our stuff to sell", this guy is wrong too. "Incense" the biggest chain of Delhi urban fashion is open, even "Ritu Wears". They are big ones. Another comment from a salesman, "We are open for this marriage season, otherwise we are close". It looks like people just need some reason to keep their shops open. There are Autos waiting outside, The Car Parking guy is shouting and directing cars to park properly, Delhi police PCR Van is waiting around the corner, many food stalls are selling mouthwatering greasy snack. The entire market is lit up with 60% open stores and many customers going in and coming out maintaining the hustle-bustle of the market atmosphere but maybe little less than other day. So what are you waiting? Shop till you drop. Are you open or close? Yes or no?

How to get there: Nearest Metro station: Lajpat Nagar.

Kabuliwalahs: Lajpat Nagar

(Text and Photos by Pupps Roy)

Yes they still sell dry fruits and engage in money laundering.  Well, the former happens in Delhi and the latter source is not a part of the story. A gritty side of Delhi wrapped in exotic Candy Floss. Come eat it. The Crowd, hustle busle, flea Market and people are around everywhere. They are walking, running and also shoving you if you plunge into the crowd of Central Market. Once a refugee colony still maintains its status for many. Welcome to Lajpat Nagar. One of a kind and is the largest colony in the entire south Delhi. Lajpat nagar has a history of embracing foreigners from pre-independence era. Many outsiders have made this colony to their home but the presence of Afghan Community has been manifested since many years very strongly. Some have their business, some come to India for the medical facilities, Some for studies and rest are living here permanently while others are just having a good time in Delhi as tourists.

There is no reason why have there been so many Afghanis. In the close vicinity of Lajpat nagar in Bhogal area there is even a specialized Afghani hotel called "Hotel Kabuli". There are handfuls of Afghanis in Bhogal but the whole lot continue to exist in Lajpat nagar for over a decade. They look different so they are easily identifiable. Tall, extra fair with long clothes and loud accent. That’s how they have been dealing in business. Many fly over the borders to India to sell dry fruits. Aaraq or Aaragh is 32 years old man and drives a Honda City and has an Indian Driving license. He finds handling business in Delhi easy but again there is a lot of competition with other Afghanis who are emerging in the same business every single day. With more and more Afghanis pouring in Lajpat Nagar has become the hub of Afghanis.

Welcome to "Kabul Delhi Restaurant". This is a pure Afghani restaurant where they serve delicacies of Afghanistan. It is located right across the Central Market. You can actually see all tables are full and mostly Afghan patrons and few Indians are starting at the menu deciding and discussing what to order. This busy restaurant also has a dias where you can sit down cross-legged and eat. It’s like sitting on the floor and eating food. This restaurant is tiny but looks pretty with the giant picture of Ayatollah Khomeini that goes so well with the size of bread that they serve with pickled lady fingers, worth a try. The best and talked about dish here is Biriyani and korma served by some young Afghan men.

Back to the rutted road of Lajpat Nagar. Next to Kabul restaurant is an Afghan Medical store. Even the name and the address is written in Afghani language or in Arabic. Afghani Women walking in groups and one of them is carrying a Haruki Murakami, hawkers shouting and selling their stuff, Rickshaw walas are waiting for their customers, a group of young men are congregating around the tea stall and engrossed in some loud conversation, Smart Afghani guys in skinny jeans are coming out of the parlor one by one and the scene goes on and on. There is a also a small travel agency that sells direct ticket of some Afghan airline and also promoting medical tourism. On top of it there is a sign of "Room to let". Everyone has a place to stay and live their own in Delhi. Diversified Delhi is proud to host Afghan Community in its warm lap of Lajpat Nagar. Its crowded but welcoming. So come and absorb.